2002 Conference Proceedings

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Jean M. Slater
Slater Software, Inc.
Email: jean@slatersoftware.com

"I'm not a reading teacher. I'm a speech therapist. I work on building the language skills of the clients on my caseload. I'll leave reading instruction to the reading teacher." If speech/language pathologists are thinking that, it will be very difficult for them to incorporate literacy activities into their therapy sessions. This presentation will speak to any SLP who wants or needs practical and useful ideas for adding the literacy component to their interventions. They will be assured that they are not reading teachers, but their knowledge of language development, their expertise in increasing language understanding and usage, and their unique perspective on how language skills impact all learning will affect positive growth in reading and writing. Methods, strategies, and materials will be shared with the group which have been used with students in small group, inclusive, and individual settings.

This presentation will begin with a brief discussion of language development as we SLP's know it, and a comparison between the Emergent View of Literacy with the Traditional View of Literacy. The Emergent View believes that listening, speaking, reading, and writing develop simultaneously and concurrently, and that they are interrelated. Unlike the Traditional View, which believes that listening precedes speaking, speaking precedes reading, and writing follows reading, participants will see how growth and exposure in one area impacts the growth and development in another area.

The presenter has incorporated reading and writing into her therapy activities for many years. Prompted by the realization that some children defied conventional wisdom at the time and made significant improvement in their oral language skills only after they had begun to read, she began adding print to activities she had always used with students. Many of these materials will be shown and given away (to lucky attendees). For example, it is easy to incorporate writing into sequence activities, add the reading component in grammar and vocabulary lessons, use predictable print sentence strips with classification activities, or pair articulation practice with oral and written sentences.

The presentation will also cover how therapists can address literacy learning with students with moderate to severe disabilities. It is vital to include literacy teaching during our communication lessons with those students. The acquisition of literacy skills means they will be included more in society, be able to participate up to their potential, experience increased self-esteem, and have increased employment opportunities. Writing may be the best way for some of these individuals to express original thought. Adaptations are often needed so the children with significant needs can, first, learn, and, second, demonstrate their learning.

Not too long ago, reading was not a goal for children with Down Syndrome, for example. The emphasis was on teaching them to read the functional words they would encounter on a daily basis, but it was assumed that they did not have the intelligence to read for meaning. Thankfully, that attitude has changed, and we expect children with moderate to severe disabilities to be literate.

When introducing print to many children with significant disabilities, it is often necessary to reduce the complexity of the reading task as well as help the students make the connection between words and meaning. Reading materials must be adapted so they can experience success. One way to do this is to use pictures (concrete) to help them understand print (abstract). When pictures accompany print, children are able to understand that letters form words, that words represent spoken language, and that the written word has meaning. The reading task has been simplified because the picture is a clue to the word. Speech/language pathologists know how powerful pictures are as a teaching tool. They are used in many activities to help students learn skills. Now the pictures help build language and literacy. The audience will participate in a "reading lesson" which will demonstrate how pictures can reduce frustration and increase fluency and comprehension during reading tasks.

All children learn best when engaged in meaningful activities. This is especially true with children with developmental delays. The concrete activities that we plan facilitate their learning about the vocabulary, concepts, topics. They are also the activities that the children enjoy the most. Again, we continue to provide the services that we have always provided, but add the literacy component into the activity. For instance, a first grader can write in his classroom journal using an on-screen keyboard, when before he needed to dictate his entry to a scribe. An 11-year-old can participate in a Literature Fair because she can read picture-supported text. A student can demonstrate he has learned the sequence needed to complete an experiment, because he can arrange sentence strips into the proper order. Each one of these examples addresses language and academic IEP goals and objectives. By giving the students the supports they need across the curriculum, they are able to demonstrate their learning and guide educators to help them progress even further.

Attendees to this session will come away with many ideas they can immediately incorporate into their therapy interventions. Many materials will be given away to lucky participants.


Frith, U., A developmental framework for developmental dyslexia. Annals of Dyslexia, 36, p. 69-81, l986.

Goldsworthy, C.L., Sourcebook of Phonological Awareness Activities, Singular Pub, l998 Hall, Dorothy, and Cunningham, Patricia, Month-by-Month Reading and Writing for Kindergarten, Greensboro, NC: Carson-Dellosa Publishing, l997.

"Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children," Continuum of Children's Development in Early Reading and Writing, Joint position of the International Reading Association and the National Association for the Education of Young Children, l998.

Montgomery, J. K., "SLP's and Reading: Are We In or Out?" presented at the Wisconsin Speech Language Hearing Association convention, Milwaukee, Wis., March, 2000.

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