Speech-Language Therapy vs Tutoring (Updated)

Speech-language therapy vs tutoring: What’s the difference?

With so many support services available, understanding the difference between speech-language therapy vs tutoring is important, in order to choose the right services for yourself or your child.

Tutors re-teach information taught in the classroom. Students acquire information at different rates, not all master what is presented.  A tutor helps students acquire academic material by teaching the material. Tutors reinforce information taught in the classroom and help students finish academic tasks. The goal of tutoring is to help children and adults access material they have learned in school.

Speech-language therapy focuses on mastering communication skills. From our first words to the ability to interpret and convey complex material, we acquire speech and language skills to use in all aspects of our lives. Without solid communication skills, achieving academic and professional goals can be frustrating, if not impossible. Although speech and language therapy improves functioning in all academic areas, the focus of therapy is not just academics, its improved communication in all areas.

Support Services: Speech-language therapy vs tutoring 

With so many support services to choose from, it’s important to understand the differences between speech-language therapy vs tutoring.  Both are important and offer valuable services. A tutor is a private teacher.  They teach specific subjects taught in school and support a student by helping them learn the material needed to successfully complete a specific academic goal. They may teach strategies and tricks to help with learning, but tutoring is subject specific.

On the other hand, speech-language therapy supports overall communication. A formal evaluation starts the speech-language therapy process. Areas of need are identified and an individual treatment plan is designed.  Treatment begins with structured tasks and progresses to independent everyday communication tasks. Speech-language therapy not only addresses the area of weakness but also addresses negative attitudes and beliefs regarding communication challenges.  People with chronic communication difficulties often suffer from feelings of inadequacy and poor self-esteem.  Imagine watching everyone easily conveying their ideas while knowing you can’t.

What’s going on?

By targeting specific communication skills through remediation or teaching strategies,  academic functioning in all areas from math to history improve because strong language skills are needed to access and learn new information.  Success in school and work relies on a strong foundation of vocabulary, syntax, grammar, semantic and morphological skills. These skills must be effectively integrated, in order to, comprehend and convey complex information. Break down of language can occur either in acquiring the forms of language such as vocabulary, syntax, etc, younger children often have this problem, or in the ability to integrate all these areas for use. Often older children with language problems are able to perform structured language tasks that require one word or a short phrase answer but have difficulty expressing or comprehending the entire idea or concept. Speech-language therapy supports speech and language skill development while tutoring focuses on supporting academics.

Which is the right choice for you?

Speech-language therapy vs tutoring which is the right choice for you? This is an important question to ask? How do you determine what direction to take? Additional questions to ask include:

Is the challenge in one subject area only?
Is the challenge seen in many subjects?
Do you notice the problems in everyday life?

For instance, do you notice;

  • inability to follow multi-step directions,
  • limited ability to tell a story,
  • problems comprehending a conversation
  • poor communication with friends and peers.

The most effective way to identify subtle underlying speech and language problems is to have a private speech-language therapist, who works regularly with people that only have speech and language problems, perform an evaluation.   An experienced private speech-language therapist will identify subtle language problems that school-based therapist may not. Even subtle language problems can impact communication abilities throughout a person lifetime preventing them from reaching their academic and professional goals.

Communication Problems: Fighting Back

Identifying and solving communication problems
Opening doors by finding targeted intervention

Did you know that last month was National Poetry Month? An amazing young client of mine is pen pals with this year’s National Youth Poet Laureate. My client also earned an honorable mention for her haiku in this year’s National poetry competition. She does not let communication challenges stop her.

Amanda Gorman says, “I’ve been pen-palling with a young poet named Solveig, who I visited on an elementary classroom trip in Cambridge. She entered a haiku into the United Nations International School’s Student Poetry Contest and received an honorable mention! “

People with communication problems, frequently reject complex communication tasks because they fear they will fail. Challenges with reading, writing, and/or expressing ideas isn’t a reason not to write poetry, create and sing your own lyrics, give public speeches, or even speak up in a crowd. Weaknesses in speech and language should not limit your job opportunities or academic pursuits, but they often do.  

