Speech-Language Pathologists: Language Experts and Literacy Resource
Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) have the specialized knowledge and experience needed to identify communication problems and to provide the help that children need to build critical language and literacy skills. SLPs are often the first professionals to identify the root cause of reading and writing problems through a child’s difficulty with language. SLPs help children to build the skills they need to succeed in school and in life.
Key elements of a speech-language pathologist’s academic training relating to early language and literacy development include skills to:
- Build and reinforce relationships between early spoken language and early pre-literacy abilities and consider influences of parent-child interactions in early shared storybook interactions;
- Address difficulties involving phonological awareness, memory, and retrieval;
- Teach children to use tactile-kinesthetic and auditory cues in reading and writing;
- Analyze how the language demands of textbooks, academic talk, and curriculum may stress a student’s capabilities at different age and grade levels; and
- Conduct fine-grain analyses of written language, including spelling, to generate intervention that matches the needs of individual students.
Roles for Speech-Language Pathologists
Prevention—Communicating risk factors to teachers and parents, and working with them to develop programs to help children acquire explicit, age-appropriate knowledge, skills and strategies of the components of language that contribute to reading and writing development.
Identifying At-Risk Children—assisting in development and implementation of screening (e.g., instruments and teacher observation checklists) and referral procedures for very young children as well as older school-age children, including modifying procedures to reduce bias (e.g., dynamic assessment techniques and criterion referenced tasks) for culturally and linguistically diverse populations.
Assessing—selecting, implementing, adapting, and interpreting assessment tools and methods to evaluate skills in spoken language, reading, writing and spelling.
Providing Intervention—collaborating with teachers and families to plan intervention goals and activities, as well as modifying curricula to keep students progressing in the general education curriculum.
Documenting Outcomes—establishing a tracking system for identifying new or re-emerging literacy deficits and documenting outcomes of intervention goals and plans.
Program Development—directing or participating in teams to develop school or system-wide strategic approaches to early identification and intervention for children with reading deficits.
Advocating for Effective Literacy Practices—providing information about literacy development to state and local agencies that plan and evaluate curricula, establish comprehensive assessments and set related policies; educating them about relationships between spoken language and written language (i.e., reading, writing and spelling) and the benefits of collaborative instructional approaches.
Advancing the Knowledge Base—conducting scientifically-based research on early literacy development.
ASHA Practice Policy Documents Regarding Literacy
- Roles and Responsibilities of Speech-Language Pathologists with Respect to Reading and Writing in Children and Adolescents [Technical Report] (2001)
- Roles and Responsibilities of Speech-Language Pathologists with Respect to Reading and Writing in Children and Adolescents [Position Statement] (2001)
- Roles and Responsibilities of Speech-Language Pathologists with Respect to Reading and Writing in Children and Adolescents [Guidelines] (2001)
- Knowledge and Skills Needed by Speech-Language Pathologists With Respect to Reading and Writing in Children and Adolescents [Knowledge and Skills] (2002)
- Scope of Practice in Speech-Language Pathology [Scope of Practice] (2007)
- Preferred Practice Patterns for the Profession of Speech-Language Pathology [Preferred Practice Patterns] (2004)
- Roles and Responsibilities of Speech-Language Pathologists in Schools [Position Statement and Professional Issues Statement] (2010)
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) National Outcome Measurement System (NOMS)data indicates that more than 70% of teachers who responded to a survey believed that students who received SLP services demonstrated improved pre-reading, reading or reading comprehension skills. A majority of teachers also cited improvements in the student’s listening and written language skills and ability to communicate in socially-appropriate ways (pragmatics).
ASHA. (2001). Role and Responsibilities of Speech-Language Pathologists with Respect to Reading and Writing in Children and Adolescents (Technical Report). Rockville, MD: Author.
ASHA. (2002). Knowledge and Skills Needed by Speech-Language Pathologists with Respect to Reading and Writing in Children and Adolescents, Rockville, MD: Author
National Outcome Measurement System (NOMS) Fact Sheet. “Do SLP Services Have an Impact on Students’ Classroom Performance? What Teachers Think.” [PDF]
These resources provide general information and background suitable for professional presentations, staff inservices and parent education.
- Emergent Literacy
- Literacy: Speech-Language Pathologists Play a Pivotal Role
- Frequently Asked Questions: Speech and Language Disorders in the School Setting
Getting Your Child Ready for Reading and Writing
Getting Your Child Ready for Reading and Writing [PDF] highlights some common developmental milestones in emergent literacy skills for infants, toddlers, and preschool children. This presentation [PDF] contains 33 slides that describe the common developmental milestones in emergent literacy skills for infants, toddlers and preschool children. Adapted from the newly revised ASHA brochure, “Getting Your Child Ready for Reading and Writing”.
