Early Intervention Matters: Speech and Language Development

Welcome to my new blog series “Early Intervention Matters”. Through this series I will look at all the different services available for children and how each can make a big impact on a child. Each blog will have a different focus and will give useful information about which children would benefit from the particular intervention.

Early intervention is so important for children. It enables the child to start targeted therapy to work on skills that are underdeveloped. It is essential that parents work closely with day-care teachers and preschool teachers to establish if there are any concerns with their child. If in doubt, get them assessed by a professional. Children under the age of 6 are high priority for all paediatric speech pathologists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

images-1In this first blog, I will focus on the importance of addressing speech and language development concerns. A lot of children begin primary school with a communication delay that has been undiagnosed. They may have trouble with their speech with includes their articulation or phonological skills, their fluency or their voice. They may have trouble with their language, which could include understanding others (receptive) or expressing themselves.

If there are any concerns with your child’s speech or language development, teachers will immediately request for an assessment to be conducted by a speech pathologist. There are a variety of assessments that can be done and depending on the findings, children can be “funded” to get extra support in the classroom. Unfortunately, most parents are in denial and do not want their child “labelled” with a diagnosis. Speech and Language issues are extremely undiagnosed because parents do not get their child assessed early and therefore their child will struggle in a formal school setting.

According to the American Speech – Language- Hearing Association the three goals of speech and language early intervention are:

1) Prevention: to hinder the occurrence of a communication disorder or delay by providing Early Intervention (EI) services to at-risk children and their families before an official diagnosis of a communication disorder is made.

2) Remediation: to provide EI services to children and their families who have already been diagnosed with a communication disorder or delay to decrease the long term occurrence or adverse impact that the communication disorder could possibly have on children later in life.

3) Compensation: to provide effective and functional communication strategies or intervention to children and their families with disabilities or impairment that is irreversible to increase the children’s quality of life.

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Does your child who is aged between 5 to 12 years old need to be seen by a speech pathologist? Look at the list below to see if your child is able to do these specific skills at each age. (This milestone checklist has been compiled by the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association) If they can not do some of these, most teachers will strongly recommend a speech and language assessment.

 5 – 6 Years old

 Listening

  • Follow 1-2 simple directions in a sequence
  • Listen to and understand age-appropriate stories read aloud
  • Follow a simple conversation

Speaking

  • Be understood by most people
  • Answer simple “yes/no” questions
  • Answer open-ended questions (e.g., “What did you have for lunch today?”)
  • Retell a story or talk about an event
  • Participate appropriately in conversations
  • Show interest in and start conversations

Reading

  • Know how a book works (e.g., read from left to right and top to bottom in English)
  • Understand that spoken words are made up of sounds
  • Identify words that rhyme (e.g., cat and hat)
  • Compare and match words based on their sounds
  • Understand that letters represent speech sounds and match sounds to letters
  • Identify upper- and lowercase letters
  • Recognise some words by sight
  • “Read” a few picture books from memory
  • Imitate reading by talking about pictures in a book

Writing

  • Print own first and last name
  • Draw a picture that tells a story and label and write about the picture
  • Write upper- and lowercase letters (may not be clearly written)
  • Beginning to write simple sentences

6 – 7 Years old

Listening

  • Remember information
  • Respond to instructions
  • Follow 2-3 step directions in a sequence

Speaking

  • Be easily understood
  • Answer more complex “yes/no” questions
  • Tell and retell stories and events in a logical order
  • Express ideas with a variety of complete sentences
  • Use most parts of speech (grammar) correctly
  • Ask and respond to “wh” questions (who, what, where, when, why)
  • Stay on topic and take turns in conversation
  • Give directions
  • Start conversations

Reading

  • Create rhyming words
  • Identify all sounds in short words
  • Blend separate sounds to form words
  • Match spoken words with print
  • Know how a book works (e.g., read from left to right and top to bottom in English)
  • Identify letters, words, and sentences
  • Sound out words when reading
  • Have a sight vocabulary of 100 common words
  • Read grade-level material fluently
  • Understand what is read

Writing

  • Express ideas through writing
  • Print clearly
  • Spell frequently used words correctly
  • Begin each sentence with capital letters and use ending punctuation
  • Write a variety of stories, journal entries, or letters/notes

7 – 8 Years old

Listening

  • Follow 3-4 oral directions in a sequence
  • Understand direction words (e.g., location, space, and time words)
  • Correctly answer questions about a grade-level story

Speaking

  • Be easily understood
  • Answer more complex “yes/no” questions
  • Ask and answer “wh” questions (e.g., who, what, where, when, why)
  • Use increasingly complex sentence structures
  • Clarify and explain words and ideas
  • Give directions with 3-4 steps
  • Use oral language to inform, to persuade, and to entertain
  • Stay on topic, take turns, and use appropriate eye contact during conversation
  • Open and close conversation appropriately

