Strategies for Promoting Communication in School-Age Children with Language and Learning Impairments
Language intervention with school-age children is often provided by an SLP (speech-language pathologist) on an individual basis or in small groups outside the classroom. This is referred to as pullout services. In order to facilitate a child’s participation in classroom activities, the clinician may also offer “push-in” services, where therapy is provided individually or in small groups in the classroom.
The following are some of the general strategies SLPs may suggest that ECSE teachers use in the classroom to facilitate language skills and learning for children with LLD:
- Simplify questions using simple sentence structures when addressing the student.
- Simplify directions by shortening them, using simpler syntactic forms, and using visual cues to facilitate auditory processing.
- Require the student to repeat directions to ensure that directions are understood.
- Provide extra time to process information and organize thoughts before expecting the student to answer a question.
- Provide extra time to complete assignments, homework, and exams to compensate for processing difficulties.
- Speak clearly and somewhat more slowly to allow the student to process the information.
- Repeat and/or reformulate questions and directions before concluding that the student has failed to execute a direction. Redundancy is crucial and improves comprehension in children with LLD.
- Provide cues to facilitate the retrieval of words when the student is experiencing word-finding difficulties. Cues can be phonological (for example, providing the student with the initial sound(s) of words, such as “It starts with the sound /z/”) or semantic (for example, providing the student with the referent’s category name, such as “It is an animal,” or with another referent from the same category, such as “It is like a dog”).Provide additional instruction and an emphasis on phonological awareness. Activities in which students match words with the same initial sound(s), produce words with one sound left out, and reverse the sounds in words may help overcome phonological deficits that may underlie reading difficulties. Explicitly explain instructions. For example, state the topic of the lesson; outline the lesson; write important information on the board; and use pictures, diagrams, and charts to support the information provided auditorily.
- Provide additional instruction and an emphasis on phonological awareness. Activities in which students match words with the same initial sound(s), produce words with one sound left out, and reverse the sounds in words may help overcome phonological deficits that may underlie reading difficulties. Explicitly explain instructions. For example, state the topic of the lesson; outline the lesson; write important information on the board; and use pictures, diagrams, and charts to support the information provided auditorily.
- Recast the student’s statements, correcting ungrammatical elements and adding complexity.
- Follow the student’s statements with questions to allow the student to clarify and provide more information.
- Explain the concepts being taught, especially abstract concepts, in greater detail, providing many examples from the student’s life experience. Tie new information to familiar information to create an association in the student’s memory that will facilitate future retrieval of the information.
- Provide positive reinforcement for any verbal attempt at class discussion to encourage more participation.
- Discuss explicitly classroom rules and expectations and how to ask for assistance or clarification.
- Provide a preparatory description of all classroom activities to draw the student’s attention to the task, allowing the student to “get ready.”
- Seat the child in the front of the class, close to the board, to facilitate attention and concentration.
- Teach the child how to outline and mark key points in a story or in an expository text so the student is able to draw conclusions and inferences about what was read.
To summarize, students with LLD may display difficulties in speaking, writing, listening, and reading. These difficulties appear pronounced during the school years because they impact every aspect of academic achievement and peer relationships. SLPs play a critical role in detecting these difficulties and working with students’ teams to identify strategies and accommodations that support students’ learning.
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