Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Word from a Speech Pathologist

Nano Cottage, a naturalistic approach to language intervention and links to further information.
 By Frederick Patchell PhD

Life springs eternal at Nano Cottage. Lambs are born, seeds sprout, meals are prepared, and children eat, laugh, chat and learn. Nothing could be more natural – and that’s the secret. In this, its tenth anniversary year, it is worth revisiting the principles underlying naturalistic language intervention - the approach that underpins much of the pedagogy at Nano Cottage.

According to Horn and Banerjee (2009), teachers and speech-language pathologists have embraced the use of naturalistic instructional approaches to “meet the challenge of achieving meaningful, functional outcomes in learning and development for all children” (p. 408). They also report on the extensive research supporting the effectiveness of naturalistic approaches (across a range of behaviours and settings) that share attributes including:

       the learning goals target skills needed by an individual child to
meet the demands of natural age-appropriate environments
       the ‘instructional episodes’ are minimally intrusive & naturally occurring
       the instructional interactions (‘teaching moments’) are often initiated or motivated by the child rather than the adult
       the communication results in natural consequences (e.g., desired materials or events)
       the “instructors” are typically well known (e.g., teachers and speech-language pathologists)

If this list sounds familiar, it’s not surprising - these attributes are pretty much what parents do instinctively when relating with children and enhancing their language. If nothing else, building communication skills requires positive and nurturing relationships.

Communication development is not unlike many other aspects of children’s development. As with physical development, growth in communication ability varies widely between individual children depending on a range of factors.

Some children have particular speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). For example, children may have unclear speech, or difficulty understanding and using spoken (and often written) language. For some children, their speech, language and communication needs are associated with particular conditions such as intellectual, physical or sensory disability. But this is not always so, particularly for children with language learning needs - sometimes termed language disorder or specific language impairment (SLI). In areas other than language, the great majority of children with SLI have typical development.

Teachers gather data from a variety of sources to gauge the strength of their students’ communication abilities. Sometimes teachers use commercially available speech and language screening tests. If there is concern about a child or adolescent’s communication development, he or she is referred for formal assessment to a speech-language pathologist. Speech-language pathology is the profession most closely work associated with communication impairment. Speech pathologists work alongside teachers and parents to support the learning of young people with SLCN.

Below is a selection of links to quality sources of information on enhancing the communication development of all children and adolescents, especially those with SLCNs.

Horn, E., and Banerjee, R. (2009). Understanding curriculum modifications and embedded learning opportunities in the context of supporting all children’s success. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, (40), 406-415.

Dr Frederick Patchell is Adviser: Speech Pathology & Communication at the Catholic Education Office Diocese of Parramatta, and an Adjunct Lecturer in the Discipline of Speech Pathology at The University of Sydney.

1 comment:

  1. Start Right Speech, is a specialist Speech Pathology Sydney service for children with developmental communication difficulties.