Reading

  • Have fully mastered phonics/sound awareness
  • Associate speech sounds, syllables, words, and phrases with their written forms
  • Recognise many words by sight
  • Use meaning clues when reading (e.g., pictures, titles/headings, information in the story)
  • Reread and self-correct when necessary
  • Locate information to answer questions
  • Explain key elements of a story (e.g., main idea, main characters, plot)
  • Use own experience to predict and justify what will happen in grade-level stories
  • Read, paraphrase/retell a story in a sequence
  • Read grade-level stories, poetry, or dramatic text silently and aloud with fluency
  • Read spontaneously
  • Identify and use spelling patterns in words when reading

Writing

  • Write legibly
  • Use a variety of sentence types in writing essays, poetry, or short stories (fiction and nonfiction)
  • Use basic punctuation and capitalisation appropriately
  • Organise writing to include beginning, middle, and end
  • Spell frequently used words correctly
  • Progress from inventive spelling (e.g., spelling by sound) to more accurate spelling

8 - 9 Years old

Listening

  • Listen attentively in group situations
  • Understand grade-level material

Speaking

  • Speak clearly with an appropriate voice
  • Ask and respond to questions
  • Participate in conversations and group discussions
  • Use subject-related vocabulary
  • Stay on topic, use appropriate eye contact, and take turns in conversation
  • Summarise a story accurately
  • Explain what has been learned

Reading

  • Demonstrate full mastery of basic phonics
  • Use word analysis skills when reading
  • Use clues from language content and structure to help understand what is read
  • Predict and justify what will happen next in stories and compare and contrast stories
  • Ask and answer questions regarding reading material
  • Use acquired information to learn about new topics
  • Read grade-level books fluently (fiction and nonfiction)
  • Reread and correct errors when necessary

Writing

  • Plan, organise, revise, and edit
  • Include details in writing
  • Write stories, letters, simple explanations, and brief reports
  • Spell simple words correctly, correct most spelling independently, and use a dictionary to correct spelling
  • Write clearly in cursive

9 – 10 Years old

Listening

  • Listen to and understand information presented by others
  • Form opinions based on evidence
  • Listen for specific purposes

Speaking

  • Use words appropriately in conversation
  • Use language effectively for a variety of purposes
  • Understand some figurative language (e.g., “I’m on fire!)
  • Participate in group discussions
  • Give accurate directions to others
  • Summarise and restate ideas
  • Organise information for clarity
  • Use subject area information and vocabulary (e.g., social studies) for learning
  • Make effective oral presentations

Reading

  • Read for specific purposes
  • Read grade-level books fluently
  • Use previously learned information to understand new material
  • Follow written directions
  • Take brief notes
  • Link information learned to different subjects
  • Learn meanings of new words through knowledge of word origins, synonyms, and multiple meanings
  • Use reference materials (e.g., dictionary)
  • Explain the author’s purpose and writing style
  • Read and understand a variety of types of literature, including fiction, nonfiction, historical fiction, and poetry
  • Compare and contrast in content areas
  • Make inferences from texts
  • Paraphrase content, including the main idea and details

Writing

  • Write effective stories and explanations, including several paragraphs about the same topic
  • Develop a plan for writing, including a beginning, middle, and end
  • Organise writing to convey a central idea
  • Edit final copies for grammar, punctuation, and spelling

10 – 11 Years old

Listening

  • Listen and draw conclusions in subject area learning activities

Speaking

  • Make planned oral presentations appropriate to the audience
  • Maintain eye contact and use gestures, facial expressions, and appropriate voice during group presentations
  • Participate in class discussions across subject areas
  • Summarise main points
  • Report about information gathered in group activities

Reading

  • Read grade-level books fluently
  • Learn meanings of unfamiliar words through knowledge of root words, prefixes, and suffixes
  • Prioritise information according to the purpose of reading
  • Read a variety of literary forms
  • Describe development of character and plot
  • Describe characteristics of poetry
  • Analyse author’s language and style
  • Use reference materials to support opinions

Writing

  • Write for a variety of purposes
  • Use vocabulary effectively
  • Vary sentence structure
  • Revise writing for clarity
  • Edit final copies

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One of the limitations of many speech therapy services is the availability and flexibility of appointment times. Many parents find it difficult to juggle work, school and other commitments to make an appointment. We need services that can adapt to the ever changing society that we now live. A few speech pathology services are trying to be more flexible to allow more children to have access to this service.

“Modern Speechie” offers one of these services. It is an innovative and personalised speech pathology service operating in the Inner West of Sydney. It is a mobile service where sessions are conducted within the child’s home, child care or school setting. This enables the speech pathologist to tailor the best service that meets the needs of each child and their family. Sessions are available on the weekend; which is a big bonus for many families. To contact them directly you can go to their website http://www.modernspeechie.com.au/ or visit their Facebook page.

I hope in reading this blog, you realise the importance of early intervention for speech and language development for children. The next blog will focus on the service that paediatric physiotherapy can offer families.

Knowing this information is important for parents so please share the link so everyone can be well informed.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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