Lisa R. Vona
Early language development:
And their affects on reading development
TO RED 530 SYLLABUS
There are many students
receiving additional services within the school, aside from their regular
classroom services. These services
may include speech and language, reading, math, resource, occupational therapy,
or physical therapy, just to name a few. Some
of these students are learning disabled, speech impaired, or physically
handicapped. Others have no label,
but require additional services in order to have extra support needed to develop
their skills at a faster rate. These
services are often offered to students who have fallen behind their typical
peers. The specialists in these
fields do their best to help children academically, emotionally, and physically.
Many times, these services overlap, having several specialists performing
the same tasks across different disciplines.
Unfortunately, there is not enough time in the day to collaborate with
all of the specialists, across all disciplines.
Therefore, one specialist may not know what another is doing with any
particular student. I have found
this to be true more often than should be allowed.
I feel it is important for educators to have a general knowledge of their co-workers tasks in order to provide a better learning environment for the students. For example, I would like to know what a physical or occupational therapist does, as I have many of the same students, and I could have the same expectations of these students in speech as they do in OT or PT. This goes the same for classroom teachers. I feel collaboration is very important to have within a school.
Wells (1994) makes a very good
statement, which I believe goes well with my research question.
ďÖ learning a first language is crucially dependent on the childís opportunities to take part in conversations occurring in the context of purposeful activities, in which the adult-or more experienced partner- assists and guides the novice towards full and independent participationĒ (p. 6).
Working as a speech therapist,
I do see this relationship. Often,
the students who need speech therapy have older siblings who may speak for the
youngster, or the youngster is an only child, and does not have the
conversational interactions with another child, as there is no one else around,
or their thoughts and ideas are thought
of as unimportant.
These children often have a delay in their expressive communication
skills. It is with these
observations that lead me to my research question.
With each student brings new
ideas, new wonderings, as well as a call for a change in teaching programs.
My research looks at the language disabilities a child may have, and how
these disabilities affect the childís reading and writing abilities.
Working as a Speech-Language Therapist, and having a strong reading
background, I have come across several students who required speech and
language, as well as reading services. I
have also come to the conclusion, I am performing some of the same tasks as the
reading specialist. Some of these
tasks include teaching students strategies to perform better with: syntax;
semantics; building their vocabulary skills; rhyming; and many others.
Therefore, it is my belief that reading disabilities are strongly
correlated to speech and language impairments, more specifically, language
impairments. I have been searching,
trying to show probable correlations of these points by reviewing articles from
specialists in the field, as well as through interviews with associate teachers,
reading specialists, language specialists, psychologists, and parents.
My hopes were to determine if there were any specific characteristics of
students with both language and reading delays.
I also looked for ways of identifying these students prior to reading
instruction. And, if this is
possible, if we could prevent reading disorders.
I was also looking for opinions on how to notify teachers and parents of
these characteristics, and incentives to get the community more involved.
Furthermore, I feel there has
got to be a better way to communicate with parents about the students
performance. There seems to be very
little communication between teachers and parents at this time.
Perhaps it is the lack of time both parties seem to always have.
However, I looked to see if there was a better way to keep in contact
with the parents about their children.
I looked for the above listed
points through articles, and by asking educational professionals the several
questions. For each of the
questions, I asked the interviewee to base their responses on their own
experiences, of what they have seen or heard during their time with students,
past or present. The main research
question presented during the interviews was as follows: ďHow do language
abilities affect reading and writing skills?Ē
This was further broken down into 7 sub questions: (a) Who are the
students at risk? (b) Is there a way we may Ďcatchí a reading or writing
difficulty, due to language deficits, before they occur? (c) What
characteristics do we need to look for in these ďat riskĒ children? (d) What
are some steps we may take to avoid reading problems? (e) How can we get
classroom teachers and parents involved? (f) What characteristics should parents
look for in their children in
order to know when to be concerned? And (g) How can we get the word out to
parents (and teachers)?
Many researchers have
determined students with language impairments are at high risk for reading
disabilities (Bucks, 1995; Catts, 1993, 1996, 1997; Hurford, Gilliland, &
Ginavan 1992; Hurford, Schauf, Bunce, Blaich, & Moore, 1994). Their research also shows the main determining factor for
predicting a possible reading disability is within their scores of phonological
awareness (Catts, 1993, 1996, 1997; Hurford, et al. 1994; Kuder, 1991; Menyuk
& Chesnick, 1991). Others also
show deficits in retrieval of lexical items (Menyuk & Chesnick, 1991);
semantic-syntactic skills (Gillon
& Dodd (1995); or a lack of sound-letter correspondence (Catts, 1991) can
all be factors that may lead to future reading problems.
Hurford, Schauf, Bunce, Blaich,
and Moore, (1994) tested students as they entered the first grade.
Hurford et al. felt it was important to begin testing prior to any formal
reading instruction. He continued
the testing late into second grade to determine the correlation between the
language scores obtained in first grade and their placement in reading groups by
the end of second grade. In his
final testing, he found the group labeled non-disabled, scored higher on reading
tasks than those labeled with a language disability.
Hurford found a significant correlation between all areas of language
tested. The language scores that
had the strongest correlations were segmentation and discrimination, ranging
from .50 to .78, both of which are phonological tasks. The segmentation task required students to repeat a word
given, omitting the designated phoneme. The
discrimination task required students to differentiate two words or two
non-words as the same or different.
Catts (1993) found similar
results, indicating those with language impairments have a greater risk of
developing reading disabilities. Catts
followed students through first and second grades, looking for further
information to link speech-language impairments and reading disabilities.
He found that students with semantic-syntactic impairments had a greater
chance of having later reading difficulties compared to those with articulation
impairments, who had little to no chance of developing reading difficulties.
Specifically, Catts indicated the best predictors of reading outcomes are
found in the measures of word recognition, phonological awareness, and rapid
naming. Catts work shows that;
Deficits in phonological awareness and rapid automatized naming often precede and are closely associated with problems in learning to recognize printed words (p. 955).
Catts (1997) discusses the
importance of early identification in students, and provides a checklist of
characteristics to look for in young children.
Catts feels students with reading difficulties early on also lose
motivation to read. He feels these
students also have lower expectations of their own abilities, and they read less
often than good readers. This often
leads to poor academic achievement. Catts
feels that ďcomprehension of language can significantly influence childrenís
ability to understand what they read (p. 86).Ē
He further indicates these are students having difficulties with
phonological processing, including a lack of sensitivity or awareness of the
speech sounds in words, problems in word retrieval, or verbal short term memory,
and speech production. According to
Catts, all of the above language deficits are shown to be ďclosely related to
childrenís ability to learn to recognize printed words (p. 86),Ē as they are
necessary for learning sound-letter correspondence, as well as for decoding
As most of the above articles
mentioned, language deficits can be observered, Catts states:
These deficits serve as early indicators of a potential reading disability and allow us to identify children who are at risk before reading instruction(pp. 86-87).
Provided these deficits are recognized early on, early intervention may reduce, or eliminate, reading difficulties that may have evolved in the future.
In Defining dyslexia as a developmental language disorder, by Hugh Catts (1996), there was an apparent correlation between language disorders and reading ability. Catts described dyslexia as ďa developmental language disorder (p. 16),Ē and compared these children with low achievement children. He further explains the difficulties dyslexics, and other language delayed children, encountered in their language skills and reading abilities. He described how dyslexics are, ďhaving problems processing language,Ē and he indicated these problems are directly linked to their reading and writing disabilities, as they are ďat risk for reading disabilities, regardless of their measured IQ (p. 18).Ē He also states, that any child having difficulties with phonological awareness will also have reading disabilities. These children have a more difficult time recognizing printed words. He stated that ďpoor readers or children at risk for reading problems often lack a sensitivity or appreciation of the sounds in words (p. 23).Ē
Catts (1996) found measures of phonological processing to be very closely related to word recognition, and indicated comprehension relies on good word recognition. Therefore, students with poor phonological processing skills will also have poor comprehension skills. Catts also found students need a higher-level language operations such as semantics, syntax, and text-level processing to become proficient readers. Students with a low IQ often had fewer higher-level language skills.
Spear-Swerling and Sternberg (as cited in Catts, 1996) indicated,
children who have early difficulties in learning to read frequently get less practice with reading and are less motivated to read than their peers (p. 20).
This confirms what Catts (1997) had said, as mentioned earlier, about children having less expectations of their own abilities, read less often, which in turn, affects their academic achievement. Spear-Swerling and Sternberg continue by indicating that ďteachers may also have lower expectations of these childrenís abilities.Ē He concludes by stating,
ďonce children have entered the Ďswampí of negative expectations, lowered motivation, and limited practice, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to get back on the road to proficient readingĒ (p. 20).
