Facts about Tweens and Teens Who Need an SLP

by Rolesha Harris, M. Ed., CCC-SLP, Wendy Lee, M.Ed.,CCC-SLP, and  Rhonda Maiani, M.A.,CCC-SLP (Speech-Language Pathologists in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools)

There are a select number of 12 to 18-year-olds who continue to be eligible for speech- language therapy in the schools. Because students in middle and high school are expected to use advanced/meta-linguistic skills, write complex sentences, follow grammatical rules, infer and comprehend figurative language, the support of an SLP is sometimes necessary to access their curriculum.

Speech-Language goals may be related to reading comprehension, vocabulary, written expression, higher-level reasoning, organizational and sequencing skills, problem-solving, and social/pragmatic language skills.

The SLP and the exceptional children’s teacher often collaborate and determine the student’s areas of need and the academic goals that need to be targeted.  The therapist will work in the classroom or co-teach in the student’s various classrooms or pull the student in a small group or one-on-one sessions to target these specific goals. The frequency of service delivery will vary depending on the severity of the student’s needs.

The SLP supports the student by collaborating and consulting with all of the student’s teachers. As students get older, the SLP does not focus on one particular goal but rather supports the student across environments. For example, the SLP may provide support while studying for a specific test, completing a project or end of semester assignment, creating visual/graphic organizers to improve comprehension of class related material, or provide supplemental materials to aid in improving the understanding of specific concepts presented in class.  The Speech-Language Pathologist can provide information to teachers regarding how the student’s receptive or expressive language disorder is directly impacting their ability to perform in the classroom as well as where some of the student’s learning breakdowns may be occurring.

Speech therapy in middle and high school can also present with many challenges. Adolescents are “in the thick” of the maturation process.  Moodiness, raging hormones, and self-concept/self-esteem problems are just a few of the difficulties our students face on a daily basis and may make working with our teens challenging.

SLP’s strive to design programs and choose materials that are both motivating and enjoyable for the students while simultaneously helping them learn the curriculum.

The support services provided by an SLP in middle and high school is essential for the important transition from middle and high school to employment and adult life.

Kara VanHooser Wins Award for Excellence

Kara's Family
VanHooser at the awards ceremony with her husband, Mike Dodge and daughter, Grace Dodge

Kara VanHooser, M.S., CCC-SLP, a speech-language pathologist in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, received the 2017 Lara Jane Parker Award for Excellence along with two other winners.  VanHooser works primarily at McDougle Elementary School in Chapel Hill where she has over 20 years experience and serves as the Exceptional Children’s team lead.  The Lara Jane Parker Award Program shared,”Kara is proactive in engaging a child’s whole team, including families, private therapists, and physicians, to meet the student’s communication and other needs.  She organizes communication during reverse inclusion groups, where students from general ed classrooms join students in the adapted curriculum classrooms for activities promoting social and academic interactions.  Kara invites politicians to meet her students to better understand the challenges they face.  She is in regular contact with them to discuss issues that affect students like hers.”

The Lara Jane Parker Awards are sponsored by the New Voices Foundation (newvoices.org), a non-profit in North Carolina whose mission is to help children with communication challenges maximize their learning potential.

Does the Spanish Speaking Child in My Class Need Speech Therapy?

by Jennifer Kirschner, M.S., CCC-SLP & Rebecca Fox, M.S., CCC-SLP (Speech-Language Pathologists in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

When native Spanish speakers are learning to speak English, many elements of their speech can sound “wrong” to native English speakers. It is important for English-speaking teachers and staff to recognize what characteristics of Spanish are normal to hear in English. Continue reading Does the Spanish Speaking Child in My Class Need Speech Therapy?

The Power of a Peer

by Jordan Lupton, M.S., CCC-SLP (Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, North Carolina)

Photo credit: Pixabay

INTRODUCTION

Students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often face significant struggles with social interaction, yet they have fewer opportunities to interact with typically developing peers because of an increased need for adult assistance with academics, attention, or behavior. Although these areas are important for improving a child’s quality of life at school, many parents of children with ASD rank social communication and interaction among their top concerns, and many ASD learners themselves desire to learn ways to improve peer relationships at school.

