Photo By Clementina – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11229108
Written by: Sarah Michaels, Heather Miller, Phyllis Norwood, Heather Petrusa, Amy Samuels
Have you ever asked a child a question or given directions only to be met with a blank stare? You may have a child in your classroom with language that is 1-2 years below what is expected for kids that age. Therefore, it is important that you know how to reduce the verbal demands so students understand and can respond to you at their level. Here are eight suggestions for matching your language to meet students at their level:
- Provide extended wait time. Some kids need (an excruciating) 5-10+ seconds to respond. Students may need time to process auditory/verbal input or formulate their response. Wait and watch.
- Give students advanced notice that they will be called on. Let them know when their turn will be and what will be expected so they have time to formulate a response.
- Say less! Speak one word beyond the child’s ability. If a child only uses single words (e.g., ball), then speak in 2 word phrases (e.g., blue ball; ball please). If a child is using phrases, then speak in simple sentences. For kids using longer utterances, consider your vocabulary and syntax. Re-phrase using simpler vocabulary and sentence structure.
- Repeat, repeat, repeat. Repeat and rephrase your statements to give students time to process what you’ve said. Also slow down and repeat instructions as needed. Additionally, repeating and rephrasing what the child says helps to build comprehension and retention.
- Provide fill-in cues. Reduce the expectation for the student’s response (especially in large group settings). Start the statement and let the child finish the sentence using 1-3 words. For example, if you ask, “Where was the boy?” then say “The boy was ___” with the expectation that the student fills in “under” or “under the table.”
- Use pictures and gestures. Pictures help support expressive and receptive language. They can reduce the need for a lot of verbal input and get to the point faster for some kids. Some children process visual information better than auditory information. Refer to pictures in books, use a picture schedule, wear small pictures on a lanyard for frequently used directions and routines (e.g., sit, listen, wash hands, line up, etc.). Don’t worry about what the icon looks like (clipart, stock photos, Boardmaker, etc.), just be consistent with each image.
- Give choices. Provide verbal or picture choices to narrow the wide open field of responses to 2 or 3.
- Remember to praise any response a student gives! Repeating their response also allows for additional processing and retention of information.
It’s important for you to know your students’ language levels and to know how to match your language to meet the child at their level. For more information, talk to your school-based speech-language pathologist.
by S. Michaels, H. Miller, P. Norwood, H. Petrusa, A. Samuels (CHCCS SLP Pre-K Team)
Everyone has normal dysfluencies, especially preschoolers. Preschool age children are learning the “adult way” of forming sounds into words and sentences. They do not yet have the speech motor coordination that mature speakers have acquired. In other words, their mouths are trying to keep up with what their brains want to say. Therefore, preschoolers may hesitate to speak, revise what they say, or repeat a word or phrase multiple times before conveying their idea. You may wonder if this is stuttering – most often it is not.
According to J. Scott Yaruss (Yaruss, Scott. Young Children Who Stutter. New York: National Stuttering Association, 2013. Print), there are a few red flags that indicate more than a typical dysfluency in a preschool child such as:
- Part-word repetition (li-li-li-like this)
- Prolongations (Loooooook at the snow)
- Blocking (l….ike this)
This is not an exhaustive list. You may see other behaviors or repetitions of sounds or words that seem outside the norm of other kids. There are many factors to consider when differentiating normal dysfluency from stuttering. Talk to your speech-language pathologist about your concerns.
Whether the child is experiencing normal dysfluencies or true stuttering, here are 5 suggestions for teachers and adults:
- Turtle Talk – Speak to children in a non-rushed manner all the time
- Pause, Think, Tell – Adult models a delayed response – “Hmm, let me think about that….(3 seconds later)…Yes, I do like pizza.”
- Rephrase – Adult rephrases child’s message – “Oh so you did not like it when the dog jumped up and down”
- Praise – Praise child’s attempts at speaking! The message is for them to KEEP talking despite ‘bumpy’ speech i.e. “You have great ideas!”
- Reduce competition for simultaneous speaking – Remind others that it is this child’s turn to speak and then it will be the next person’s turn. i.e “We have time to speak and time to listen.”
by Beth Burns
The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) recently tweeted about a study by Dr. Anna Sosa, an Associate Professor in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Northern Arizona University. She was featured in the New York Times and an NPR broadcast. Her study found that even with electronic toys and e-books that were advertised as promoting language development, babies vocalized less and parents responded and commented less than with traditional toys.
by Sarah Michaels, Heather Miller, Phyllis Norwood, Heather Petrusa and Amy Samuels (CHCCS SLP Pre-K Team)
The production of speech is an amazingly complex process. Speaking involves 3 systems: the respiratory system (lungs), the laryngeal system (vocal cords), and the articulatory system (tongue, lips, teeth, nose). Speech begins as a thought and then with the help of a perfectly timed sequence of all three systems, sounds are produced. Our lungs provide air that enters the larynx for voicing and then travels up to the articulatory system where changes in the mouth shape produce the actual sounds.
In the English language, we make over 40 individual speech sounds, including both vowels and consonants. Each sound varies by place in the mouth (e.g., lips, behind teeth, soft palate), voice (voiced or unvoiced), and manner in which it’s produced (e.g., continued air, stopped sound, nasal sound).
Given this complex system, it is understandable that many children experience difficulties with sound production as their speaking develops. There is much variability regarding when speech sounds are acquired. Below is a link to a chart that shows when speech sounds typically develop in most children. Ninety percent of children produce the sounds within the age band by the indicated ages. A disorder exists if a child hasn’t acquired a given sound one year beyond the expected age listed. If you are concerned that a student is not able to produce age appropriate sounds, then follow up with a Speech-Language Pathologist.