I find the above quote to be unbelievably true across all educational areas. Even in speech, the children with less verbal interactions with adults and peers tend to be the same students who require remediation. Some of these students will become frustrated that they cannot communicate with others, which may affect their Ďmotivationí to communicate. When they enter school, the teachers may infer, the student is lazy, or even Ďslowí. These inferences could be detrimental to the childís future abilities to communicate, leading to further difficulties.
Kuder (1991) seems to agree with Catts when suggesting ďthe most likely information-processing disability that may interfere with reading is phonological processing (p. 124).Ē His study was designed to:
examine whether success in a direct instruction program in reading might be related to the language abilities of the students receiving such instruction (p. 124).
He found, children who are deficient in: ďword discrimination and syntactic analysis may do more poorly in reading than students with relatively intact abilities in these areas (p. 125).Ē
Results indicated there was a direct correlation between specific language abilities and success in their reading program. This was shown when the students who fell within the top third in word discrimination and sentence imitation also performed as more proficient readers. Those who fell within the lower third score in word discrimination and sentence imitation also scored in the lower third for reading abilities.
Waterman (2000) suggests parents and teachers look for benchmarks in their childís language development. She suggests children should have a vocabulary of 10 words or more by 24 months; 100 words by 30 months, and using 2 words or more in sentences; 200+ words with 50% sentence clarity by 36 months; and 600+ words with 80% sentence clarity by 48 months. She further suggests looking for abilities in the following areas: following multi-step directions; printing letters of the alphabet; staying focused on task; understanding and using direction words; restlessness; cutting on s straight line; learning letters; printing their own name; sequencing events; holding a pencil or crayon correctly; reciting the alphabet; learning colors; word retrieval; and coloring abilities.
Waterman also provides intervention strategies for working with at-risk students. She recommends individualized programming, early intervention, family centered services, interdisciplinary approaches, small classrooms, safe environment, and many others. Ways she suggests to help the individual child include: to be loving and warm to the child, reading, singing, and talking to the child, helping the child communicate their emotions, and praising the child for positive behaviors.
As a way to build upon the
language and reading skills, Bucks (1995) recommends utilizing the Reading
Recovery program. She indicated
Reading Recovery helps to develop listening skills, for determining sounds in
words, as well as help the child develop metalinguistic abilities. These students also learn to decode, which, in turn,
strengthened the childís ability to comprehend structure, grammar, and
As far as finding a
recommended reading program for students with phonological processing deficits,
Catts (1996) recommends obtaining measures of higher-level language processing
to provide direct recommendations for remediation.
He further recommends measuring listening comprehension to classify and
evaluate poor readers.
Hurford, Gilliland, and
Ginavan (1992) suggested, children with reading disabilities, due to
deficiencies in phonemic discrimination, could be trained to improve their
phonemic processing. Huford and
Sanders (1990) trained reading disabled students to increase their
discrimination abilities. They
found students who were trained with discrimination skills did significantly
better than those who did not receive the discrimination training, but instead
received training in phonemic stimuli.
According to research
information found on the Scientific Learning web-site, a training program called
Fast ForWard significantly raises students reading abilities within a fairly
short period of time. Their program
was defined as follows:
In an intense series of adaptive, interactive exercises using acoustically modified speech and speech sounds, Fast ForWord stimulates rapid language skill development as children learn to distinguish the various components of speech.
Students completing this training typically make gains in their ability to discriminate between similar sounding words. ďOn average, children with language and reading problems make language gains of 1 to 2 years after 4 to 8 weeks of Fast ForWord training.Ē The students used within the several studies conducted in Fast ForWord consisted of children ranging in age from 4 to 14 years old. The program is supposed to help increased language skills, including auditory processing speed, speech discrimination, phonemic and phonological awareness, grammatical and syntactic comprehension, overall language comprehension, and other receptive and expressive language skills.
Based on the information learned in the above mentioned articles, as well as many others, I have come across several viewpoints about the relationships between language development and reading and writing abilities. They appear to have similar results, which lead me to determine if these results may be similar to those thought of by the educators in my own community.
As I am not currently working with the language delayed population I am interested in researching, and due to time limits which prevent me from observing individual students, I conducted audiotaped interviews with several adults who interact with these students day in and day out. I was able to individually interview 10 individuals in all, over a two-month period. They all have different experiences to share, and have different backgrounds from which they come. They consist of 3 teachers, 1 psychologist, 2 speech therapists, and a reading specialist who all work within the same rural school district in New York. I interviewed 2 parentís, both with 3 children within the same school district, and a parent of two children who have completed school in a suburban school district in New York. All of the interviews tended to last 30 to 50 minutes, providing ample time to allow thoughtful, thorough responses. This length of time also allowed for deep structure questions that developed as the interviewee responded, in addition to the basic research questions.
I asked each interviewee to consider students who required speech services, or were suspected of needing speech services. Therefore, I only have one group of students, those requiring speech and language services, to which I am basing the correlation between the two variables; language disorders and reading/writing difficulties. For each of the questions, I asked the interviewee to base their responses on their own experiences, of what they have seen or heard during their time with students, past or present. The main research question presented during the interviews was as follows: ďHow do language abilities affect reading and writing skills?Ē This was further broken down into 7 sub questions: (a) Who are the students at risk? (b) Is there a way we may Ďcatchí a reading or writing difficulty, due to language deficits, before they occur? (c) What characteristics do we need to look for in these ďat riskĒ children? (d) What are some steps we may take to avoid reading problems? (e) How can we get classroom teachers and parents involved? (f) What characteristics should parents look for in their children in order to know when to be concerned? And (g) How can we get the word out to parents (and teachers)? The responses were based on students ranging from kindergarten though graduation.
Some of the interviewees chose to review the questions prior to interviewing. The others chose to sit in a quiet room and answer the question Ďoff the cuffí. I found the latter method better, as they didnít tend leave out information that may have otherwise been said. I noticed the women who reviewed the questions first, verbalized their answers quietly to themselves, however, forgot to mention most of it when it came time to share their responses. I will be looking for common responses associated with language and reading abilities, and what may affect them.
As I mentioned earlier, I am not currently working with students who exhibit the language deficits that may lead to reading deficits, so I relied on the opinions of several parents and professionals who are working with these students. There was a mixture of responses, which leads me to believe the results will not be reliable across all students, in all schools. The results are based on what these professionals and parents have found to be true in their own experiences. I will compare these results to those found by various researchers within the field of language and reading disabilities. From these comparisons, I will be able to determine if the thoughts of the intervieweeís support the results found within the various researches.
While interviewing several knowledgeable individuals, there were several things I was looking for. The first of which was determining how to identify the students at risk for reading difficulties. There were several answers that differed from one another; however, the main idea in all of the responses indicated a need of prior knowledge. They feel the students at risk tended to lack some of the early language skills obtained by their peers. This may be caused by a lack of parent knowledge in the topics of language acquisition, or children who have siblings or parents who have language or reading difficulties as well. While some professionals felt all students should be considered at risk until shown otherwise, others felt the biggest population to be concerned with, are those entering school before their 5th birthday.
Working as a Speech/Language Therapist, I find all of these ideas to be true in some, but not all cases. Catts feels that ďcomprehension of language can significantly influence childrenís ability to understand what they read (p. 86).Ē I believe many of these students may have a lack of prior knowledge in the areas of language due to a lack of exposure. This may be caused by a lack of interactions with children of their own age, or a lack of language interactions in general. However, there are times when these children are exposed to language on a regular basis, and those who even have more experience than their peers. Sometimes, many of these students need to be guided in the right direction. Other times, they need intense language training to increase their abilities.
When asked to indicate the
characteristics teachers and parents should look for in their students/children,
I received a variety or responses, however, many incorporated the same ideas.
The main idea supports many of the researchers findings, indicating a
lack of letter-sound relationship has the largest impact on how the child will
read. Others indicated those with a limited vocabulary, and those
with immature syntax and morphology skills.
Many researchers have determined students with language impairments are
at high risk for reading disabilities (Bucks, 1995; Catts, 1993, 1996, 1997;
Hurford, Gilliland, & Ginavan 1992; Hurford, Schauf, Bunce, Blaich, &
Moore, 1994). Their research also
shows the main determining factor for predicting a possible reading disability
is within their scores of phonological awareness (Catts, 1993, 1996, 1997;
Hurford, et al. 1994; Kuder, 1991; Menyuk & Chesnick, 1991).
