When one of my three older brothers was a preschooler, my folks noticed he was talking with a lisp. This was 1962 and many states didn’t have the speech and language resources that we know today. Mom and Allan had to climb into the green station wagon and drive to a hospital downtown to meet with a speech-language pathologist (SLP). They did this drive for several years before he was able to appropriately pronounce his ‘r’ and ‘cl’ sounds. Thankfully, my parents were creative and financially resourceful, or as an adult, my big brother may still be talking about breaking his “quavicle” during one of his little league baseball games.
Today, an SLP is a vital part of the school community and provides services that are important to a child’s educational growth and success. As a teacher, I think of learning as a process of communicating information, and language as the basis for that process. An SLP considers speaking and listening, reading and writing, plus gesturing and mannerisms as forms of language and communication. If there is a deficit in any of these areas, a student will struggle to succeed in school. If a student needs therapy for speech, he or she is having trouble with the pronunciation of sounds, like my big brother.
Children who require help with putting words together to communicate thoughts or knowledge have a language disorder. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) identifies speech disorders as problems articulating sounds or words, stuttering, pitch, volume or poor quality of voice, or difficulties with eating and swallowing. Language disorders involve either problems processing language (receptive) or difficulties involving limited vocabulary or using language in a socially inappropriate manner (expressive.)
The trained SLP in your child’s school can screen, diagnose, and provide appropriate remedies to assist a student with speech-language disorders. Activities to stimulate language development, exercises to strengthen the muscles used in speech, and correct tongue placement exercises are all examples of how the SLP can help students.