Not understanding and managing communication problems decreases self-esteem, limits academic and career opportunities, and often leaves children thinking they are not “smart.”  Many children and adults with communication problems need additional speech and language support. The first step to getting the right help is identifying the problem and finding the right intervention. 

Identifying communication problems

Identifying the communication problems requires a multidisciplinary evaluation:  It’s important to know that standardized tests give only a small glimpse of a person’s ability, but even so there is a lot of information that comes from these types of assessments. If you suspect a communication problem you will need an assessment from both a speech-language pathologist and a psychologist. Although psychologist often do some speech language testing it is not comprehensive enough to detect mild speech and language problems that can impact functioning.

Professionals that assess communication skills

  • Speech pathologists – Assesses and treat all problems with
    communication including reading, writing, executive function, and
    verbal expression
  • Psychologist – Evaluates overall learning profile including executive function and give a basic broad overview of language skill

Evaluations can be requested through your local school. School testing especially speech and language testing can be limited. High functioning students with difficulty in language use ( usually seen in students on the spectrum and students with ADHD) or gifted students whose low language scores fall within the average range may appear not to qualify for services. Even though both groups can have significant speech and language problems traditional school testing may not identify be helpful. Private evaluators are usually more thorough, but expensive. They are more expensive because they will spend the time finding assessments and other measures that accurately assess your child’s skills.   

Why would you still want to seek out treatment after the school says your child’s skills are adequate.  If your child is struggling with homework or school work the likelihood is that the communication problems are interfering with their ability to successfully manage their academic load. Even mild communication problems,  ones not thought to be low enough to warrant school intervention, can cause significant problems.  

How do you find the best intervention?

There are many ways to approach finding the right intervention.  Because of the many choices,  there are things that should be taken into consideration, including but not limited to, the nature of the problem, severity, and adult or child’s learning style. Intervention can range from computer programs to homeschool style instruction to hiring a specialist. If considering hiring a specialist you want one that understands your needs and works with you and your child to address the problem. Finding an appropriate provider is challenging. Referrals from friends and family are great sources.  Other sources include the internet, asking the school providers and asking your pediatrician.  After identifying the communication problem the next step is finding the best intervention.

 Identifying your style

Do you:

  • Prefer using books and online resources to address the problem at home?
  • Feel teaching your child at home is the best way to improve communication?
  • Want a specialist to support your efforts?
  • Use your pediatrician as a helpful resource?
  • Choose to use activities to help your child work on the skills indirectly?
  • Are you someone who thinks learning should be holistic?
  • Does your child have other special considerations or needs?

Identify your child’s style

  • Does your child learn best in groups or one on one?
  • Would your child learn best by participating in outside activities that indirectly address the problem?  ( i.e acting classes, music classes, team sports, debate club, poetry club etc.)
  • Does your child need a lot of structure?
  • Would a computer program work for your child?
  • Is your child able to self-advocate to address their needs in school?
  • Does your child hide their problems or are they oblivious to their challenges

Use this information to decide whether a computer program, small group instruction, outside activities, one on one intervention or a combination of intervention is the right choice for your family. There are many ways to address communication problems at home, in school, and in the community. Once you know the problem, level of severity, understand your personal style, and your child’s learning preferences making the right choices is easier.

Consider a private Speech-Language Pathologist

Although private services can be expensive they are beneficial in the long term.  In case money is limited it’s important to decide whether it is best to spend money on private testing or use your money for treatment. It depends on whether you want the school to provide services or you plan to go elsewhere. With the condition that you are not trying to receive services through your local school system, one solution may be having the assessment done by the school. After testing a private Speech-language pathologist may be willing to use those recent test results to create an individualized treatment plan for your child. Using a private speech-language pathologist can be the right intervention because it offers a program tailored to your child.

Finally, after identifying an approach, it’s important to continue monitoring your child’s progress. If the problem is not improving or your child is not responding to the approaches you have chosen after several months then it may be time to re-evaluate.

Resources

Here is a story from Understood.org “Denied an IEP…” about a parents journey to find the right treatment for her child after the school said her child was ineligible for an IEP.