Others also show deficits in retrieval of lexical items (Menyuk &
semantic-syntactic skills (Gillon
& Dodd (1995); or a lack of sound-letter correspondence (Catts, 1991) can
all be factors that may lead to future reading problems.
Children having a lack of knowledge in the areas of color naming, number
identification, inappropriate language patterns, and little to no demonstration
of expressive language skills also concern many teachers.
All of these ideas are referred to as areas to be carefully considered
when looking at Ďat riskí students, by Catts (1997) in his ĎEarly
Identification of Language-Based reading Disabilitiesí checklist.
As one kindergarten teacher shares, the students who are Ďat riskí
are typically thought of as those who were not Ďrisk takers.í She further commented on their tendencies to Ďbe more quiet
because they donít want to be noticed.í
According to this kindergarten teacher, these students tended to Ďuse
tactics to not be a part of the independent writingÖas they donít want to
look different from their peers.í This
leads to the findings of Catts (1997) who indicated students with reading
difficulties early on lose motivation to read.
He feels these students also have lower expectations of their own
abilities, and they read less often than good readers.
This often leads to poor academic achievement.
Although they are speaking of reading in one example and writing in
another, I believe they go hand in hand. If
one area is lacking, the other area, and more, could be lacking as well.
I feel Catts findings could be true across many facets of life, not just
It is important that we catch these deficits early on, as they can lead to future difficulties even into adulthood. Lewis and Freebairn (1992) found a significant correlation between phonology disorders in preschool students, and being detectable difficulties later on, in adulthood. According to the school psychologist I interviewed,
...if we know there is a language deficit prior to (first grade), that needs to be addressed, because best experience tells us thatís going to put the child at risk for having reading and writing difficulty. If they hit first grade with a language deficit, chances are they are going to have trouble learning to read.
I believe it is important to keep this in mind as early elementary educators. Preschool and kindergarten teachers have a lot to teach, as well as a lot of things to be prepared to address as they approach each individual difference in each of their students.
Ways in which the professionals I interviewed suggested we may Ďcatchí a reading difficulty, caused by language delays, included preschool and kindergarten screenings, as well as formal and informal assessments, and observations performed by professionals. Furthermore, they felt there should be checklists in place for those less knowledgeable about the characteristics to look for in their students, as mentioned earlier.
The speech therapist (2) suggested considering all teacher and parental concerns early on. This is a wonderful idea, as we are allowing the parents to become involved in their children education and the implemented processes that take place during the day. A parent may know a lot more information concerning a child, than their teacher knows. A parent knows of any other physical, emotional, or visual difficulties that may be occurring in the childís life. This information could provide valuable insight into a childís performance in and out of the classroom. Parents need to feel they are being heard, otherwise, they may no longer try to be involved in their childís education. This would be a shame.
I feel these are all very good ideas on how to catch a reading disability. When used together, I feel there would be a good chance of predicting later developing reading difficulties, before they happened. Without further research, I would assume we will not be able Ďfixí all of the future difficulties, however, if we catch them early enough, there could be training in the areas needed to help prevent more severe disabilities.
Early exposure to
literature, print, language, and life experiences in general, will help to
promote a childís prior knowledge of events and visual cues in their
environment. These are some of the
most important ideas we could carry out to try to avoid future reading problems.
This can be done in preschools, or as early as birth, though the
participation of parents, friends and family of the community we live in.
If we are going to expect
students to begin reading when they enter kindergarten, these early exposures
need to occur prior to the childís 5th birthday.
These activities will need to continue into kindergarten and progress
well into a persons life, in order to help the growth process.
teacher I interviewed indicates Ďwe all have differences,í therefore, we all
need different approaches to these language experiences. She describes her ideas of ways she feels she may be able to
avoid reading difficulties by stating:
Overall, they (students with
language difficulties) need more thinking time. I try to give them a lot of facial contact, eye contact.
So theyíre looking at my mouth, watching me pronounce the words,
watching me say them, listening to (the words/sounds).
It really stands out in speech, reading, and writing, when (they have)
independent work, because that is when they need you the most, even if they are
not identified weaknesses, it just makes it more difficult for (students with
disabilities). They need and seek
help much more (than typical peers).
Providing these, and other, extra support structures in the classroom, will certainly help many students, even those without difficulties, to avoid the degree of difficulties in which they may have developed.
According to the professionals I interviewed, they do not feel there would be any difficulty in getting the educators involved in the processes listed above to avoid reading difficulties. They did, however, suggest having a faculty meeting to share the above listed information with the teachers and administrators in the district. I would find this very interesting, as when I, as a Speech Therapist, speak to many teachers across all grade levels, I have come to the belief that they think I am there strictly to work on articulation skills. This was confirmed by the school psychologist when she stated,
(teachers) may not be so good at referring for language deficit because the
articulation, it catches their ear and they hear it and they say Ďoh yes, the
child is not talking properly.í
This demonstrates what a teacher may go through when referring their students for further testing due to delays.
This is where collaboration would become very helpful. If there were time in the schedule, each educator should have to meet with each of the classroom teachers to discuss progress or concerns of the students they mutually share, or those that need referring. Perhaps there could be an information meeting about what every task each professional performs in their daily routine, to be able to better communicate with one another. This would also be a good opportunity to share thoughts and ideas about servicing a child. Provided each professional knew what each other were doing, they could carryover the expectations of the child in one professional setting, to another.
Parents should also be involved in the educational processes of their children. Some parents may volunteer their time in the school or classrooms, helping out the teachers. Others may need incentives before becoming involved. The kindergarten teacher gets parents involved by sending home activities parents and students can work on as a team. If the teacher gets the students excited enough about the idea, that excitement will show through to the parents, and promote their participation. One way she does this is by sending home information on Fridays, providing the activities worked on in the classroom for the week. She indicated,
ĎEvery week, I try to send home activities that the family can do together to support what I am teaching, what I am focusing on in the classroom...They recall what they were doing for the day, for each day of the week. Then on Friday, it goes home, so the parents have something to read, so they can generate conversation, vocabulary, language development with their child... So this way (the parents) know whatís going on if their childís not communicating. (The parents) can generate conversation.
She also encourages the students to bring in projects created by the student and family, to share with the class. She indicated, itís a good story starter for the class. It also allows the child to take ownership of a creation, building upon their self-esteem skills.
When asked how we could make parents more aware of the services available to them and their children, there was a strong response of better preparing pediatricians with knowledge of language stages. The speech therapist (1) indicated,
The pediatrician has to make parents aware of language development, and monitoring whether the milestones are being reached within the average range.
Parents are in more contact with the pediatrician than any other person knowledgeable in the area of language development prior to their child entering preschool or kindergarten, whichever comes first. It would be more beneficial for the child if a language deficit were caught as early as possible. They currently have Early Interventions services for children as young as 2, if not younger, within our community. If these delays can be caught and intercepted at this age, the children can typically Ďcatch upí to their peers prior to entering school.
Once students enter the school system, the educators I interviewed recommended sending home information packets containing language charts, and developmental milestones, for the parent to browse at their leisure. This information could be sent home during an open house, or during an information meeting prior to the first day of school. These packets could also provide information for children younger than school aged, as those parents with younger children could detect and deficits. The kindergarten teacher has an idea of how to present the information in a warm and welcoming way to invite the parents to read it. She suggests,
(It should be) something that is catchy, fun, makes you want to look at it. (I could have) clip art on it, not a lot of writing, especially not single spaced. More like larger print. I have found that things I have sent home that are more attractive looking, with more color, I tend to get more response, than if I wrote a long letter. (Parents) donít have the time, or donít want to take the time to do it (read it).
She further indicated, she typically had better response to one page flyers, that the parents are able to glance at to see if it is something they are interested in.
Another suggestion was for getting the word out, would be through the use of media. One suggestion was given to run a column in the local newspapers. If the column was presented in such a way to gain parents attention, it could be used to answer any questions or parental concerns about what they are seeing in their child. Rather than limiting this column to just one topic, it could include things such as language development, physical development, or any other topics that related directly to children.
I feel all of the above information, used in combination, would benefit all of the community. I feel if the pediatrician could inform parents, by confirming or disproving concerns about a child, and furthermore, issue referrals, we could catch any difficulties early on. The same goes for using the media to get information out there. We could even use the local news channel to ensure the majority of people would be getting the information.
As many of the researchers have indicated, early language delays play a major role in predicting future reading difficulties. According to Catts (1997), all of the above language deficits are shown to be ďclosely related to childrenís ability to learn to recognize printed wordsĒ (p. 86), as they are necessary for learning sound-letter correspondence, as well as for decoding printed words.