Building Your Child’s Listening, Talking, Reading and Writing Skills
- Building Your Child’s Listening, Talking, Reading and Writing Skills: Kindergarten to Second Grade [PDF]
- Building Your Child’s Listening, Talking, Reading and Writing Skills: Third Grade to Fifth Grade [PDF]
These PDF presentations are based on the brochures by the same title. It is for school-based SLPs to use with a variety of audiences interested in language and literacy. The presentations highlight school grade expectations from kindergarten through fifth grade in the areas of literacy and communication that include listening, talking, reading and writing.
Continuing Education/Professional Development Opportunities Targeting Literacy
ASHA provides continuing education/professional development opportunities targeting literacy and role of the speech-language pathologist. Find related professional development opportunities at ASHA’s Online Store.
- Beyond Baby Talk
- When will my infant speak? What should my child’s first words be? Kenn Apel and Julie Masterson answer these questions (and many more) while covering the stages of speech and language development for infants, babies, toddlers and preschoolers; in essence, the first years of a child’s life.
- “They Considered Holding Him Back…” Early Intervention
- Focuses on some of the early indicators of speech, language, and hearing problems in children. Imagine knowing every answer to every question, but being too afraid to speak for fear of sounding “different.” Or not understanding what information the teacher is giving or asking from you. Speech, language and hearing problems can be significant roadblocks to a student’s education. This poster stresses the importance of the early intervention services an SLP can provide.
- “Children with Speech, Language, and Hearing Problems Often Stand Out in Class” Early Intervention
- Focuses on some of the early indicators of speech, language, and hearing problems in children. A student may seem withdrawn or uninterested; may have problems with learning and reading; and may have difficulty making friends. This poster stresses the importance of early intervention so that every “…child has the communication abilities to learn and keep up in class.”
- “Difference Between Learning a Sentence and Serving One” Early Intervention
- Focuses on what can happen to a child without early intervention by an SLP. As many as 84% of incarcerated youths have problems communicating, and 70% of adult prisoners score in the lowest literacy levels. This poster stresses the importance of an SLP’s role in turning these statistics around so that children with communication disorders can go on to develop the learning and literacy skills needed to succeed in school and in life.
Booklets & Brochures
- Getting Your Child Ready for Reading and Writing
- Provides helpful tips on how parents can guide the development of reading and writing skills from birth through age 5. Includes milestones charts for reading and writing, and suggested activities for parent–child interactions. Written in easy to understand language.
- Learning Two Languages
- This brochure describes how children learn to be bilingual, and what parents can do to facilitate the learning process. Translated in Spanish.
- Building Your Child’s Listening, Talking, Reading and Writing Skills: Kindergarten to Second Grade
- Highlights common developmental milestones and grade school expectations from kindergarten through second grade in the areas of literacy and communication, including listening, talking, reading, and writing.
- Building Your Child’s Listening, Talking, Reading and Writing Skills: Third Grade to Fifth Grade
- Highlights common developmental milestones and grade school expectations from third grade to fifth grade in the areas of literacy and communication, including listening, talking, reading, and writing.
- Alliance for Excellent Education
- The Alliance for Excellent Education is a national policy and advocacy organization that works to make every child a high school graduate-to prepare them for college, work, and to be contributing members of society.
- Carnegie Corporation-Advancing Literacy
- Advancing Literacy, a relatively new subprogram of the Education Division, was created in 2003, after an extensive review that the way in which students are taught to read comprehend and write about subject matter has not kept pace with the demands of schooling. Advancing Literacy is dedicated to the task of advancing literacy by affecting policy, practice and research.
- Center for Applied Linguistics
- Improving communication through better understanding of language and culture.
- Getting Ready to Read
- A program from the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) this website focuses on emergent literacy skills in children.
- International Reading Association
- Dedicated to promoting high levels of literacy for all by improving the quality of reading instruction, disseminating research and information about reading and encouraging the lifetime reading habit.
- National Center for Family Literacy
- Creating a literate nation by leveraging the power of families.
- National Forum on Information Literacy
- Dedicated to information literacy which is defined as the ability to know when there is a need for information, to be able to identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively use that information for the issue or problem at hand.
- Reading Rockets
- ASHA has partnered with Reading Rockets to provide resources especially chosen to support the professional efforts of SLPs and their vital role in building children’s literacy. Also visit their new sister site: AdLit.org about adolescent literacy.
- Washington Learning Systems
- On-the-go literacy resources for home and community activities in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Somali and Russian.