 

Not eligible for speech-language services

No longer eligible for speech and language services
Finding the right services can be difficult

Not eligible for speech-language services

“Not eligible for speech and language services!”  What’s going on? Your child has been receiving speech and language services for several years or needs services.  After a recent team meeting, you were informed that your child is not eligible for speech-language services. How can this be? Is this the right time to end services? What can you do?

Are they ready for discharge?

If your child has received speech and language services for a while they may indeed be ready to move from an individual or small group therapy to the regular classroom. You will know if they are ready because they are demonstrating their new skills not just on standardized tests, but in everyday life. Sometimes, however, students can do well on standardized test but still, struggle with using language for daily living. Students on the autism spectrum and students who are trying to use complex language beyond their ability can have problems with language use that is not detected by a standardized test. Another issue that arises is that some students catch up in language because of the individualized instruction but they are not able to keep up in a regular class as the language demands become more complex. All of these problems may not be revealed using standardized testing alone.   So if you are not sure your child is ready for discharge from services you may be right, but you will need to ask

Not eligible for speech-language services, but the struggle continues…

….with reading, writing, or verbally expressing their ideas and test results do not reflect this reality then further exploration is warranted.  In order to uncover underlying language problems, there are a few things that you can ask a speech-language pathologist. First, make sure that current testing was compared to the previous testing. Those skills should be consistent with other assessed skills.  A discrepancy between subtest scores can indicate problems if it is 15 or more points different ask the examiner to account for those discrepancies. For example, if on the vocabulary subtest your child scores standard score of 100, but on a  sentence repetition task they score standard score of  85. What does the SLP think is the cause of that difference. We do have strengths and weaknesses but sometimes differences in skill level can result in frustration for your child.

Still trying to understand …another look

Next ask for a written or verbal narrative or language sample  Some children with average intelligence easily perform structured tasks, including those on the autism spectrum, but given real-life tasks, in spite of demonstrating average or even above average scores do poorly.  They may have incredible difficulty writing or telling a story or reading and writing a paragraph summary. Make sure if its a written sample that it is not from a classroom assignment but actually what they are able to do on their own in a 15-30 minute time span. In other words, it should be spontaneous and not scripted or edited by teachers. It can be edited by the child. A language sample gives a true example of how your child uses language. It is a valuable tool.

If you are concerned because you were told your child is, “not eligible for speech-language services,” here are a few tips to help you and school professionals uncover underlying speech and language problems. Looking at these areas ensures that your child’s language foundation will support the academic challenges ahead.

Music Instruction Develops Executive Function Skills

music instruction develops executive function skills
I don’t want to practice my instrument? Are music lessons and the struggle to practice worth the effort?

My daughter often doesn’t want to practice her instrument, so much of my time and effort has been spent figuring out how to get her to practice her instrument, but I do because music instruction develops executive function skills and will improve other skills like math.

Yesterday I  attended a yearly Martin Luther King event that the city of Boston hosts with music by the Intensive Community Program of the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra. My daughter has been part of this music program which provides high-level instruction for string and percussion instruments to city kids. As I sat there listening to her orchestra play I cried. I was amazed by what she had learned. But, let me tell you a secret! Every single year she begs to quit!  She tells me she hates the viola. In reality, she hates to practice (who doesn’t?), and sometimes the time commitment interferes with other pursuits (there are only so many days in a week).  As a matter of fact last month we had another argument about quitting when rehearsal interfered with a track meet.  I coerced her into finishing out this performance year. In July, after her auditions when she is feeling good about her performance I will re-enroll her and we will be in this program for another year. It’s like this every year.  I can tell you all the reason I wouldn’t mind her quitting, but let me tell you why I continue to make her participate in this program and practice the viola an hour a day. 

Music Instruction Develops Executive Function Skills

Because of my work as a speech pathologist, I have researched and taught executive function skills. Did you know that developing executive function skills through music really works! Through the process of learning to play an instrument, children develop a range of executive function skills including learning to attend, problem-solving,  memorization, self-evaluation, and prioritizing to name a few of the skills, and all are generalized to academics. Let’s see tutors for academics or music lessons. I love natural settings, meaning no one is sitting there just teaching executive function out of context. Some kids have to be taught this way but if you can support that with other pursuits it’s great.   I chose music lessons and sometimes we do need additional tutors to help with executive function but not as much. Music lessons aren’t just for the love of music, music instruction develops executive function skills.

