Knowing When to Seek Help for Learning Issues
The 2020-2021 school year is sure to be one that we will never forget. While we know schools have worked hard over the summer to improve e-learning from the spring, parents and caregivers will continue to incur a great deal of responsibility when it comes to their child’s academic success.
For students who will be participating in e-learning, whether full-day or half-day, it’s going to be even more important for parents to be able to recognize and understand when a child needs additional support. As a therapist, many parents ask me, “How do I know if my child needs speech and language therapy?” While the list below does not encompass all possible signs of a speech or language need, it can be a helpful place to start.
- Difficulty following verbal or written directions
- Try to pay close attention to what happens when your child is given directions. By 4-5 years, a child should be able to follow a three-step direction without cues. Pay close attention to what happens when your child reads the directions for an assignment. Do you find yourself breaking down the directions for your child? Perhaps, your child can follow one-step, but when he/she is given multiple steps, the task cannot be completed. You may also notice that you are rephrasing the directions using simple language. This may be indicative of difficulties with vocabulary.
2. Difficulty comprehending a story, short reading passage, etc.
- Listen to or read your child’s responses and look for patterns. Is your child struggling to answer the specific question? For example, when asked a “who” question, your child should name a person (or an animal) rather than a place. You can also encourage your child to re-tell the story and see if he/she is able to summarize the text in his/her own words. Comprehension difficulties may also become apparent in math. We often see children who struggle with word problems due to the language.
3. Poor spelling skills and/or difficulty with phonological/phonemic awareness skills
- Phonological/phonemic awareness skills include (but are not limited to) rhyming, blending sounds/syllables and segmenting sounds/syllables. Research has shown that difficulties with these skills can predict poor reading and spelling skills.
4. Difficulty organizing thoughts or ideas to convey information clearly
- You may see organization difficulties in writing expression or when speaking. You may notice that your child’s story doesn’t follow a sequence, or he/she may struggle to stay on topic when engaging in conversation.
5. Weak vocabulary skills
- Vocabulary is important for all subjects in school. Does your child use non-specific words, such as “thing” and “stuff” frequently? The ability to use the context to define unfamiliar words can be very challenging for some students yet it’s extremely important for comprehension. Many students will read words that they do not understand. As a result, comprehension is negatively impacted.
6. Difficulty with written expression
This may include, but is not limited to grammar, spelling, sentence construction, etc.
- Is your child able to use different tenses (i.e. future, past) and can he/she use the tenses correctly? Check to see that your child is able to formulate grammatically complete sentences. Run-on sentences or fragment sentences may depict difficulties with syntax.
- By 7 or 8 years of age, your child should be able to produce all speech sounds correctly. You can refer to this developmental milestones chart for more specific information regarding speech sound development.
- Filler words and interjections may be signs of a word retrieval difficulty or challenges with organization. They can also be indicative of weak vocabulary skills, as described above.
9. Demonstrating disfluent speech; such as sound, word or part of a word repetitions
- Secondary characteristics may also accompany stuttering. Secondary characteristics may include (but are not limited to) eye blinking, muscle tension, turning away from the listener and facial grimacing.
10. Easily frustrated when communication breakdowns occur or when not understood by others
- Frustration can lead to other challenges, so it’s important to recognize when and why your child is feeling frustrated.
Research continues to show the earlier an area of need can be addressed, the better the outcome for both communication and learning. As a parent, identifying that your child has a need can cause you to worry, but speech and language therapy can significantly improve speech and language delays.
Teachers typically spend the most time with children during the school year, however, this year is different. If you are noticing any of these difficulties or problems at home during e-learning, it’s important to reach out to your child’s teacher or a licensed speech-language pathologist. The speech pathologist can complete an assessment to determine if your child does (or does not need) structured support. Remember, every child is different, and all children grow and develop at their own pace. This is a unique time in our lives, and we want to make sure that we set up our children for success! Schedule a free phone consultation with us to learn more or click the button below to match your child with an experienced therapist for teletherapy.