I feel, if we can better inform the parents and community as a whole, we may be able to catch delays before they develop into bigger problems. Once these delays are noticed, students should be referred for further testing and diagnosis. If they truly possess these delays, and qualify for services, they should begin as soon as possible.
When looking at how to catch reading delays before they happen, I began to wonder who would ultimately be responsible for identifying these at risk students. If they are younger than school age, as well as when they turn school age, who will have the most contact and the most knowledge of what to look for? According to Catts (1991), the Speech-Language Pathologist is the first professional to evaluate children with language impairments. He states, ďEach of these children should be evaluated for possible deficits in phonological awareness (p. 201).Ē He further states the SLP needs to look for word-finding problems as well as poor short-term memory. He further indicates the need to provide teachers with such information, so they may also be aware of what to look for, so these students do become overlooked. He further specifies the need for collaboration, stating, ďSLPís need to work with teachers, special educators, and administrators to ensure that these children receive the necessary intervention (p. 201).Ē Essentially, Catts finding back up most of the information I have gained within my interviews.
For each of the questions, I asked the interviewee to base their responses on their own experiences, of what they have seen or heard during their time with students, past or present. Some of the interviewees chose to review the questions prior to interviewing. The others chose to sit in a quiet room and answer the question Ďoff the cuffí. I found the latter method better, as they didnít tend leave out information that may have otherwise been said. I noticed the women who reviewed the questions first, verbalized their answers quietly to themselves, however, forgot to mention most of it when it came time to share their responses.
As I was conducting this research, I was looking for common responses associated with language and reading abilities, and what may affected them. Upon receiving many different answers to each of the questions leaves me to believe the results will not be reliable across all students, in all schools. The results are based on what these professionals have found to be true in their own experiences. It would be interested to find out if the results deemed to be similar across all areas of the country, and even across other countries in the world.
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awareness and literacy development in children with expressive phonological
impairments. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 38, 446-462.
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speech-language impairments and reading disabilities. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 36, 948-958.
H. (1996). Defining dyslexia as a
developmental language disorder: An expanded view. Topics in Language Disorders, 16, 14-29.
H. (1997). The Early identification
of language-based reading disabilities. Language,
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effects of training phonological, semantic, and syntactic processing skills in
spoken language on reading ability. Language,
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D.P., Darrow, L., Edwards, T., Howerton, C., Mote, C., Schauf, J., & Coffey,
P., (1993). An examination of
phhonemic processing abilities in children during their first year. Journal
of Learning Disabilities, 26, n. 3, 167-177.
D.P., Gilliland, C., & Ginavan, S. (1992).
Examination of the intrasyllable phonemic discrimination deficit in
children with reading disabilities. Contemporary
Educational Psychology, 17, 83-88.
D.P., & Sanders, R.E. (1990). Assessment
and remediation of a phonemic discrimination deficit in reading disabled second-
and fourth-graders. Journal of
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D.P., Schauf, J.D., Bunce, L., Blaich, T., & Moore, K. (1994).
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S.J. (1991). Language abilities and
progress in a direct instructional reading program for students with learning
disabilities. Journal of
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P., Chesnick, M., Liebergott, J.W., Korngold, B., DíAgostino, R., &
Belanger, A. (1991). Predicting
reading problems in at-risk children.
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B., (2000, October). Memory
and learning disabilities in the preschool child (handout.)
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held at Childrenís Therapy Network, East Syracuse, NY.
Wells, G. (1994). Inrtoduction: Teacher researcher and educational change. In Gordon Wells (Ed) Changing schools from within: Creating communities of Inquiry (pp. 1-35). Heinemann.
with a Kindergarten teacher in Parish Elementary.
L: What Characteristics do you see in students who need speech services and reading services?
T: Those students appear to struggle or have difficulty with the letter-sound relationship. They need more time to do their writing. They need more thinking time to help think about how they need to say the letter, or say the sound, what their mouth needs to look like. Because it is more difficult for them, often times, they tend to use tactics to not be a part of the independent writing, because it is more difficult, and itís harder for them. They donít want to look different from their peers.
L: So, do they come to you when they need help. Are they insecure about asking their classmates for help?
T: Yes. They tend to be, more often. Though, I donít want to say it is all of them. Itís not always true, but if I look at the past six years, this is a general characteristic overall, most of them needed a lot of support. They were not risk takers. And they tended to be more quiet because they didnít want to be noticed.
L: Do you know how their home lives are, as compared to your non-disabled students? Does their home life tend to be better or worse than that of their peers? Are there any situations you feel may affect their abilities?
T: It varies, as I have had some parents who are actively involved with their childís education. They will work on their (childís) speech and they work on practicing and doing the exercises (sent home.)
As always, you have those students that-itís not valued as much at home, or is not enforced at home. Iíd have to say, that is right down the middle.
L: When the parents are supportive at home, do the students tend to be more secure, or is it equally distributed among all of the students having difficulty?
T: They seem more secure when they have the support at home. The students who have parents that are really involved, they do display more confidence in themselves and they have more control of themselves. And Iím really focusing on the independent writing time because thatís where you really see the difference. They would maybe sit there quietly, where someone else may try to get the whole table to join in. They may turn the paper over and make pictures or something. Itís a strategy. Itís a way for them to get out of doing what they are supposed to do.
This one child in particular really tried. And, if he didnít know what he was doing, or wasnít sure, he tried to think of tactics. He knows, Ďif I raise my hand, Iíll get help,í or Ďif I sit and wait patiently.í He didnít appear to try to get out of the actual exercise.
L: So he was more confident in asking for help, where the others donít want to admit they need help?
T: Yeah. The others donít want to be noticed by their peers. They donít want to be identified by their peers (as being different.) In kindergarten, the students are more accepting, and more loving, kind and caring. They donít identify the differences in their peers as much (in my personal opinion). But in the beginning of the year, they will say, ĎHe/she talks funny.í ĎWhy is she still sucking on her fingers?í They will notice these things, but they donít mean it to be hurtful or mean in any way.
L: They are just being inquisitive.
T: Yeah, exactly. But when they realize, this is the way it is, and that we all have differences, they are very understanding and accepting.
Overall, they need more thinking time. I try to give them a lot of facial contact, eye contact. So theyíre looking at my mouth, watching me pronounce the words, watching me say them, listening to (the words/sounds). It really stands out in speech, reading, and writing, when (they have) independent work, because that is when they need you the most, even if they are not identified weaknesses, it just makes it more difficult for (students with disabilities). They need and seek help much more (than typical peers).
L: Do you find this is more typical for those needing both speech and reading, or would it be more typical of students having just one area of difficulty?
T: No, itís both. Itís the ones that are struggling, are weak. Maybe itís because of their home environment, maybe itís developmental, but the speech goes right in hand with that. If I look at my class right now, I look at my weak students. There are going to be the students that never went to preschool, or to daycare or nursery school. And education wasnít valued and home environment wasnít language and print rich. With that comes along students that have speech difficulties. This year, they are struggling, but itís not always the case. I can think of some children that are having difficulty with their speech, but are very, very strong academically. Somehow they learned to compensate before they came to kindergarten.
L: And are these the students having difficulty with just articulation, or those with both articulation and language difficulties?
T: Articulation. Definitely just the articulation, because they had the language. Those who had the articulation errors, not the language, were more confident, didnít have as much difficulty, because they had that language development. Thatís so important.
L: Now, do you find the students who are coming in at a younger age (late birthdays) have the most difficulties, or is it not age specific? (ie. 4 years, 9 months vs. 5 years, 5 months.)
T: Overall, you can tell the ones who are younger, definitely. Again, it depends on what they have done prior to entering kindergarten. That really is the biggest key. You can tell the younger ones, just by the choices they make, how they carry themselves, or their behaviors. Their choices are different. The things that are bothering them the older students donít have a problem with. They are more I-centered. More concerned about I-me, this is my space, my territory.
L: To your knowledge of older siblings in the home, do you notice an increase in language skills in your students, as opposed to those who do not have siblings?
T: Itís hard to say. You can tell the students that have siblings, and thatís helpful. Then I have students that may be an only child, and the parents are extremely involved. And you can tell, because they carry themselves more like an adult, because thatís what they have been exposed to.
L: I have seen families where the older siblings will speak for the younger child, therefore these younger children donít develop appropriate language skills.
T: Yes, Iíve seen that also. I have seen that here where they have. I am actually seeing that right now. They are trying to figure things out how to take care of themselves, rather than waiting for me to do it for them. Iím trying to get them to be independent. They are use to having their siblings and parents do that, and hey, why not. But, if it comes to speech, now I have a student who has received speech services last year and when he was in preschool, where others donít have any speech services, and he definitely tends to take care of himself. Itís like a 50/50 chance.