Ways to encourage participation

So, how do you get your child to participate and are there times when you really should let them quit? First, my daughter chose her instrument, but after that first choice, she didn’t get to choose to practice or not. That was my job to make it happen.  I asked other parents with older children what they did?    All said it was hard. Most commented that their child didn’t want to practice no matter how accomplished. Whew, good to know.  One parent’s response was, “Would you ask a child if they should learn to read? Music is learning another language.” I had never thought of it that way, and that stuck with me. ” So how do you get them to practice. Some people reward their child for practicing. I heard about earning candy to gift cards. I think you have to be careful with this approach. Monetarily rewarding a child can undermine developing their own internal motivation. Rewarded occasionally not regularly. Allow the child to pick something they do like, so they are doing one thing you have chosen and then another that they have chosen. ( Be careful keep it simple) 

Regular Check-ins 

These are some of the questions I regularly ask myself to determine if we should continue:

  • Are they good at it?
  • Can they still learn from this experience?
  • When they say they hate the instrument do you see other evidence of that?
  • Do they often want to quit activities they start?  (indicator of difficulty with sustained attention)
  • How long and how much effort has been putting into this activity? Have you seen improvement over time?
  • Is there something else they are passionate about that might be easier to keep them pursuing?
  • Do they have good musical instruction that includes problem-solving and discussion or are they simply being told what to do? (I observed a lesson to determine this)
  • Is there a social aspect? (Do they have fun with other kids when playing?)

Building Skills Takes Effort

As parents, we are often concerned about building executive function skills and self-esteem.  You can only build those things through effort.  Do I think music lessons is the best thing for every child? I can’t imagine anything that every child should do, but I do think that for many children music lessons and playing in community orchestras can offer another avenue to improve executive function skills and build self-esteem. Finally, ask yourself if someone told you that you would have to practice an hour a day every day for even a year, would you like it? Could you do it?  As adults, we know the value of being able to work on something a little every day, so I believe it is worth the effort to teach our children valuable skills whether they like it or not that is our job! 

There are definitely some days I wonder how I got us into this intensive music program. But yesterday, I remembered why and I absolutely love the fact that music develops executive function skills too!

“Airplane” not “Mama:” Language Development in Children with Asperger Syndrome

Vocabulary development in Asperger syndrome normal
Language development in children with Asperger Syndrome is similar to typically developing children.

Language development in children with Asperger Syndrome is often typical for verbal language but delayed in language use. “Compared with those affected by other forms of autism spectrum disorders those with Asperger syndrome (AS) do not have significant delays or difficulties in language or cognitive development,” states the “Autism Speak’s” website.  Slow developing non-verbal language skills in children with Asperger syndrome impact their ability to request, direct and gain joint attention necessary for effective language use a relatively mild language disorder when compared with other spectrum disorders.  Continue reading ““Airplane” not “Mama:” Language Development in Children with Asperger Syndrome”

Learning Styles: Are they a Myth?

What is my learning style
Learning style: Myth?

We may be required to unlearn what we once thought was true about learning styles.

Teachers must ditch ‘neuromyth’ of learning styles, say scientists

Sunday 12 March 2017 20.01 EDTLast modified on Sunday 7 May 2017 12.28 EDT
Teaching children according to their individual “learning style” does not achieve better results and should be ditched by schools in favour of evidence-based practice, according to leading scientists.Thirty eminent academics from the worlds of neuroscience, education and psychology have signed a letter to the Guardian voicing their concern about the popularity of the learning style approach among some teachers.No evidence to back idea of learning styles

Letter: Neuromyths create a false impression of individuals’ abilities, leading to expectations and excuses that are detrimental to learning in general

