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After a few months of vacation and hiatus, we are beginning our 2nd year of #slpchats! And what better topic than literacy and the role of SLP/SLTs, especially as many are about to begin a new school year.
SLPs are becoming increasingly involved in literacy assessment and intervention. There was a time when reading skills were left only to the daycare and classroom teachers but we find ourselves in a position to provide more support in reading and writing intervention than ever before.
There are many aspects of literacy where a speech pathologist could lend support or intervention. Listed below are several of the areas of reading that people require to be successful readers:
Print Concepts: Learning how to hold a book, which way to turn the pages or track print, that meaning is derived from print and not the pictures, and literacy-specific vocabulary (e.g. cover, author, pages, title, etc) are generally considered a part of emergent literacy skills.
Alphabet Concepts: Learning the letter names, the sounds letters make including diagraphs (e.g. ‘sh’, ‘ch’, ‘th’), as well as upper and lower case symbols for each letter are aspects of alphabet concepts and are required before a person can read or write words.
Phonological Awareness: Understanding how sounds create words and how words are separate from each other as well as the ability to manipulate these sounds with and without visuals are important to later decoding and spelling skills.
Language skills: Understanding the meaning of words (i.e. semantics) and the grammatical organization of language (i.e. syntax) is crucial to listening and reading comprehension. Decoding is of no use to anyone if they cannot make sense of what they are reading. Oral language has generally been accepted as foundational to reading and writing success. It is also important to understand social interactions and uses of language to understand interactions and thought processes of characters in books.
Narrative Development: Being able to understand and produce narrative stories is important to reading and writing success, especially as people develop their literacy skills and apply them to academic situations. (Kaderavek & Sulzby, 2000). This also applies to understanding and use of story grammar and structure.
Research has supported that children with speech sound disorders have difficulty with later reading skills, and even more difficulty if they also have specific language impairment (Boada, Pennington, Peterson & Shriberg, 2009).
It becomes clear that a speech-language pathologist could potentially have a tremendous role to play in literacy intervention and prevention of future reading and writing difficulty. However, this continues to be ‘tricky’ sometimes given multiple people who have a role in literacy. There is a need to work together with many other professionals in order to not duplicate services but utilize everyone’s various skills and develop roles in literacy assessment and intervention. The SLP role is often not clearly defined and is different everywhere, depending on the facility, SLP confidence, others working on literacy, caseload need, availability of resources, and so on. The ASHA website has an entire section devoted to literacy, called the Literacy Gateway. It contains links to articles, position statements, and other information on literacy available to SLPs. We encourage you to browse this site. Also, CASLPA has a great section on “The 3 Ls: Language, Literacy, and Learning” in their most recent issue of Communiqué. We also encourage you to read those articles to learn more about what SLPs are doing to improve literacy skills.
Beyond children, literacy skills are also important for adults when reading labels on medications, following health care instructions, signing consent documents, driving, and other everyday living situations with friends and family. In a rehabilitative situation, SLPs can also provide support and intervention to adults learning to read whether they have lost this skill due to a neurological incident, are ESL, or never had the skill in the first place.
On August 14th at 2 pm Eastern Time (Toronto time) we will be discussing the role of SLPs with regard to literacy. We will be asking questions about the role various SLPs have taken to support the literacy skills of their clients, what assessment and therapy tools are being used, and how we feel our role may continue to change over time. We hope you will join us!
Broada, R., Pennington, B., Peterson, R., & Shriberg, L. (2009). What influences literacy outcome in children with speech sound disorder? Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 52(5), 1175.
Kaderavek, J., & Sulzby, E. (2000). Narrative production by children with and without specific language impairment: oral narratives and emergent readings. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 43(1), 34.