L: What are your suggestions on getting parents involved in their childís services?
T: Parent volunteers in the classroom is always helpful. If they canít come into the classroom, often times, parents will volunteer to do things at home with their child, that will be helpful in the classroom. It may be cutting things, pasting, just so they are a part of it. It may be just going for a treasure hunt in your house looking for items to help us out at arts and crafts time, or something. What I have found to be important, helpful, and successful is that home-school connection. Every week, I try to send home activities that the family can do together to support what I am teaching, what I am focusing on in the classroom. Every day at the end of the day we do a good-bye gathering. It is student generated. They recall what they were doing for the day, for each day of the week. Then on Friday, it goes home, so the parents have something to read, so they can generate conversation, vocabulary, language development with their child, because often times (the children) donít want to talk about school when they come home. So this way (the parents) know whatís going on if their childís not communicating. (The parents) can generate conversation. Thatís been very helpful.
L: What do you think would be a good way of getting information to parents and teachers about services available, as well as what parents can do at home?
T: The best way is providing literature, and flyers. (It should be) something that is catchy, fun, makes you want to look at it. (I could have) clip art on it, not a lot of writing, especially not single spaced. More like larger print. I have found that things I have sent home that are more attractive looking, with more color, I tend to get more response, than if I wrote a long letter. (Parents) donít have the time, or donít want to take the time to do it (read it). But sharing that with the parents and sharing that with the teachers have been successful.
I have sent a lot of things home already this school year that the special areas have wanted parents to know more about. Iíve gotten a really good response, like a parent survey, the first night I got five back. It wasnít long or lengthy, and they didnít have to put their name on it.
Thatís the other thing too. Sometimes, if thereís an area that is sensitive, where it appears they are struggling, or having a difficulty, they donít want to have anything to do with it. They donít want people to look at it and say, ďOh, gee Öso and soÖĒ (like talking behind their back about an issue), which we (as teachers) donít do. Itís a peer pressure sort of thing, (you know?).
I have found, sending home questionnaires and things, where they can write back to me freely without having to put their name on it, when dealing with difficult topics, that has been the best way. The other way I have done it, (if it was a difficult topic), I have asked them to fill it out, put it in an envelope, and put my name on it here at school. They can mail it to me, and that way I have no idea where it came from, and they have more of an opportunity to be honest in difficult topics. If itís not a difficult or touchy topic, I just send it home and they send it back with their name on it.
I try to make the parent feel as comfortable as I can, with whatever we are working on or talking about, where they donít have to stand out. I have found they donít want to be in the center, or in the spotlight. Kind of like the golden rule. What we do with our students we do with the parents. Communication, though, is the biggest thing. As long as they know they are a part of it, that they have choices too, they can make a difference, they seem to be more receptive, than if they are told, ďThis is the way it is.Ē That kind of road does not work as well.
L: Research articles indicate there is a correlation between early language delays, and future reading difficulties. Is there any way, that you could suggest, of getting parents, who have young children at home, information on what to look for in these areas, so we may promote early intervention?
T: weíve been trying to gather information to give to the parents before children enter kindergarten. (Including), activities they can do at home, ways to support them, to get them ready for kindergarten, to strengthen their language, their vocabulary, their prior knoweldge, their experiences, their hand-eye coordination, or gross motor skills, and all of that.
L: Is this something the school sends out, or do the individual teachers send things to their perspective students?
T: We give it to (parents) at kindergarten registration. What I do throughout the year, is try to hand out information where research has shown, talking to your children right form birth, reading every night, walking around the house, saying, ďgood night chair. Good night door. Good night table.Ē All those types of words are coming in.
L: Now you had recommended talking to children right from birth. Is there a way we can get parents with new borns, information on these topics? What are your suggestions?
Is there anything the district does, or can do?
T: Well I donít live in this district, so I donít know what they do (with children of that age). But one way we are supportive, is we communicate with the preschools. And they share a lot of the information with the parents. Thatís really made a difference. Weíve shared information that we noticed that kindergartnerís appear to be weak in, or struggling with. We feel it really helps with their program. In turn, they are telling the parents before even coming to school. When we get the preschool students, especially when they have younger (siblings), they (parents) have learned this.
The only other thing I can think of is, they have a local paper here. Perhaps they can have a column in there about ideas. Iíve seen articles in the papers that list ideas of activities you could do. Also offering a parent night. Sending things home with the children that are already here (would help), because, if they donít have younger siblings now, they may be having siblings down the road. Then the parents will already have the information.
One more thing I find to be helpful is, one of the speech therapistís, a few years ago, shared with me the speech and language development form birth, and how they develop, benchmarks of where they should be. That, I have found helpful, and sharing that information with the parents. And, I have collected other lists of things a child 0-3 months should be doing, and 3-6 months. Parents really like that stuff. It helps them gauge how they are doing with their child, and how their children are doing.
L: Do you think parents would be too over protective because their child hasnít met the requirements for that are group according to a list? Saying, ďOh wow, my child isnít doing that yet.Ē Do you think that would happen is they had all of that information?
T: There is always going to be those who will be that way. But, I hand things out to the parents who are looking for information or are interested in it. I always try to have a lot of information available, copy them in a file, so when I am talking to them, I can say, ďOh, you know, I have information on thatĒ, or, ďI have a checklist, do you want it?Ē If they want it, they take it, and if they donít, they donít. Or, I leave it out on the table at parent conferences, and tell them to take whatever they want. Those who want information will take it, and those who donít wonít.
L: Thatís a great idea.
T: I send home the words to the songs we sing in the classroom, so the parents can do it with the kids. Often, (children) want to sing it with (their parents), but they donít remember the words, so that helps a lot. They really get involved with the songs, and chants. With the parents, thatís the one thing they loved the most. That and the crafty things and recipes. I send home weekly recipes.
L: What kind of response do you get when you send these things home? Do they actually become involved and perform the tasks with the children?
T: I donít hear the negatives. I can usually tell if they donít like it, or they donít pay attention to it, because it remains in their bags. Some kids seem proud, and bring it back in to school to show me what they did. I say to the parents also, ďin doing these activities, have your child bring it in.Ē This helps with story telling.
Interview with an elementary school teacher:
L: Who do you feel are the students at risk for reading difficulties?
H: It seems that those at risk are children who have very few life and language experiences. Therefore,
their prior knowledge base is low. They may not have had pre-writing or reading opportunities, which sets them back of all of the other children who have.
Also, for beginning writers, those who have severe speech problems, sound/symbol connections are different, which also can make learning reading and writing skills a difficult skill. Also, when something comes hard for a person when they are first learning, they tend to give up or lose interest.
L: Do you think there are any ways to catch a reading or writing difficuly, due to language deficits, before they occur?
H: Well maybe through preschool screening. But it should be a valid screening instrument, or done by professional observations.
L: What do you feel would be characteristics we need to look for in these at risk children?
H: If they have little to no speaking when they enter school, or if they have incorrect language patterns. I
also feel students who do not know colors, any letters in their name, or any numbers when they enter kindergarten are the most at risk.
Other things that I look for when the students first enter school is if the child has not established hand dominance, or their fine motor skills are very poor. If they have trouble cutting, coloring, writing, or drawing, these would be good indcators of future writing difficulties.
Sometimes, if a child has difficulties sitting for a story, or not interested in lap reading, wuld be good predictors. They donít gain the exposure others do.
One very common occurrence now a days, is watching too much TV. Again, they are getting away from the exposure to print. Their imaginations do not grow as much, as they do not take the time to play. The TV has become too much of a babysitter when parents are making dinner, or doing something else they cannot interact with the child.
L: Well, how could we get the parents, and teachers, more involved then?
H: I think we could provide some sort of incentives for parents and teacher to put in extra time with their
students. I also feel there should be a time dedicated just for reading time, both at home, as well as at school.
L: What are some steps you think we may be able to take to avoid reading problem all together?
H: Tough Question. I think reading programs during the summer would help. Another way would be to
provide reading programs for the parents as well. If the child is not receiving the exposure at home, because the parents cannot read, we may be able to fix that.
Another way I think would be beneficial for everyone would be to have individualized programs for the kids. Focusing on the individual childís needs across the academic and social areas, including any other areas needing guidence.
L: What should the parents look for in their child, in their children, in order to know when to be concerned early on?
H: Well, I think that goes along with what I had said before, with the characteristics question. I also think,
at home, parents could look for their children watching too much television. They could compare their child with other the same age. If they do not talk as much as other, there may be a problem. One problem facing these at risk children, is they often have someone speaking for them, or the child will just point to what he wants, rather than using his words..
