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Summer and Speech Delays

I don’t know about you but this year has flown by for me.  It’s almost summer again and we are all planning for our kids during the hot summer months.  While we want them to have fun and not overburden them, we are always thinking about next year and how they could continue to move ahead.

Unfortunately in the public programs the only goal during the summer for children ages 3 and up with special needs is the maintenance of skills.

This is the reason why most children in the public programs cannot get services over the summer. The only way your child will get summer speech therapy in those programs is if a therapist working with him can prove that he regresses over breaks.  They do not expect your child to make progress over the summer.

To me that just does not seem right.  If progress isn’t being made time is being lost.

Children who only have speech delays almost never get summer services through a school.  At best they enter the next school year with the same speech delays they had over the past school year and the cycle continues.  To make matters worse, they usually start with a new speech language therapist who needs to get to know them and figure out how to best treat them.  This can take a couple of months.

I always say how important finding the right speech therapist is. The right therapist has not only the right skills but is able to form a good rapport with your child.

A good rapport with your child is one of the most important keys to success in therapy.  Parents often tell me that they really loved a speech therapist their child had in a different grade yet they are not very happy with the school therapist they have now.  They no longer see progress like they used to.

A new year also means a new teacher and new perceptions about your child.

There have been a variety of studies that support the fact that students with communication disorders are perceived as generally unsuccessful within the classroom (Bennett & Runyan, 1982; Cummins, 1986). Studies have also found a mismatch between a teacher’s expectations of children with communication disorders and their actual abilities (Ripich 1989). Ripich found that regular education teachers very often will underestimate their student’s communicative and cognitive abilities when language disorders exist.

Research has even found a connection between teacher expectations and children’s performance.  It seems to lead to self-fulfilling prophecies (Braun, 1976; Brophy & Good, 1970; Good, (1970).

What was described was a teacher who forms expectations of a child and treats that child in a certain way; the child then exhibits behavior that reinforces the teacher’s expectations.  This either pushes the child to perform better or worse.  These results were even seen on achievement testing.

While the summer should not be all work it is not a time to push aside your child’s needs.  Summer should be thought of as an opportunity to have extra time to teach our children.

When it comes to language many children learn through experience. At the very least you need to spend a lot of time talking with your children. Better yet, have your speech language pathologist develop a home plan that you can implement during family vacations and outings.

Unlike language, articulation disorders often require drills. Fortunately summer gives you more time to practice at home since your child does not have any other homework.  It is also a good way to keep him in the habit of doing homework. While drills are not the most pleasant thing to do a good Speech Language Pathologist can give you ideas on ways to make articulation practice more fun and reinforcing.

Remember, the goal of summer should not be maintaining skills. The goal should be to start the next school year off ahead of where your child ended this year.  Needs don’t go away just because it is summer. Our children continue to need our guidance and support. Some creativity can make your child’s summer beneficial and fun all at the same time.

Sources:
Bennett, C.W. & Runyan, C.M. (1982). Educators’ perceptions of the effects of communication disorders upon educational performance. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 13, 260-263

RIPICH, D. N. (1989) Building classroom communication competence: A case for a multi-perspective approach Seminars in Speech and Language, 10, 231-240.

BRAUN, C (1976) Teacher expectation: Soclopsychological dynamics Review of Educational Research, 46, 158-213.

BROPHY, J. E., & GOOD, T. L (1970). Teacher’s communication of differential expectations for children’s classroom performance: Some behavioral data Journal of Educational Psychology, 61, 365-374.

Good, T. L. (1970). Which students do teachers call on2 Elementary School Journal. 70, 190-198.

About the author: Isa Marrs is a board-certified speech-language pathologist who specializes in articulation, pragmatic language and feeding disorders in children. She is an expert in the field who is frequently sought after by institutions and therapists to provide training for working with these and other disorders. Isa also served as a guest expert on Nickelodeon’s ParentsConnect.com, and has been quoted by numerous top media such as Disney’s BabyZone.com, LoveToKnow.com, and Univision. She can be reached at 914.488.5282

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