For many parents of young children with language or speech articulation problems, the day your child meets their goals and is discharged from services is cause for celebration.
Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) must adhere to specific criteria before determining that your child no longer needs speech or language services. When an SLP finds that a child has met the goals that were established at the outset of the intervention, most parents are delighted and consider that chapter closed.
But for many children, especially those in the early elementary grades, the story is just beginning.
Speech and language impairments in young children put them at increased risk for reading disabilities compared to children whose language skills develop normally.
If your child is discharged from speech services without a plan in place to ensure that reading skills are closely monitored, you could be setting him or her up for reading failure unwittingly.
So, what can you do? Here are three questions parents should consider asking the school-based team when your child “graduates” from speech services and some comments about why each question is important to ask:
- “Is my child’s reading decoding, reading comprehension, and writing on grade level at this time?”
The link between spoken language and written language is well-established because spoken language is the foundation for developing reading and writing. Many children who have had language or speech delays are later diagnosed with specific learning disabilities related to reading and writing, so it’s important to establish whether your child’s reading and writing skills are where they should be before they are deemed ineligible for speech-language services.
- “Who is responsible for monitoring my child’s progress in reading and writing?”
In most cases, the classroom teacher is responsible for tracking student progress in literacy. Most teachers understand the increased risk of reading delays in children with a history of speech-language problems, but it’s important to let the teacher know to be especially watchful for signs of difficulties in reading (especially comprehension) and writing when working with your child so that if intervention is needed, the team can provide it without delay. Reading comprehension should be assessed periodically using a standardized or criterion-referenced measure.
- “If my child shows signs of a learning disability in reading and/or written language, will the SLP be involved in the treatment?
SLPs understand that the difficulties a child experienced in learning how to speak and comprehend and formulate language (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics) will cause related difficulties in learning how to read and write. Therefore, your child’s SLP may be the best person to help guide the assessment, identification and intervention process. Even if a Special Educator or another professional in your school is the service provider (i.e., gives your child specialized instruction through an IEP or a 504 Plan), the SLP can help write the goals and objectives, advocate for effective structured literacy practices, extend the knowledge base of everyone on the team, and provide general assistance as needed throughout the process.
So, before you close the book on your child’s SLP services at school, be sure to ask these important questions and understand that the story of your child’s reading and written language development might be just beginning!