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Speech Skills in School Age

School years are devoted to learning higher level abstract concepts.

Children enter grade school as a “mini-adult” with all the basic speech and language skills.  Most teachers expect this from the “average” student.  As we know, school age children are primarily instructed to work on reading, writing and computing skills at multiple levels and categories.  Much of school programming is focused on new higher level concepts in math, literature, science, social studies, geography, physical education, music, art and so on.  There are specific curriculum for each grade from elementary to high school.

In other words, in the first few grade levels, there is very little time devoted to primary speech and language skills as children typically have the basics upon entry.

What are the basic speech and language skills used in the first grade?

At age 6, children can

  • correct their own grammatical errors when using lengthy sentences
  • speak with clear pronunciation (e.g. Your child can clearly say words like “thistle” or clearly pronounce words in a sentence like “Did you see my new race car sitting on the shelf?”)
  • recognize letter symbols A-Z
  • read words and phrases
  • understand rhythm and rhyming
  • segment and blend words together (e.g. when hearing sounds like “a–p–l” your child knows that together the word sounds like “apple”)
  • tell a story in sequence
  • add and subtract quantities

These are a few of the skills that are the foundations for higher reading and writing or spelling.

What can be done for the school age child who is lagging behind in speech and language skills?

Contact your classroom teacher before your child begins the new school year to have a private discussion about your child’s difficulties with speech and language.  Tell your child’s teacher what challenges your child has faced.  This will allow some time for your teacher to “get ready” by putting some supports in place.  If the school year has begun, contact the teacher anyway to work together on the best plan for your child.

School supports may included a referral to the school based speech-language pathologist, educational psychologist, teacher with special education background, or other support staff like occupational therapy and physical therapy.  Other parents have reported that wait lists are long and it takes months to be seen after a referral is made.

Your early involvement will help assist your child and make the school experience more positive.  Use a kind, caring, and empathetic approach with your teacher.  Remember your child’s needs are important and to the teacher, all children in the class are equally important.

You may also wish to seek private support services in speech-language therapy or other services.