It’s getting closer and closer to the start of the new school year, and with it fast approaching I thought this would be the perfect time to talk about how language impairments can impact children in their classroom and school settings. I’ve also created some free resources you can use to help your child’s teacher understand how their communication difficulties might impact them in the classroom, to get your child off to the best start possible this year (scroll to the bottom to download).
Language difficulties impact on every aspect of a child’s life, but sometimes that impact can be felt most keenly in the classroom. Why? Language demands in the classroom are much higher than in other settings. The language they need to be able to understand is more complex, and there are much less opportunities for instructions and lessons to be given one-on-one or repeated. Children will also need to be good at acquiring new vocabulary at a rapid rate for learning, and will be required to express themselves in more detail than ever before. There’s also the secondary impact of things like background noise, distractions and being required to sit still and focus for long periods. For children with language delays, this can be a big challenge.
So what effect can language difficulties have on a child’s experience in the classroom?
The biggest concern when it comes to the impact of language delays and disorders for school aged children is their overall learning. If a child is experiencing difficulty comprehending what is said and communicating in the classroom, they are going to be significantly limited in what they are going to be able to learn.
Academic performance is likely to be effected by both receptive and expressive language difficulties. Receptive language difficulties often lead to difficulty understanding and acquiring information within the classroom setting, but children who have difficulty expressing themselves may also experience difficulty with academic performance. Many academic measures are based on the child’s output, and this may mean a child with adequate receptive skills but difficulty with expression can fall behind in their academic performance based on testing.
Reading and writing are forms of communication, and many parents and teachers aren’t aware that language difficulties invariably lead to difficulty acquiring literacy. Children with language difficulties will often experience difficulty learning the alphabet and sounds, decoding words (for tasks like identifying sounds in words, sounding words out, hearing rhyme, etc.), understanding what they have read, spelling, using appropriate sentence grammar, using appropriate narrative structures (e.g. introductions, conflicts and conclusions, etc), and more.
We often think of numeracy and maths as separate from the language heavy subjects like English, literacy and humanities. In reality, however, numeracy is taught using spoken and written language. Without age appropriate language abilities, many children will also experience difficulty in learning numeracy.
Social experiences may also be more challenging for children with language delays and disorders. Finding it difficult to understand or have a turn in a conversation with peers can make forming strong social bonds and friendships difficult. When children reach school age, they are also starting to become aware of each-others differences, and sometimes bullying can be a concern for children who are having a tough time in the classroom or socially due to delays in language.
Just as children are beginning to notice how others are different in the early school years, they are also developing an understanding of how they themselves might be different. Children with this self-awareness may experience some negative self-esteem related to how they feel about difficulties they may be having in the classroom or with peers.
What Can We Do?
What can we do to make school a more academically and socially successful place for children with language difficulties? The most important thing we can do is collaborate with teachers. Communicating with your child’s teacher from the beginning of the school year about their difficulties will help them to best support your child. Collaboration between your Speech Pathologist and teacher will also be incredibly important, as we can give your teacher strategies and tips that can will help your child achieve their best in the classroom.
To help make the collaboration process as easy as possible for parents and teachers this new school year, I’ve created some downloadable forms for you to simply print, fill out, and send to school for your child’s new teacher.
There are three forms, one for children with receptive delay/disorder, one for children with expressive delay/disorder, and one for children who experience a receptive and expressive delay/disorder. In each form you’ll find the following:
- A section to fill in your child’s strengths
- Information about the type of language difficulty your child experiences and how it may impact them in the classroom
- Strategies that will help to support your child’s language within the classroom
To download, simply click on the version below that applies to your child.
A Speech only version is also available: