Many different conditions can result in a child's speech being delayed or impaired, and understanding the root problem is crucial in helping the child resolve or compensate for it. Since communication is vital to learning, even a relatively moderate impairment can seriously affect learning. Early intervention and help from a trained speech/language therapist are important, but once the child is in your classroom, there are strategies you can use to help him achieve his full potential.
Work With the Pathologist
A speech/language pathologist has a number of strategies to help children improve their articulation and pronunciation. The more these strategies are practiced, the faster the student will improve. Work with the speech/language pathologist to learn about the nature of an individual student's impairment and how best to help. Exercises might be available for the student to work on, or you might need to remind him of simple corrective measures or give specific types of feedback.
Control the Environment
Children with speech and language challenges are basically multitasking at all times, as they struggle with communication skills that come naturally to others. Make sure background noise and distraction are kept to a minimum. Break information down into manageable units, and don't rush things, either in presenting lessons or in expecting answers to questions. Speak clearly, and position yourself close to the child when you address him. Make sure he has a way of expressing needs even when words fail him. Some children with speech and language issues can benefit from adaptive technology ranging from a simple white board to computer software that can model pronunciation.
Do everything you can to embrace and enhance a child's natural fascination with language. Real aloud, ask open-ended questions and play with words; learning a lot of words that contain the same sound enhances a child's ability to make that sound and understand its place in the larger language, so make time for rhymes, homophones, and onomatopoeia. Use visual and tactile cues to help a student fully comprehend new words.
Speech problems are common. About 20 percent of all students getting special education help are receiving the services of a speech and language pathologist. But to each child, the experience of speaking in a way that is noticeably different from her peers is uniquely challenging. Model patience and inclusion for the rest of the class. Buddy systems and small group tasks can help children get to know one another as individuals. Have the speech/language pathologist present a lesson on language to the class to improve students' understanding.
Anne Pyburn Craig has written for a range of regional and local publications ranging from in-depth local investigative journalism to parenting, business, real estate and green building publications. She frequently writes tourism and lifestyle articles for chamber of commerce publications and is a respected book reviewer.