Supporting Speech and Language Development - Insights from an International Speech Therapist
By Abigail Harrington SLP
Do you work with students who have a speech-language impairment or students who have difficulties successfully communicating with you or their peers? Are you wondering how you can best support these students even though you are not their speech-language therapist? If so, there are a few simple and effective strategies that you can start using with your students right away! These strategies can be naturally incorporated into your interactions when holding counseling sessions, working with students in the classroom, and even during free-play time.
Give the student multiple choices when asking questions. By providing the student with choices, instead of just asking an open-ended question, you are reducing the complexity of the task and lessening the pressure. So, if you have a student who is demonstrating difficulty responding to your questions, try asking them a question like “Do you want to play a game or color first?” instead of “what would you like to do first?”
You can expand on your student’s language productions in order to model correct sentence structure and vocabulary. When you expand on your student’s productions, you are maintaining the meaning of what the student said while adding in any words or grammar that may be incorrect or missing. For example, if a student comes to meet with you and requests an activity simply by stating “Coloring” or “Playing Game” You can extend by saying: “You want to color. Let’s color!” or “We’re playing a game together.”
When working with a student, talk about what you’re doing, seeing, hearing, etc. By narrating your environment, in a natural way, you’re providing the student with a lot of language input. When you narrate your modeling new vocabulary, complex sentences and correct grammar. This strategy is helpful for students who are more hesitant to speak as there is no expectation for them to respond to you. You can narrate at any point throughout the day…when you're playing, walking in school, on a field trip, etc.
Hopefully, these strategies will empower and inspire you to support your students’ speech and language skills in a fun, naturalistic, and respectful way!
BONUS TIP! Use visual support for students who have reduced language comprehension. Tangible or real objects are usually easier to understand. Photographs of people, places or things are also very helpful. These visuals can assist the students with understanding more complex language and during tricky transitions.