Peer Mediated Instruction and Intervention (PMII) provides a way for teachers and therapists to address this area of need. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill define PMII as follows:

“With a foundation in behaviorism and social learning theory, PMII involves systematically teaching peers without disabilities, ways of engaging learners with ASD in positive and meaningful social interactions.”

In addition to the benefits for the learner with ASD, PMII also benefits typically developing peers in expanding their social network, developing new friendships, and having higher quality interactions with classmates. Anyone can be trained in the use of PMII. Teachers, therapists, and paraprofessionals should work together to implement PMII successfully.

PMII FOR PRESCHOOL AND ELEMENTARY-AGED CHILDREN

  • Peer Modeling: Teach a peer to demonstrate a target skill to the student with ASD. Target skills may include: requesting, following directions, greeting, or joining in an activity or conversation.
  • Peer Initiation Training: Train peers to encourage interactions with students with ASD, such as maintaining conversations, taking turns, or responding to invitations.
  • Direct Training: Peers and students with ASD are taught specific skills directly.

PMII FOR UPPER ELEMENTARY, MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS

  • Peer Networks: Peers meet and interact with the learner with ASD in a regular meeting outside of instructional time.
  • Peer Supports: Peers support the learner with ASD academically and socially in an inclusive environment.

USING PMII IN THE CLASSROOM OR THERAPY SESSIONS

  1. Identify the goal for your learner with ASD and times when social interactions naturally occur.
  2. Select peers thoughtfully and carefully. The peers should be exhibit good language, social and play skills, express a willingness to participate, and have parent permission.
  3. Train peers to recognize and appreciate individual differences, then review target behaviors.
  4. Develop scripts for peers to use, and role play with them.
  5. Plan for peers to interact with the learner with ASD in scheduled times daily.
  6. Monitor progress and provide peer support and feedback as needed.

SUMMARY

Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention is an effective intervention for students with autism spectrum disorder. PMII can be used to effectively address goals in social skills, communication, joint attention, play skills, school-readiness, and academic skills.

REFERENCES

AFIRM Team. (2015). Peer-mediated instruction and intervention. Chapel Hill, NC: National

Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder, FPG Child Development Center, University of North Carolina. Retrieved from http://afirm.fpg.unc.edu/Peer-mediated-instruction-and-intervention

Dynamic Assessment: The Answer to Moving Away from Standardized Tests

by Sarah Smith, M.S., CCC-SLP and Beth Burns, M.S., CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologists in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

Our most recent blog entry talked about the limitations of standardized tests.  Today, we’ll address the answer to the question:  “If I shouldn’t use a standardized test to determine presence of a language disorder, what do I do?”  In short, use dynamic assessment, which means test – teach – test.

Dynamic Assessment is the best way to eliminate the biases present within standardized assessments. As a contrast to a standardized assessment, dynamic assessment  shifts our consideration from do they know it… to can they learn it?

Can the student acquire new skills with the same effort as peers from similar backgrounds?  

Dynamic Assessment  is composed of a pretest, mediated learning experience, and a post test. Throughout the entire process we are evaluating whether the student can learn new skills with the same ease or effort as typically developing peers.  Dynamic assessment also gives us insight into how the student learns. The subjectivity within Dynamic Assessment means it is imperative for us as clinicians to develop our clinical opinions by knowing what normal is.  We also need to know how much instructional effort is needed for typical peers.  In other words, we need to have good clinical skills.

Language Samples incorporating Dynamic Assessment are the fastest and the best way to provide a qualitative look at a student’s language.

For detailed information on applying dynamic assessment — Check it out!

Fast Mapping Task Test — Check it out!

Non-Word Repetition Task– Check it out!

Got Problem Behaviors? – Turn them into Communication

By Ashley Hudson, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologist, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

Every classroom has a system in place to manage student behavior.  Schools in Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools (CHCCS) implement Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS).  Some schools within CHCCS implement complementary approaches, such as Conscious Discipline, but what do you do when these approaches are not working for a student?

