Speech Therapy for Struggling Readers
According to the University of the Pacific, many classroom teachers may not be providing students with the strategies necessary to allow them to fully master the complexities of the written language. This is clearly not intentional; it appears to be caused by teachers believing the skills have previously been mastered in early elementary classes. After more than three decades of research, professors at Pacific were able to identify the strategies that would help facilitate greater communication skills in students.
The deficit is most clearly seen in expository writing, which is heavily emphasized throughout the Common Core Standards and used extensively in all subjects. Struggling students can be identified as early as fourth grade, but many struggle throughout their education as the issues are never fully addressed. Expository writing requires the student to investigate an idea they have been presented, evaluate the available evidence, discuss the idea, and put forth a clear and concise argument about the idea. The student must put forth a thesis statement, use transitions which are both clear and logical, provide evidence throughout the body of the writing, and create a conclusion that goes beyond a statement of their thesis. Throughout the writing, it is also expected that the student will demonstrate personal creativity to engage the reader.
The complexity of the writing will increase as students advance through school. If the student is unable to do the most basic requirements of the steps, the difficulty they have with expressive language will increase exponentially as they advance in their academic career. It is vital that many students are given the resources commonly utilized by speech-language pathologists if they are to master the skill.
The first step to successfully crafting an expository writing piece is obtaining a mastery of reading comprehension. There are numerous strategies which can be implemented in a general classroom setting, or by parents, that can help students improve their reading comprehension.
One of the most successful strategies is RAP, which is a mnemonic phrase that stands for reading a paragraph, asking questions about the details and main ideas, and then putting those details and ideas into one’s own words. Ensuring students fully understand this and are able to implement it consistently has shown as much as 36% of individual improvement. Other strategies include graphic organizers such as: visual maps, marking passages with symbols for questions or exciting points while reading, underlining or highlighting words that are unfamiliar, and summarizing each paragraph in the margin.
When working with a patient who has difficulty communicating their ideas, it may be beneficial to provide resources to those who have more time with the patient on a daily basis. For pediatric patients, this is often their classroom teacher. Look for methods and resources to share with teachers, school counselors, and parents that can help the child increase their functional language skills through their daily interactions.