L: OK. How would you recommend getting the word out to parents, and teachers, so they can look for these characteristics in their children?
H: Well, I guess through the use of the PTA, and after school programs. Another way would be to provide a parent education class, to teach them how to read, or provide them with the information they need to be better reading partners.
(a.) Who are the students at risk?
K: **I think all students should be
considered at risk!
(c). What characteristics do we need to look for in these ďat riskĒ
K: **Students that fail language
or display limited vocabulary, immature syntax/morphology and phonological
process disorders. Students who
show fine and/or visual motor difficulties.
Students who have difficulty attending.
(d). What are some steps we may take to avoid reading problems?
K: **Language enriched preschool and
seem to jump right in to reading and writing, when a lot of the students have
difficulty even speaking about the experiences.
K: **Early language screenings and
a student actually demonstrates difficulty with reading and writing (2nd-3rd
grade) may be too late.
(e). How can we get
classroom teachers and parents involved?
K: **Helping K and 1st
teachers become aware of language
and metalinguistic abilities needed to read and write.
(f.) What characteristics
should parents look for in their children in order to know when to be concerned?
K: **Does their child have the ability
to rhyme words,
songs, ďreadĒ a book by looking at the pictures and telling about them,
produce labels for items, attend to books and stories, answer questions.
(g). How can we get
the word out to parents (and
(b) Is there a
way we may Ďcatchí a reading or writing difficulty, due to language
deficits, before they occur?
K: **I think it has to start prior to
The pediatrician has to make parents aware of language development and
monitoring whether the milestones are being reached within the average range.
In kindergarten, all children should be screened and monitored for
possible language problems. Support
should be given to students who are having difficulty with phonological
L: Do you by any chance know how many of your students also receive additional reading support?
K: **I would have to say all of them. I canít think of any that are not receiving reading.
with a Speech-language Pathologist (2) who works with all elementary populations
L: Who would you say are the students at risk?
S: The students who are at risk are often those who have siblings or parents with language difficulties.
They are those students who have difficulties in academics during the early primary years. They may also be the students who have known difficulties following directions or with comprehension. Sometimes it is the students who develop expressive language skills later than expected.
L: Can you think of any way we may be able to catch a reading or writing difficulty, due to language
deficits, prior to happening?
S: I think we should take each parent and teacher concern into consideration early on. I think we could
also consult with preschool teachers in the district prior to school, to look for red flag students.
L: How would we go about consulting with the preschool teachers? What should we tell them.
S: We should provide them with checklists, or other visuals they could use to help determine what should
be characterized as a delay.
L: And what characteristics do we need to look for in the Ďat riskí students, or what characteristics should
we provide for the preschool teachers?
October 16, 2000
L: Is there A way we can might catch a reading and writing difficulty that may be caused by language deficits before they happen?
Psychologist: I donít know that there is a way to catch it, like prior to first grade, but if we know there is a language deficit prior to then, that needs to be addressed, because best experience tells us thatís going to put the child at risk for having reading and writing difficulty. If they hit first grade with a language deficit, chances are they are going to have trouble learning to read, so, but just knowing that going in, you have to get them before then.
L: Anything in particular that separates them from regular students.
Psychologist: Chronic ear infections as a toddler, or as an infant, an impoverished backgroundÖ Children who arenít getting a lot of language stimulation at home. Those are the two ones, the kids coming in to school that are going to have the most bearing on whether they are going to have difficulties later on.
L: What are some steps we may take to avoid reading problems?
Psychologist: Identifying the problems early and have been remediating as much as we can before kindergarten. So, heavy emphasis on pre-school.
L: And then, that leads into the next question. How do we get classroom teachers and parents involved?
Psychologist: I donít know that getting classroom teachers involved is a problem. I think that they are often the ones to come to you and say ďHelpĒ. Um, We can do a better job of educating like community preschool teachers and showing them the things they need to look for. Um, they are real good about referring kids for articulation difficulties. They may not be so good at referring for language deficit because the articulation it catches their ear and they hear it and they say oh yes the child is not talking properly.
L: And some teachers think that is all we do too.
Psychologist: Exactly. Well because weíre called speech therapist and so they think that you just work on articulation, so I think educating like, a community preschool teacher on what to look for, and the same thing for parents. And I think that the tie in with number nine, getting the word out to parents, we need to do a better job of educating our pediatricians. Um, because they often say, ďOh, heíll outgrow itĒ, ďOh, heís just a boy, they talk laterĒ, that kind of stuff and, I donít think that, in the course of their well child visits, that they pay enough attention to the language development, or even are they educated enough to know what to look for.
L: What can we tell the parents to look for. They might not do some of the same things as we do in school that we might see it easier. I there anything that you know of, the parents should look for, in terms of delays.
Psychologist: You mean for reading and writing skills?
L: Well even students younger than actual reading level, but to catch it before they have the reading problem.
Psychologist: Right. Well I would say to help them get educated about what is developmentally appropriate and what would be considered a delay. Helping them to know that if my child is four and theyíre still speaking in one-word utterances, that they might have a problem. Helping them to know what to look for is to what is appropriate. Any time that you have a child with chronic ear infections, that by itself, is a red flag. So helping them to look for that, making sure that their language is developing properly; that strangers can understand their child. Um, in the terms of reading and writing, they, um, no thatís not really answering the characteristics, but um, does the child seem to understand what you are telling them. Um, do they, are they able to follow a direction. Are they showing awareness of colors and shapes and things like that. Are they, do they show an awareness of environmental print, like can they drive by McDonalds and know that the big M means McDonaldsí or the big K is for Kmart, that kind of thing. How can we get the word out to parents? Through the pediatrician, I think that is a real good way. Through social service agencies, um, I think that we can do more like through Success by Six, that kind of thing.
L: What about the parents who donít know about any of these services? Anything to get to the home to let them know?
Psychologist: Right. I joked to Joan about this before. About, having the roaming RV, and even if itís a public health clinic, that travels to, like, especially to our really rural areas, even to just make it more convenient for parents to bring the child in for a well child check up. At that point, we can kind of talk to the parent, evaluating, what their perceptions are and get a sense of how is this childís language development. And if they are not, um then we can give them the information, about where to refer to.
Psychologist: Itís very difficult to detect reading difficulties prior to second grade. Um, because they just havenít had enough of it yet and you know, like if youíve got a first grader and they still donít know all of their letters, you probably have a problem. You know, but if they are reading at all, you know, itís really difficult to say because standards, school wise, theyíre gonna look pretty OK even with the teachers going. So I have not actually done aÖ I donít use the PPVT often enough to see any kind of a pattern there. Um, typically, what I typically use the PPVT for is for a child I suspect may have language deficit and for a child who is often shy and reluctant to speak and I use that kind of an ice breaker. Because they donít have to do anything verbal right away. You know, but I donít use the PPVT a lot. So I canít help you out there.
with the Reading Specialist
L: Who are the students are at risk? What do you see?
RT: I see lots of different students at risk. I see students who never got the foundation that they need at home, especially with language. I see the students that I really worry about of the students who donít have the structure, because reading and reading recovery, they use three cues to help them: the meaning, the structure, the visual. And the ones who donít have the structure cannot use that cue to self-correct, to self-monitor, so they have to rely mostly on meaning and visual. And if they have language difficulties, then anything with meaning, then that reduces them to the visual so they donít have any way to cross check their reading. So, but the structure, I always know the children who are receiving language that would read like ďhe flewed across the skyĒ. I say, ďdoes that sound right?Ē ďYesĒ And there is no way that, pretty soon you realize that they will not be able to monitor off of the structural. So any way, I see the children at risk who are, environmentally at deficit because they havenít had the language and the reading at home and I see those who areÖ Itís a red flag for me, when they have the structural errors and I also have a feeling about, (and people can argue about this), the children who arenít developmentally ready for school, (and there are two sides to this) although I believe that, the state allows the children to go to school when they can be five up until December. And I see year after year a lot of those children who are entering school at four years of age are going to be at risk is some way, especially if they are boys. So, I donít know, Iím probably leaving out a lot of different things.
L: OK, well, as a reading teacher, do you know a percentage of your students that also receive language, speech and language services.
RT: No, I donít, but that would be very interesting to find out. I mean, I could look at my schedule for this year, probably and go through them and see the children that are getting recommended for language next year. And that would be really, really interesting. As a matter of fact, there were some years that I kept track and I also kept track of anything physically wrong with them. Like asthma, you know, or anything like that, and for years, I said boy there seems to be a high percentage. But I stopped doing that. There were a bit interesting, to find out if there were a correlation there too.