They say it is ineffective, a waste of resources and potentially even damaging as it can lead to a fixed approach that could impair pupils’ potential to apply or adapt themselves to different ways of learning.The group opposes the theory that learning is more effective if pupils are taught using an individual approach identified as their personal “learning style”. Some pupils, for example, are identified as having a “listening” style and could therefore be taught with storytelling and discussion rather than written exercises…”

Knowing a client’s learning style can help determine the best strategies to help them take charge of their learning process. However, this article states, that teaching student’s giving preference to their learning style does not result in better outcomes for the student. For example, if a student has difficulty with verbally conveying their ideas it is not better to allow them to write all their answers simply because they are a visual learner.  From Carol Dweck’s research, on growth mindset, we now know that our brains grow from working on challenging work. The teaching practice of deferring to learning style would prevent students with language challenges from working on overcoming their language weaknesses. However, Carol Dweck’s research also demonstrated that the challenge can not be approached the same time over and over. The challenge must be approached in multiple ways using a range of techniques and strategies.  Students must find many ways to adapt to the different requirements of learning to become effective learners.

Weale, S. (2017, March 12). Teachers must ditch ‘neuromyth’ of learning styles, say  scientists. Retrieved September 25, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/mar/13/teachers-neuromyth-learning-styles-scientists-neuroscience-education

What did I just read? : The complexity of reading comprehension

I love to read, but what if you read and you don’t understand what you have read. Working with clients to improve reading comprehension is a challenge because reading comprehension relies on many skills including but not limited to vocabulary, grammar, visualization  Often I hear learning specialist say,  that a child is having problems with reading comprehension. When reading comprehension come up in conversation one program is usually recommended that revolves around visualization. However, because reading is dynamic and involves multiple cognitive processes one program is unlikely to solve reading comprehension problems for all. That does not mean those programs aren’t helpful, they are a place to start.  However when approaching reading comprehension problems, identifying areas of weakness and strengths and providing instruction in those areas is effective.

“Extracting meaning from text and forming a coherent mental model relies on the coordination of multiple cognitive processes (Kintsch, 1998; RAND Read-
ing Study Group, 2002). It is, therefore, not surprising that researchers have not been able to isolate one causal factor to explain children’s weaknesses in reading comprehension, but have instead found multiple sources that contribute to such difficulties, including weaknesses in decoding, working memory, linguistic reasoning, executive functioning, vocabulary, and prior knowledge (e.g., Cutting & Scarborough, 2006; Perfetti, Marron, & Foltz, 1996). Thus, it seems sensible that instruction targeting only one aspect of reading comprehension will likely yield limited results.”1

Examples of reading comprehension problems

For example, one client struggled with understanding who was speaking when reading.  Part of the problem was that they confused pronouns and often didn’t understand what the pronoun was referencing.They often where not clear on which character was speaking. T is problem could have been attributed to not applying  background knowledge, poor visualization or difficulty with social cues, but the main problem for this child was incorrect pronouns use.  For example in the passage below the child might have difficulty understanding who the “he” is who is jumping up, Peter or Mr McGregor?

 “MR. McGREGOR was on his hands and knees planting out young cabbages, but he jumped up and ran after Peter, waving a rake and calling out, “Stop thief!”

It seems obvious that McGregor is the  “he,” since he is the subject of the sentence, but for this child this was confusing.   The reasons why understanding this passage could be difficult are many including not accessing background knowledge, poor visualization, poor grammar, and difficulty with vocabulary.  For this child it was confusion with pronouns. Once he understood the rules around pronouns,  he easily understood the rest of the story.  Only by recognizing the child’s pattern and addressing the root problem could his problem solved .Another child with reading comprehension issues wasn’t able to visualize because they had difficulty with word memory which resulted in reduced visual vocabulary.  That child read a sentence and if there were 2-3 keywords they did not know, they were lost. Since reading is a dynamic process there are several ways that we glean information from written text.  In the case of unfamiliar vocabulary, one way is to figure out the word meaning from context.  Young readers are often not efficient at this skill.  The second approach young children rely on is asking nearby adults.  This child would ask adults for a definition and by the time they went back to read the sentence they’d forgotten it. The end product was an inability to create a visual image, but the problem was not caused by the inability to visualize but by the inability to retain language. For that child having her write the words down and draw a picture of the meaning helped, but again the problem was not so easily resolved there were other skills to address such as teaching her to define words from context.

