The Educational Relevance of Communication Disorders

7 Oct


My professional goal this year is to ensure that the intervention I am providing to our students matches expectations for mastery of the classroom curriculum.


I want to share some tidbits from an article by Lissa Power-deFur, PhD, a professor for communication sciences and disorders at Longwood University. The article appeared in the most recent issue of the ASHA (American Speech-Language Hearing Association) Leader, the professional publication that releases new research and pertinent information for Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists.

Language development and proficiency is so closely linked to expectations for mastery of academic curriculum.  This is exactly why I believe so strongly that speech/language intervention must be aligned with what students are expected to know to be successful at each grade level.

To illustrate this point, here is an example of a Kindergarten Common Core Standard for Reading:

Students should be able to “count, pronounce, blend, and segment syllables in spoken words.”

“Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., listening to others and taking turns speaking about the topics and texts under discussion).”

As Dr. Power-deFur points out, mastery of these standard will be particularly difficult for kids with

  • articulation disorders (“pronounce syllables”)
  • pragmatic disorders (“agreed-upon rules for discussions”)
  • fluency (“speaking about the topics”)

At all levels, the academic expectations are inextricable from the demands  of speech and language.  Each standard can be analyzed for the role that both expressive and receptive language skills play as students work to master the standard.   For this reason,  Dr. Power-deFur advocates for the importance of tailoring Speech and Language Intervention for kids with communication disorders.

Another interesting point is that according to R.J. Marazano’s research (2004), when children are learning new words, they need 6 to 10 exposures to a word in context in order to retain it.   Furthermore, students with learning disabilities have only an 8% chance of learning a new word from context alone.  Most of the new vocabulary students are expected to learn come from the content areas (reading, social studies, science), making it that much more important that students who have Speech & Language goals related to vocabulary growth are directly linked to classroom standards and curriculum.

This year I am addressing the demands of the curriculum for our students who have delayed or disordered language development by attending the weekly 2nd grade planning meetings and writing all IEP goals based on the Common Core State Standards for each grade level.   Also, in order to support the rigorous phonics curriculum in Kindergarten, The Sounds in Motion program is in full effect in Ms. Probst classroom.  We are implementing this program in Ms. Rivera’s classroom next week in order to scaffold phonemic awareness skills for our English Language Learners.

A special thank you to our literacy coach, Stacey Sotirhos, for being an incredible mentor, resource and liaison between our Speech & Language program and the classroom.



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