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!

How Do I Monitor Progress?

MTSS/RTI Tier 2: How Do I Keep Data?

By Jordan Lupton and Ruth Morgan

When students are not making adequate progress receiving core instruction, teachers or support staff supplement the core instruction with additional interventions.  This level of additional support is considered MTSS Tier 2.  These interventions are delivered in a small group format, and progress monitoring data is used to make adjustments to instruction and intervention.  

But what does that progress monitoring data look like?  

In addition to academic data collection tools embedded within programs like mClass and AIMsweb, other data methods can be helpful in keeping track of student progress.  Additional sources of data include: running records, reading logs, journals, observations, topic tests, etc.  

You can also create your own Google form or document to keep track of student data. Ruth Morgan, SLP at Ephesus Elementary, wrote about how to create Google forms and spreadsheets on her blog, Chapel Hill Snippets.  Check out her step-by-step instructions here.

If low-tech forms are more your style, design your own Google document table.  To make data collection quick and user-friendly, create your form with choices that can be circled. Consider the following example of a weekly data form for a writing intervention for three students:

interventiontable

Whatever method of data collection you choose, make sure you are being mindful of exactly what data you will need to help your students achieve their goals.  The goal is not to create extra work for yourself, but to inform your instruction and identify positive changes in student performance

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Teachers: Save Your Voices!

by  Mary Kent Hill, M.S., CCC-SLP, Delia Hudson, M.Ed., CCC-SLP and Kara VanHooser, M.S., CCC-SLP

What is vocal hygiene and why is it important?

  • Vocal hygiene is a term used to describe the habits and practices that support vocal health.
  • Vocal hygiene is important because the muscles used for speech age just as the other parts of our body age.  

How do I know if I demonstrate vocal abuse?

  • All of us abuse our voices sometimes. Some examples include:
    • Screaming or yelling
    • Prolonged talking
    • Throat clearing or coughing
    • Singing in your car/shower
    • Grunting while playing sports
    • Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
    • Consuming alcohol
    • Excessive whispering

How can I practice good vocal hygiene?

  • Drink lots of water and/or other non-caffeinated beverages per day.
    • Eight, 8 oz glasses of water will do the trick!
  • Avoid alcohol consumption
    • Alcohol dehydrates and causes a buildup of mucous that will eventually need to be cleared away
  • Decrease or eliminate habitual throat clearing
    • Try gargling with salt-water in the morning if you have a buildup of mucous.
  • Try to use a conversational level of speech
    • Face your speaker and try not to yell or whisper
  • Don’t smoke!
  • Avoid environmental irritants such as strong smells and allergens.
  • Avoid spicy food
  • Limit excessive talking and singing when your voice is hoarse or tired
  • Remember to breathe!

Sources:

http://www.entforyou.com/docs/Vocal%20Hygiene.pdf

The Matching Game: How to Pair Your Language to Meet A Student’s Developmental Level

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.  

Welcome Back to School

by Beth Burns

The speech-language pathologists have returned to school rested and refreshed.  They are already helping kids access their curricula to maximize communication in their classes.  While we have a few SLPs on maternity leave and a new face to our group, we also have moved to balance staff with workload.  Please look for the speech-language pathologist(s) in your child’s school.

We are excited to bring articles this year to help teachers, parents, and other speech-language pathologists.  We will also share blog posts, tweets, and Facebook posts that might be of interest.

There might even be some free materials!

Preschool Stuttering? 5 Easy Tips for Adults

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:

  1. Turtle Talk – Speak to children in a non-rushed manner all the time
  2. Pause, Think, Tell – Adult models a delayed response  – “Hmm, let me think about that….(3 seconds later)…Yes, I do like pizza.”
  3. Rephrase – Adult rephrases child’s message – “Oh so you did not like it when the dog jumped up and down”
  4. Praise – Praise child’s attempts at speaking! The message is for them to KEEP talking despite ‘bumpy’ speech i.e. “You have great ideas!”
  5. 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.”

Study Promotes Traditional Toys For Language Development

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.