Reading comprehension is a skill that demands the integration of many cognitive skills. Identifying the problem is one aspect that can help improve a struggling readers comprehension, but there are also elements that would improve overall instruction in the classroom some ideas are addressed in the article below including more reading with  discussion in class and assigning reading that builds on background knowledge in addition to providing strategy based intervention for those who benefit from it.   In order to solve reading comprehension difficulties one must be willing to approach the problem from using multiple approaches.

1 Elleman, A. M., & Compton, D. L. (2017). Beyond Comprehension Strategy Instruction: Whats Next? Language Speech and Hearing Services in Schools,48(2), 84. doi:10.1044/2017_lshss-16-0036

References for reading strategies

Speech and Language Deficits Impact Life

Da Vinci's imperfections
da Vinci’s Communication strengths are obvious

Recently the Museum of Science exhibited Leonardo da Vinci’s work.  Recreations of his drawings were made into physical models.  I was struck by his inventiveness and his ability to both write and sell his ideas. His communication strengths were obvious from his displayed writings convincing Ludovico Sforza of Milan to hire him to his elaborate notes about his inventions. What would it have been like if Leonardo Da Vinci’s had a speech or language deficit?

How would a speech and language deficit have changed Leonardo’s accomplishments?  Would he have avoided talking to Ludovico Sforza, never getting the commission for the “Last Supper?” Would struggling to express his ideas have caused him to write less or not write at all? Would he have stopped asking question because he was afraid he might stutter or not express his idea well? Even very bright people, can have speech and language deficits. As adults, we seek out situations that complement our strengths and downplay our weaknesses. How would Da Vinci’s career have been impacted if he were only allowed to write and was unable to express his complicated thoughts and ideas using pictures too?

Walking around the museum I wonder how a speech and language deficit would have affected how he felt about himself?  His ability to create? To take creative risks? Leonardo had no formal education. He was not told he had to know certain things by a certain age. He never had to produce in all areas like our children are forced to do. He was incredibly curious and asked endless questions about how the world functioned. Would that have been the same with a speech and language deficit?

Speech and language deficits impact self-esteem 

Speech and language deficits impact self-esteem and result in students who are afraid to take academic risks and lack motivation.  For example, a language weakness that makes it hard to explain your ideas or understanding the unspoken social rules can result in not answering questions in class or not having friends.  Problems with auditory comprehension,  following directions or understanding what people are saying, cause anxiety and inhibit children from participating in oral discussions.  We have special services for students determined to be disabled enough to qualify, but even relatively mild speech and language deficits can prevent kids from wanting to learn. I’m sure DaVinci had  language weaknesses we all do, but he was lucky enough to learn what he wanted, at his own pace, and in his own way.

We all have to overcome weaknesses

Students with speech and language deficits work hard, like Da Vinci, but many don’t see success. Over time, their poor communication skills impact their progress widening the gap between them and their peers. They know something is wrong. Children with communication problems have a range of intellectual abilities, but their difficulties make them feel dumb. They shut down, stop speaking up, and develop dysfunctional strategies that compound their weakness and contribute to poor self-esteem. These are the students for whom a little help can change the trajectory of their education and their lives.

We expect so much from our children, but sometimes we forget to let them know that it is okay to struggle, and it is ok to need and get help. What does it mean that the stories we tell about the most successful people in history (like Da Vinci) leave out the struggle? How would it change our perception of weakness if the display at the Museum of Science not only highlighted Leonardo da Vinci’s strengths but also acknowledged that even the most gifted have challenges?

 

STOP the conversation! No one is listening

Understanding each other
Conversations create understanding

Where are the conversations?

In politics, conversations, where people have differing views, are impossible. People scream at each other. No one is listening to the other side. Democrats are outraged at Republicans.  Republicans push agendas in spite of the public outcries. No one is listening! How do we have conversations that move us toward healing and understanding?