I teach reading recovery, and out of my four reading recovery students, I would say two of them have language deficit in some ways, and should be seen, one of them actually does receive extra help. These are first graders and one, Iím not sure about, I think she has a consultant that goes in her room. But, I would say, that probably a high percentage of the children, and I can get you specific statistics if you want them.
L: If it wonít be too difficult.
RT: What really, really bothers me isÖ The children who are having difficulty decoding are the ones Iíd almost rather work with, than the ones who can decode and read fluently, and not comprehend what they are reading. And whether, I donít know, I think a lot a times that comes from a language deficit. Those are the children that I find terribly frustrating to work with. Very difficult. I run out of ways to help them understand what they are reading. I would rather work with the kids who are having real problems decoding, that way do you know the steps you have to take, but it is very difficult with the other kind. Um, my primary function in this school, I prefer, and they usually have me work, with the lower grades because I have been trained in reading recover and early literacy. So my background is more is K, 1 and 2. So sometimes I understand that the comprehension deficit will catch up with them more with starting third grade because there is so much more to do.
L: What do you think, would be a good way to catch reading or writing difficulties early on?
RT: Well, I think that for so many years Title I, I was a Title I reading teacher in the school, you didnít have to cover the kindergarten, can you believe that? But I think that having certified people in the kindergarten to really know what they are talking about, looking for, is very helpful and to go before that, I know that the state is pushing the Preschool, and I certainly think that screening would be helpful. I donít know how they screen for BOCES, but is that just when parents think there is a problem. I donít know how much the physician should really educated in that.
L: Should there be more, as far as getting the word out? To get more help, would it be beneficial to educate the doctors more in that area?
RT: I think it would be very helpful if pediatricians where trained more in language, I mean I donít know, I donít know whether they may already be trained. Certainly they would be able to be in touch with the parents more, and tell what the school services are. Iíve heard, a lot of times, doctors refer children with articulation errors, go, I think they know a little bit about that, but I donít know if Iíve ever heard of them referring students for language development.
At a certain age it may be difficult to refer to you for an evaluation, butÖ.I donít know. But I certainly think that Kindergarten is where we should put some manpower. And, at that age is very difficult to see how much the articulation interferes with the understanding of the sounds. Sometimes it unclear. Sometimes they may very well hear it and be able to isolate the sound and other times the articulation might really interfere.
L: According to the studies Iíve read, it says articulation doesnít have anything to do with their language abilities and reading abilities. And it says most articulation students have normal to above average reading ability. I donít know if you have any articulation students, that would be just articulation, not because of a disability.
RT: Iím thinking of kindertgarden right now.
L: There more like a development thing, not a disability.
RT: What do you term an articulation disability?
L: Well, there are certain sounds they should reach by certain ages.
RT: So you are talking maturational.
RT: OK. I mean, Iím talking about the unintelligible kinds of children. I donít know if you know any one here, but, in Kindergarten, there are some that are very hard, I mean I cannot understand, until Iíve known them for a long time, very much.
L: So a lot of times it is the Rís, the Sís, and the Lís that all are later developing sounds. But when you get those sounds that are unintelligible, then it really makes the whole speech unintelligible because those are main letters in our language.
RT: The other person, people, that Iím teaching now that I find at risk, that Iíll tell you, Iíll give you an idea of a child that I had in reading recovery in probably first grade and his first name and his last name began with M and it took me, I canít even tell you how long with him to understand that M said ďMMM" even every time I said it in your name with ďMmmmĒ, and that comes up with real red flags.
L: So, was able to say it in his name, but to look at it in print, he did not know what sound it made?
L: These are students who are, or are not speech delayed?
RT: Oh, I donít know, but when children have a hard time learning, it is hard to remember, for them, like that. That throws up a real red flag.
Iím just going back to the children at risk.
So I think we ought to send them up to kindergarten and really get them a lot of help at that point with reading and writing.
L: So would you suggest one teacher devoted to just the Kindergarten classrooms or how devoted do you think it should be, in your own opinion.
RT: I think that a teacher ought to go in, a specially area teacher to help at least for a half hour a day and that way you can know the children, sometimes you see things the classroom teacher canít see. The ideal situation, last year, is when the speech teacher, in this school, and I were both in the same room for like 45 minutes a day because there were some very unintelligible children in there, and boy, I learned from her and she learned from me and the classroom teacher learned from us both.
Thatís how they should do it, like that. A colleague sharing. Itís really where itís all at. And, Iíd say in a sense it is essential and even for new teachers that are coming in. Like, they donít know, let me give you an example, that when they write their names, new teachers might not realize they might not know the letter names of their names. They just assume that they know them when they are writing them. They donít know how to give them clues like Ďdown and acrossí T, to write it, to see, to feel it, to say it, to give it the letter name. You know, they are little things you can go in and do and Iíve learned a lot from Shea, the speech teacher, you know, about speech issues and I think she learned a lot from me and so, I think that ideally itís not only to go in and teach the children to learn from each other.
L: Right. I also agree with that. I mean any teacher that Iíve talked to, if I tell them Iím a speech teacher, they think automatically Ďarticulationí. They donít know that we do the other aspects like language, vocabulary building.
RT: And if they realize how much of that you are involved in, they might cling to you because of those children that are those comprehension kind of children.
L: But I think it goes with saying as far as the other special areas of even OT&TT, I donít think that there is enough information out there for the teachers, even myself, I donít exactly know specifically what OT & PT do, to look for in my students to see if this is something they need.
RT: Right. We had talked about that before. Wouldnít it be nice to have OT and PT to give a little kind of demonstration. Here are the kinds of things you can do.
Have them write on a notebook surface. You know, have them use mechanical pencils. Talk about grips and talk about their seating, and what to look for, their body posture and everything.
Itís the same thing with speech and languageÖ.
L: What characteristics, do you know of, that we would need to look for in children who are not labeled, know for a teacherís sake. What information could we get to the teachers so they know what to look for to say Oh, yes, this student is having a problem, even if it is not a severe problem, it might be something that is going to get severe later on. What could we tell them to look for?
RT: You know, what is very interesting is that without any testing, most any teacher can tell you the children who are having problems. As a matter of fact, in reading recovery, we have the teachers at certain points during the year, to alternate rank their children. Now, to pick my reading recover students for this year, I would say to the kindergarten teachers at the end of last year, ĎI would like you to alternate rank your class, tell me quickly who is the most capable and least capable of reading, next, next and next.í Hand me the list, donít think about it. Um, and then the next year, I would find those children and test them, but I had had cases where Iíve been to the first grade teachers who didnít know their children and I wouldnít even share it with them. I want you to alternate rank your children. They would only have to know their children about a week and theyíd get a general idea, so I think very basically more teachers know, although there are some surprises, the childís very quiet, they may not know.
L: But, how can we help them? How can we help teachers look for the characteristics? What kind of characteristics can we tell them? For someone who isnít aware of what to look for, like maybe a first year teacher.
RT: OK, I would say things like left to right, one to one match., being able to locate known words, being able to locate unknown words, when, starting from the beginning, work on those skills right off, and then with the writing, its letter formation, and largeness of that, left to right again and, spacing, whatever, return sweep.
L: The children who have difficulty in there will have difficulty in reading?
RT: Sometimes and sometimes not. I have had children, I did a Board presentation once, about a child I had here. He came to this school as a new child in first grade. He was supposed to be retained in another school and the mother did not want it. He had been on medicine for seizure disorder, medicine for hyperactivity, he had physical things that were wrong with his body. And really everyone would say, he came in knowing very few letters, you would say this child will never learn. And Iíve had reason to learn that you never have a preconceived notion about a child. You always have to do something. And sometimes the children havenít learned because the teacher hasnít taught. Or they come from a place where they didnít know how to teach right. And, so, I think that, I know how to give an observation survey, I know how to find out how they are with the letters, words, concepts about print, word writing, dictation where they can hear themselves and write it and then text reading. You take all these things and put it together. So there are so many facets to look at and things that I never, I taught reading for 20 years before I was trained in reading recovery and sometimes I think I donít know what I ever did then because I learned all over again. Now I donít think I knew anything about reading before I did reading recovery and, of course, back then they didnít know about early literacy. And you are probably learning a lot about that.
But, what I would be looking for were children who had difficulty but couldnít get beyond it. Because we have to determine whether then itís then the teaching, whether itís then the maturity. What it has been, whether the teaching hasnít been intensive enough or whatever. And so a child had a one to one match problem and you would do a lot of work on that, and then see if the child gets beyond it. And then, sometimes they do and sometimes they donít. And then, so I think you have to look at the problems and remediate whatever you can and then find out where to go from there. So, sometimes they end up being good readers and sometimes they end up being referred to a CSE, and thatís why something like reading recovery is a good first step. Because itís like a screening mechanism they may get and they become average in their class or they donít. So, I donít know. So thereís no real easy answer here.
