by Elaine Yandeau, Learning Support teacher
The Learning Support Team at YIS supports a diverse range of learners which includes those with Language Disorders. According to the American Speech Hearing Association, a person with a language disorder may have difficulties in understanding, speaking, reading and writing. Children with language disorders have language abilities below their expected age, difficulties are present early on (eg: late talkers), and it isn’t because of another medical/neurological reason. Approximately, three to seven percent of the population presents with a language disorder.
Speech is not language. Language is different from speech and the two terms are often mistakenly used interchangeably. Speech includes articulation, voice, and fluency (stuttering). Language includes content (vocabulary), form (syntax/grammar) and use (social language/pragmatic).
Often in the case of international students, language delays/disorders can be masked by second language learning and can get missed. This is why the Learning Support Team at YIS works closely with the EAL teachers and classroom teachers to ensure that children who are not making the expected progress are monitored and supported.
Early intervention is key. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (U.S.) says that when intervention is delayed, it takes four times as long to intervene in fourth grade than it does in kindergarten because of brain development and increase of content as they get older.
Intervention at YIS looks different for children in elementary and secondary. For those in elementary, the Learning Support teachers provide direct intervention (eg: learning to sequence events), whilst in secondary, there is more of a focus of providing strategies (eg: how to paraphrase a research article) which are directly related to their curriculum.
Language is the main vehicle for academic learning and communication. How can we help children develop their language? The best way to improve language is to read, read, read to your child! This will help them develop a love of reading and hopefully they will continue to do so independently. There is something called, “The Matthew Effect” in reading, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The more a child is read to or reads, the larger/richer their vocabulary becomes. Students must be able to know over 90% of the vocabulary for adequate reading comprehension. Talk about what you have read; ask questions; try to summarize and make connections to your child’s experience. For older children, you can each read the same book followed by regular discussion, highlighting new vocabulary and creating those semantic webs (see below).
For younger and older children, another top strategy to develop language is creating a semantic web between words/concepts such as using the vocabulary in a sentence, drawing a picture, categorizing and naming a synonym/opposite. This will not only help organize your child’s language but support word recall as well. I’m saving the best for last: word study (morpheme study). Word study includes analyzing roots, prefixes and suffixes. Knowing the building blocks of the English language is one of the most effective strategies in developing vocabulary and increasing understanding. For example, if you know that hydra means water, then you can make an educated guess about the word hydrate, dehydrate, hydrant etc.
Members of our Learning Support Team at YIS are qualified to assess and diagnose language disorders and we all support those with language based disorders using evidence based intervention. Our Learning Support Team is committed to supporting the teachers and their students, to reach their potential.
Lastly, we are also committed to supporting the parents of our students. So please come and see us if you would like to learn more about how you can help develop your child’s language(s). The most effective intervention and support is through a connected effort; from home and at school. We are in this together!
Elaine Yandeau can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org