FUNCTIONAL COMMUNICATION

Functional communication is a method for understanding the communicative intent of problem behavior and finding an appropriate replacement for that behavior.  Functional communication teaches us that the primary function of communication, and therefore behavior, is to get things (e.g., attention, objects), or escape things (e.g., avoiding attention, avoiding work).

Central assumptions to this approach are that:

  • All problem behavior has a purpose for the person
  • Children can/should be taught how to communicate, and not just how to reduce undesired behaviors
  • A single behavior can have multiple purposes (e.g., escape demands, getting a preferred toy)
  • The goal of intervention is not solely to reduce undesirable behavior,  rather the goal is to change the environment, so that the student is able to communicate more effectively
  • Most communicative behavior serves as a means of requesting (e.g., attention, sensory)
  • Many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or language disorders may lack the skills to request in a socially acceptable manner

VERBAL COMMUNICATION

Speech is not required for verbal communication, although it is the most common medium.  Verbal communication is a behavior that is communicative in nature.  In a child with a language impairment, such as a child with Autism, verbal communication may be not characterized by the use of speech. For example, rather than saying that he/she wants more time with the iPad, the child may fall on the floor when it is time to transition to a non-preferred task.  The Functional Communication model suggests that the child needs to be taught socially acceptable language to request more time with the iPad (e.g., “I want more time with the iPad”).

FUNCTIONAL COMMUNICATION MODEL

Environmental Events

Observable Behavior

Change in Environment

*Important note: This model also stresses that both positive and negative reinforcement increase behavior.

CONCLUSIONboy-with-backpack

The Functional Communication model states that behavior has communicative intent. It further states that it is imperative that the intent/function of behavior is determined so that socially appropriate communication (i.e., requests) can be increased, and problem-behavior decreased.

KEY IDEAS

  1. Consequences (i.e., desired outcomes) cause behavior, not antecedents
  2. Problem behavior is serving a purpose
  3. Use the purpose/intent of the behavior in context to teach appropriate communication
  4. Teach a child to tell you that they want/don’t want something (e.g., I need a break, I want more time with the iPad)  rather than focusing on compliance with a task demand

REFERENCES

  1. Travers, Jason, Turning Problem Behavior Into Effective Communication, ASHA Professional Development
  2. Travers, Jason.  GET THE MESSAGE! The Communicate Nature of Inappropriate Behavior in Learners with ASD. ASHA Presentation.

RESOURCES

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gk-si6X4FXY

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Quick Guide: Pragmatic Language

by Rena Dadolf, M.S., CCC-SLP and Theresa Menz, M.S., CCC-SLP

We’re hearing a lot these days about Pragmatic Language Disorders…

The first question many teachers and parents have is “What is Pragmatic Language?”

Pragmatics is the understanding and use of language in social situations – in other words, successfully having conversations with other people.

Pragmatic skills involve understanding and using nonverbal skills such as body language as well as what we say, how we say it, and the appropriateness of what we say.

Pragmatic skills are vital for communicating our personal thoughts, ideas and feelings. Children with pragmatic language weakness may misinterpret others’ communicative intent and have difficulty responding appropriately verbally or non-verbally. Conversation skills are often weak and children with this disorder may not engage in the back and forth fluid flow of questioning, answering, and commenting that comes so naturally to most of us.

Pragmatic Language Skills:

  1. Using language for different functions: greeting, informing, requesting
  2. Changing your language based on the needs of the person you are talking to:
    • Speaking differently in the library than on a playground
    • Giving background information
    • Talking differently to a baby than an adult
  3. Following Conversation Rules:
    • Taking turns in conversation
    • Staying on topic
  4. Rephrasing when misunderstood
  5. Using appropriate facial expressions and eye contact
  6. Understanding how to take another person’s perspective

While all children need to be taught these skills, children with pragmatic language weaknesses need explicit instruction involving these skills. The use of visual supports, practice, and role play are key. Contact your school’s speech-language pathologist to learn more!