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If you have any questions or concerns that relate to speech language pathology in any way, at any level....just ask.
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Monday, February 18, 2008

Vocabulary Development Is Key to Understanding Higher Level Language

In therapy, I talk a lot to my students about being flexible with language. You may not find much on flexibility with language if you did a search but I think it is one of the most important parts in developing higher level language skills. I just started using the term "flexibility with language" and the kids seemed to get it. I use the term to refer to the ability to look at language in different ways……

  • to understand language can have different meanings in different contexts
  • to know how to use to use language in different ways to convey a variety of different meanings.

This is all part of developing higher level language abilities. Developing a mature vocabulary is just a first step toward efficient higher level language skills. Below are some simple suggestions to encourage strong vocabulary development during the middle school years.

Vocabulary Development Ideas
After a certain age, children primarily expand their vocabularies through reading. For a child with language or reading disabilities this usually does not come naturally. Children who do not like to read or are not encouraged to read will also have difficulty expanding their vocabulary skills. Without good vocabulary development, students will have little understanding that a word may have two meanings and various spellings. They will not realize that every little change, in how a word is used, can vary the meaning or the message conveyed.
A poor vocabulary affects all areas of language and learning. During the middle school years, a student’s vocabulary should grow by leaps and bounds. Around 7th grade text books become more technical and teachers naturally step up their own use of language. Conversations with peers are becoming more mature and topics kids talk about are more controversial. Without good vocabulary skills, kids will have more difficulty understanding the subtleties or humor in language.

Things to do at home with your middle schooler to encourage vocabulary development:

  • Obviously, encourage your child to read. If your child struggles with reading, consult with their teacher about appropriate books at their reading level.
  • Vary their reading material. Magazines are wonderful and often peak a child’s interest. Comic books, have your read one lately? Comic books often appear juvenile but some contain a lot of higher level vocabulary and language.
  • Talk to your child about current events. Provide some explanation about what is going on and why. Talk to them about your opinions and ask them theirs. Driving in the car is a great time to do this because you have a captive audience.
  • Talk about different categories of words. Homonyms, homophones and Homographs to be specific.
  • Homonyms are words that sound alike but are spelled different. An example would be: the word bark-the bark of a tree or the bark of a dog
  • Homophones are words with two spellings and two meanings but only one pronunciation. An example would be: buy/by/bye
  • Homographs are words which have one spelling but two pronunciations and two different meanings depending on how the word is used. An example would be: Let’s wind up the kite string before the wind gets too wild.
  • Do crossword puzzles together and explain answers
  • Books on tape are real good. Just keep in mind that reading is still important
  • Watch movies with subtitles on when possible. Overwhelming for some kids multi-sensory approach for others.
  • Keep checking back I will occasionally add other ideas.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Develop Those Higher Level Language Skills!

During the middle school years, students are beginning to develop higher level language abilities. Most students do this so naturally we do not even notice. Teachers do their best to help students gradually develop mature language skills. However, students with language disabilities or just weak academic habits may have difficulty acquiring these higher level language skills.

What are some higher level language skills?

• Development of mature vocabulary
• Understanding of word relationships such as homophones and homographs
• Understanding and use of figurative expressions
• Organization of mature sentences (oral and written)
• Understanding and use of mature grammatical structures (oral and written)
• Ability to draw conclusions and inferences
• Ability to paraphrase and rephrase with ease
• Ability to reason
• Looking at things from another’s perspective

Concerns when Students do not attain higher level language skills.

• Difficulty with comprehension (oral and written)
• Unable to understand and make connections and associations
• Difficulty understand jokes, riddles and humor in general
• Inability to organize language
• Writing skills will suffer
• Poor problem solving skills
• Inability to be flexible with language ( I will explain more about that later)
• Academic success is effected
• Immature pragmatic abilities (social speech skills)

Many simple activities can help foster development of higher level language skills. Keep an eye on my blog. I will continue to provide information and suggestions for intervention. If you need me to address an area ASAP or you have specific questions drop me a comment.


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Sunday, February 3, 2008

Game Modifications That Work

Game Modifications That Work

Over the past 20 years, I have purchased many games out of therapy catalogs. Few of these specially designed games have lived up to my expectations. Out of sheer desperation for creative therapy ideas that were relevant, would give the students a lot of opportunity to practice the target skill with in a short therapy session and were inexpensive, I began to pull games off our own shelves at home. I was able to take many of my games and modify them to fit my student’s needs.
Even mildly language disabled children might struggle with traditional board games. Language disabled kids are usually not very quick on the draw so playing higher level skill games with peers is not a lot of fun. However, with some simple modifications board games can become fun and educational. Every week, until I run out of ideas I will try to profile a game that I have modified and used successfully in therapy. These modifications are simple and there are obviously no set rules. You can use my suggestions in therapy or at home, with only one child or with a group of children. I have often modified board games for an entire class. Keep in mind that modifications are always based on the child’s specific needs. Modifications that work for one individual or group might not for the next. I know this sounds like a simple idea. It is. Sometimes you just need the idea to get your own creativity flowing.