L: Now in the research that Iíve read, it says that the students who score low on language tests at the beginning of first grade, if they donít have remediation, are normally the ones who become poor readers by the end of second grade.
RT: Thatís wonderful, because you take that research and show it to the board of education, and say this is why we need small classes, and we need lots of manpower in kindergarten and first grade.
L: And unfortunately, there isnít a consistency as far as language teachers sharing test results with the reading teachers, or the classroom teachers donít know what is gonna happen if they donít get the remediation, so I think maybe there needs to be more.
What are your thought on that?
RT: I think that thatís wonderful that you shared that because, I think you ought to share it at a faculty meeting. I think people ought to be really aware of that because you see they have these gut feelings, but inquiry is only becoming a big thing recently in education, like we have a lot of time to do a lot of research. Inquiry, writing, and all that stuff you know. So, I think whatever we can hear would be wonderful. I think the board should hear stuff like that. I think we ought to, you know, you canít ever win because you have the teachers who are up in the higher grades complaining because we (reading teachers) work mainly down here, but still again, my gut feeling is youíve got to do it down there. Yes, I know that theyíre gonna take that ELA the next year and we get them ready and everything, which is a lot pressure on them. Iíd also be interested in any research you ever come across on retaining.
Thatís my thing.
L: How can we get the word out to parents and teachers besides, like the faculty meeting. How can we get the word out before they start having problems. Like prior to or in Kindergarten or maybe even earlier than that because, if they start having language problems then, theyíre not talking by three, how can we get parents, that donít have children in the school, the information?
What would you suggest on getting the information out?
RT: I know they write articles in the newspaper and say theyíre gonna do screening, but if parents arenít readers or donít habitually read the newspaper, theyíre not gonna look at that. This is why I keep on going back to the pediatricians, or the doctors. I donít know how else, unless itís word of mouth.
Unless they do have older siblings.
L: Now it was interesting. I had written the questions and one of the questions was ĎHow do we get the word out to parents.í Two nights later, they have something on language development on the news. Thatís funny.
RT: Wow! Thatís great! Well Iím thinking of things like, you know, social services and the media, if you could ever get them involved.
And interested. I think if you had something concrete, they would get interested. Yesterday I saw in the Post and didnít get a chance to read it, about dyslexia. I donít know if you saw that.
L: No, I didnít
RT: The term is so broad, but it was a great big, when they write about it and show pictures of Tom Cruise, and that kind of thing is broad. Now that Iím thinking about that, there are even educators that are not sure about their children. Let me give you an example. My brother and sister-in-law have a child that was born prematurely. He was maybe, I want to say 3 pounds, and he is now three and he speaks, this was a while ago, maybe a month ago, was speaking in like a twin language. Like Ďmemememeí, and Ďmememeí you know. And they are both educators. My brother and sister-in-law and Iíd say what had the physician said about that. I mean, Ďwell not muchí, she thinks that, just because he is a premi. Well maybe you ought to, when you go, you ought to have that evaluated. Ask her, you know, and well last time I saw her she said Ďwell I had changed baby sitters,í and they spoil him. They talk, they do everything for him.
L: Thatís one of the problems as far as language development that Iíve seen is you have an older sibling that talks for them or parents talk for them. They think itís cute.
RT: Yea, and Iíve even thought she was, had him on her lap and she was feeding him. Stop it, why are you doing that? She looked at me, and I said, Ďyouíve got to stop.í
Well, we keep feeding him because he needs it. Well, stop.
L: But otherwise heís developing normally?
RT: Otherwise, he is. Well, except for the language.
Yea. But she said he changed babysitters and now heís got other little boyfriends that he plays with and heís talking a little more.
L: And thatís important to have peers the same age to models.
RT: Well, yes, I think that once in a while you might hear an intelligible word. But see now, here you have educated parents and they didnít know quite what to do and they just said, well, heíll outgrow it. So maybe weíre talking about articles and the press, but there again, maybe the pediatrician felt there wasnít a problem.
Right, which could be where the pediatrician might not know, and not from the area, but if theyíre concerned enough, they can always refer, they can do the referring.
I think they were just waiting to see what would happen. You have the problem of even educated parents saying, Ďwell,í and they knew something was wrong, where uneducated parents might not realize it.
L: Now I would think that being a preemi, they would have more watching, more information about anything like that, any delays or even OT/PT delays of what to look for development.
RT: I would say so. They must have gotten something. They are in a small town, far away from the city and thereís not much, thatís the kind of emergency room you donít want to go to unless you absolutely have to. You know.
There are a lot of different things we could do.
Like, what does the district do?
Are we responsible or not? When do you start being responsible.?
When do you, I mean, how far do you have to go.
Weíre gonna see a lot of preschools and thatís good.
But whoís gonna use the preschools. Is it going to be the parents that want socialization for their children and understand how important it is, and I remember one year we screened here. Kindergarten screening, which was many years ago, and there were so many children that we felt were developmentally not ready for school and were very young chronologically and everything and we must have said to the parents then to maybe, I donít, a great number, maybe it was like 12 kids and only one of them kept the child at home with a November birthday. And she was a very educated person didnít send him.
So, I donít know how much parents would listen to you anyway.
L: Thereís that whole babysitter cost for the parents. And, all teachers in all districts are different, but a lot of districts that I have been in, kind of push them (parents) to send them to kindergarten and say that well they can repeat if it is necessary.
RT: Thatís fine if they repeat in Kindergarten, but if they donítÖYou see, I have a problem with that. I understand because I have heard the psychologist Ö.and everybody say Ďwell look at their home life.í Well, OK, if their home life is so terrible, and itís really bad and they are deprived in their being, whatever and they donít have any reading or anything, then I can see it, then send them to school and take it from there. But if itís a maturational thing, itís like you are going to be five on November 30th and they are immature and they come from a fairly good home, then wouldnít it be better to give them that advantage of staying home, anyway for another year.
You know. It makes so much sense to me, I donít understand why people donít.
L: And I think thatís an area that need to be looked into, too because they might not be developmentally ready by September 1, but by October 1st they will be, and then thatís too late. I mean, I donít know the pros or cons to either way, so Iím not defending either way.
RT: In New Zealand, they go to school on their fifth birthday. No matter when it is.
L: Wow! Thatís different.
RT: Yes. Well that says something. They just bring them into the classroom, and they just are. Well.
L: The children in the class all know their Aís through Zís and this child just enters?
RT: Well, maybe. But if this is literacy. Itís constant bombardment of literacy and they must make accommodations for it. Let me tell you something else. In New Zealand, almost all the teachers are trained in reading recovery. And one teacher will teach reading recovery for maybe two or three years then go back into the classroom. The other one who has been in the classroom will go to the reading recovery. You know so, you stay fresh. Youíre on the cutting edge. Everybody is getting the benefit of the training which is really extensive, so I, this is why I want to say then that if you look at it, then they must realize that something that, the children should be five before they go to school. You know, at least.
L: Itís an interesting concept.
RT: Yea, Iíd like to read more about it. Iíve got some information, butÖ
L: What are some steps that we may take to avoid reading problems? We kind of covered some of what we already talked about.
RT: I think early intervention is the best thing.
Interview with a
parent of 2 children who have attended a suburban school district in central New
Both of your children are now finished with school.
Did they receive any extra support while they were there?
B: Yes, they both received resource services to help them with their reading.
L: Were these services you requested, or were they recommended to you by school personnel?
B: I think it was mutual. I had always noticed a delay in my daughter. I may be at the store, and ask her to get macaroni and cheese, and she would go to get the butter. She knew I would need the butter to make the macaroni and cheese, and thought that would be all I needed.
I have always needed to tell her step by step what to do, and how to do things. When I taught her how to do the laundry, I had to tell her step by step what to do. Even after she had done several loads, I still needed to remind her of the steps, otherwise, she may forget to put the soap in, or close the cover.
My son was born prematurely, so we have always kept a careful watch over him. He always took a long time to catch on to performing activities both in school, and at home, but once he caught on, he was able to do it real well. He needed to receive resource for math help, but once he caught on, he got an average of 105%.
L: Were either of your children labeled by the school district, like learning disabled, or speech impaired, or any of the others?
B: No. I donít think they were even tested. However, my daughter graduated and can barely read. This shouldnít be able to happen. I am very disappointed with the school district. I have had a very bad experience with the schools.