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Speech and Language

Role of the School-based Speech Pathologist:

The school-based Speech Pathologist’s goal is to remediate, improve or alleviate a student’s communication impairment within the educational setting. This is accomplished by either providing direct service to the student, consulting and collaborating with teachers and other special education staff, and/or providing parent education.

Speech Language Services are provided in the following areas:

Articulation: An articulation disorder involves difficulty making speech sounds. Sounds can be substituted, left off, added or changed. These errors may make it hard for people to understand your child. Young children often have developmental speech errors; such as making a "w" sound for an "r" sound (e.g., "wabbit" for "rabbit") or leaving sounds out of words, such as "nana" for "banana." If your child continues to make these errors past the expected age, they may have an articulation disorder.

Phonology: A phonological processing disorder involves patterns of sound errors. For example, substituting all sounds made in the back of the mouth like "k" and "g" for those in the front of the mouth like "t" and "d" (e.g., saying "tup" for "cup" or "das" for "gas"). Another example is cluster reduction. ("boken" for broken or "soon" for spoon). These errors can significantly decrease a child’s speech intelligibility. While it is common for young children learning speech to leave sounds out of the word, it is not expected as a child gets older. If a child continues to demonstrate speech error patterns, he or she may have a phonological process disorder.

Fluency: Stuttered speech often includes repetitions of sounds or parts of words, as well as prolongations of speech sounds. These dysfluencies occur more often in a child who stutters than they do in the general population. Some people who stutter appear very tense or "out of breath" when talking. Speech may become completely stopped or blocked. Blocked is when the mouth is positioned to say a sound, sometimes for several seconds, with little or no sound forthcoming. Interjections such as "um" or "like" can occur, and may be repeated ("u- um- um") or prolonged ("uuuum).

Voice Disorders: Voice disorders can be present when the child’s voice sounds hoarse or raspy, too loud or too soft, has breaks in voicing or has the pitch change suddenly. The child may run out of air during a sentence or have speech that is difficult to understand because too much air is escaping through the nose (hypernasality) or too little air is coming out through the nose (hyponasality).

Language: A Language Processing Disorder can affect expressive language (what you say) and/or receptive language (how you understand what others say). Areas of difficulty can include: difficulty gaining meaning from spoken language, poor written output, poor reading comprehension, difficulty expressing thoughts in verbal form, difficulty labeling objects or recognizing labels. The child may often be frustrated by having a lot to say and no way to say it, can describe an object and draw it, but can’t think of the word for it, or has difficulty understanding jokes (nonliteral language).

Pragmatics: Pragmatics is the social use of language, and it includes three areas:
1. Using language for different purposes, such as: greeting (e.g., hello, goodbye), informing (e.g., I'm going to get a cookie), demanding (e.g., Give me a cookie), promising (e.g., I'm going to get you a cookie), or requesting (e.g., I would like a cookie, please).
2. Changing language according to the needs of a listener or situation, such as: talking differently to a baby than to an adult, giving background information to an unfamiliar listener, and speaking differently in a classroom than on a playground.
3. Following rules for conversations and storytelling, such as: taking turns in conversation, introducing topics of conversation, staying on topic, rephrasing when misunderstood, how to use verbal and nonverbal signals, how close to stand to someone when speaking, and how to use facial expressions and eye contact.