School-based therapy can cover a wide range of services from psychologists, school nurses, speech-language pathologists, special education teachers, occupational therapists, physical therapists, sign language interpreters, and more. The goal of the school district is to create a comprehensive team of professionals who can come together to create the best learning environment for students with developmental disabilities. For example, special education teachers can help teach students who are unable to attend mainstream classes with their peers. Speech-language pathologists can help these students learn the communication skills they need to make themselves heard. Occupational and physical therapists can help them with any physical challenges they need to overcome.
Offering school-based therapy also helps the school district on many different levels. By providing therapy services to students within the confines of the school day, students do not have to be taken out of school as often for medical appointments, boosting attendance rates. Teachers can be involved in the treatment programs of their students, providing feedback on students’ progress, communicating any concerns they may have, and incorporating recommendations provided by the therapy team. Students miss less class time when they do not have to leave school for therapy and often perform better in class as their therapy work progresses.
In this blog, we want to specifically look at how speech therapy for children in schools is extremely beneficial and why every district should have an SLP on their special education team.
The Importance of Early Intervention for Speech & Language
Parents have a lot on their plate when they bring home a newborn child. Many may not be aware of subtle developmental milestones that are important for their children. Some doctors are not as thorough with questions and may miss concerns during a short appointment. In addition to this, parents may not realize how important it is to be truthful when answering these questions. Thanks to this, more needs to be done to encourage all of those in the lives of young children to know about the existence of early intervention services.
While early intervention services for speech are available for children, many parents are not aware that they exist. Often times, children will get into the school system and begin kindergarten without clear speech. While this may not be alarming to many, speech deficits can impact a child for years to come. When a child has difficulty with speech, they may be hard to understand. This may cause problems with their social development. Other peers may not want to play or talk with them because they cannot understand the other child. If the student feels isolated from their peers, negative behaviors may appear. Studies have also shown that these early years lead to an increased risk of mental health as well as academic concerns.
We often forget that speech problems carry over to the academic world for children. While learning early literacy skills, speech sounds are imperative. Some children may drop sounds or alter them when speaking. This speech problem then moves along to struggles with early reading skills. If kids do not hear the words in their mind the right way, they may not realize what the word really is.
Speech Therapy in Schools
In the past, speech therapy was treated as a separate issue to learning, often administered in a private room. While that still occurs, in recent years, a shift in approach has gained popularity among educators – one that encourages a collaborative teaching effort designed to address all of the child’s needs and integrate the learning environment. SLPs already do far more than simple articulation therapy, and it seems intuitive that any effort supplemented and reinforced by all of a child’s teachers would enhance the learning experience. Speech pathologists also work with professionals in the special education department to create a comprehensive IEP plan for the students they work with.
Speech Therapy for Stuttering
One example of how speech therapy is used is helping with a child who is having difficulties with stuttering. While some kids may outgrow this communication disorder, stuttering can still have a huge impact on their childhood. Stuttering can negate their social lives because of decreased self-esteem. Their self-esteem often forces them to shy away from their peers because they are so afraid of being laughed at and bullied. The key to assisting kids is recognizing when a child is stuttering and getting them assistance within the school.
Speech-language pathologists working with children that stutter understand that each child is different. They utilize information about each individual to understand the unique challenges that a child is facing. Individual sessions are a great way to gain trust with the child as you get to know them and start working. Eventually, group sessions will help kids that stutter to socialize in a more structured way that will not be threatening to them. Individual sessions are a great way to gain trust with the child as you get to know them and start working. Eventually, group sessions will help kids that stutter to socialize in a more structured way that will not be threatening to them.
Motor Speech Disorders & Speech-Language Therapy
Speech therapy in schools can also help children with motor speech disorders such as apraxia. Childhood apraxia occurs when a child has trouble producing individual sounds or words due to the inability of the required muscles to function effectively in a coordinated motion. While muscles are involved in the process, it is not caused by paralysis or weakness of the muscles. Rather, it is because the brain has difficulty telling the appropriate muscles to move in the desired way. The tongue, lips, and jaw are not being told what to do effectively, even though they are able to physically perform the movements. Children are typically diagnosed at around age two and a half, and then have the condition confirmed after age three.
Using sign language in conjunction with intensive speech therapy may provide better results for children with apraxia. It is believed that the use of sign language helps with the development of a child’s communication skills. Because it is used in conjunction with intensive speech therapy, children are able to learn to communicate freely with those around him while developing the requisite muscle control to then translate those skills into verbal communication.
The Importance of Integrating Speech Therapy into the Classroom
To start integrated therapy without encroaching on class time, consider using activity periods where the children are already engaged. Sitting down with the kids for snack time, for example, is a great opportunity to reinforce modeling and language skills for preschoolers. An SLP who is willing to take over language lessons or circle time can also help a special needs child feel more included in the classroom while reinforcing speech lessons within the existing curriculum as outlined by the teacher. As one step further, many SLPs may ask to attend grade level or pod meetings, allowing them to keep up with the current curriculum using minimal amounts of teaching time. The key is to work around the teacher’s plans, and in return ask that they reciprocate by incorporating speech patterns into their daily curriculum.
If you are a speech-language pathologist looking for your next assignment, make sure to check out ProCare Therapy’s SLP job page today!SLP Job Page