 In our everyday life, we talk on cell phones while sitting with our friends and family. We only speak with people who think and talk as we do. Our children text their friends instead of going to visit them. If someone has an idea you don’t like, you unfriend them on Facebook. We tweet in 10 words or less. Even with our friends, fear keeps us from authentic conversations because we are trying to uphold our image. How will we ever understand each other if we don’t listen and try to understand the other person’s point of view? 

A Real Conversation

Recently I had a disagreement with a friend of 20 years. Confused about my feelings and afraid I would not be heard I did not address the issue, “race.” At the time I tried desperately to ignore racist comments, but one day finally I exploded. How do I talk about a topic that I had so many  confused feelings about?  Would my friend understand? What would I say? Should I even bother? Finally, we spoke. In my heart, I knew she had not meant to hurt me, but it still hurt. After the initial awkwardness of the conversation it was easier to speak, but to also listen. I heard more than her words. I heard her story.  Getting to a better place of understanding meant having to work through our mutual discomfort, awkwardness, and anger.  We both had to listen with understanding, compassion and the belief in the other person’s humanity.

Fundamental Belief of Caring

Conversations, especially difficult ones require a belief that the other person cares and wants to understand. So often our identities create walls that make it easy to see others as evil or other, not like us. Good conversations break through that wall of otherness. They are a step toward understanding.  Adults and children need to learn better conversation skills. How do we incorporate conversational skills into our children’s education. Not just how to talk, but how to really listen and show genuine interests in others. How do we learn to have conversations in the work place

 Conversation skills are one of the most important skills that we can teach our children, and judging by conversations going on today we have not done a very good job. All children, not just those on the autism spectrum or with language disabilities need help to develop good skills.  How can we teach this new generation to listen in the face of technology that makes it even more difficult to hear and our own inability to listen? 

 Celeste Headlee, a host on public broadcasting program called “On Second Thought,” talks  conversation with anyone.

At Long on Language we work to improve communication. If you have ideas or want to comment on this topic,  I would love to hear from you.  I will be speaking more about developing guideline for communication at home and in the classroom that develop conversation skills.

Language is the Key to Academic Success

Acquiring language for educational demands
Language acquistion is the key to academic success

When there’s inequity in learning, it’s usually baked into life, Harvard analysts say.

Source: The Costs of Inequality: Education Is the Key to It All – US News

Language is the key to academic success. A few students from backgrounds with limited resources do well often because they love reading and in that way acquire the vocabulary and language skills they need to succeed.  Starting in kindergarten formal education requires and attempts to develop vocabulary, knowledge of grammar,  syntax, and morphology, but if children have limited outside exposure they may not thrive. the ability to use language effectively is key to academic success. For many families, the acquisition starts at home, but for children from undereducated communities, they start at a disadvantage and never really catch up. Do our public schools do enough in the area of language to level the playing field for those kids?

US News published an article 2 /16/16, The Costs of Inequality: Education Is the Key to It All in which they state that education is the great equalizer.  Yes, it is but what is amazing is the fact in spite of knowing that we let many children fall through the cracks. As a country, we continue to provide students from lower social economic areas and students for whom English is a second language limited language support.  In Cambridge students from another country are not offered language support throughout their academic careers. They do receive limited direct language instruction and then they are phased out of ESL programs. Students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds maybe an environment where reading is not valued, slang which is a language of code and is neither explicit or direct. Where one word can mean multiple things depending on the context. It’s not that these kids can’t learn language at home they have a complex communication system but it is not the language of the work world, and education is about preparing students for that world.

We know that language in many communities is used differently than language in the classroom, yet we expect students from a variety of backgrounds to compete on the same level as students from educated households with better resources. These children will bring great value to the work world if we do right by them.  Honoring a child’s dialect, but at the same time teaching them when and where to use that dialect, will allow them to use language to self-advocate, negotiate and for critical thinking in addition to providing additional language support when and where needed is critical in supporting strong language acquisition for academic success. We will have fewer people going to jail and more people with money to spend who can support our society, so why do we continue to block access to support and underfund schools in poor neighborhoods?