three circles with image of 2 children in right circle

Speech and Language in the Classroom

The Blog

Friday, 26 August 2016

Spotlight on Verbal Dyspraxia, by Derry Patterson, SaLT

Approximate reading time: Under 5 mins.

Have you ever tried to do up coat buttons with your gloves on? Now imagine trying to do up your shoe laces wearing oven gloves. Would you be the first in the class to get ready for PE?

For children with Dyspraxia this is their world. Everyday tasks can become major challenges.
Spotlight on Verbal Dyspraxia
Dyspraxia or Development Coordination Disorder (DCD) affects between 2% and 10% of children. It is a motor co-ordination difficulty which can have wide ranging effects. Children with DCD will struggle with tasks requiring the co-ordination or sequencing of movements. They will lack organisational skills and may be easily distracted. Anxiety can play a large role with some pupils becoming reluctant to speak or participate in certain situations.

Dyspraxia can affect gross and fine motor skills or be more specific, affecting just groups of muscles, e.g. oromotor dyspraxia effects lips, jaw, tongue and soft palate or oculomotor dyspraxia which just effects eye movements.

You may be familiar with pupils who struggle with dressing, movement and handwriting but did you know that Dyspraxia can also affect speech and language?

Dyspraxia and Speech
Verbal dyspraxia affects the production and sequencing of speech sounds. The child’s speech may be difficult to understand, even for family members. The pattern of errors can also be very inconsistent making it hard to ‘tune in’ to the child’s speech. These speech difficulties can persist for many years and the child will not simply grow out of them. If you think a child in your class has verbal dyspraxia you should contact your local Speech and Language Therapist.

Therapy focuses on repetitive exercises which should be built up gradually and carried out frequently - a challenge within a busy curriculum. However, small step repetitive exercises can make a huge difference with many pupils achieving clear speech as they move through the school.

Verbal dyspraxia - signs to look for:
• Limited range of sounds
• Distorted vowels
• Difficulty with longer words
• Unusual stress and intonation
• May have problems eating and/or drinking
• Literacy difficulties
• Language difficulties

Dyspraxia and Literacy
Many pupils with verbal dyspraxia will struggle with reading and spelling and indeed difficulties with literacy can persist even when the child’s speech has improved and become easy to understand. Verbal dyspraxia affects the child’s phonological processing, in particular any tasks involving segmentation, so they are likely to need a lot of support with phonics. They may find it very hard to blend and segment sounds and syllables.

You may notice that they are slow to move on from whole word reading to breaking words down into sounds. It may take them a long time to learn grapheme-phoneme correspondences and they may also struggle with both rhyme detection and production tasks.

To support literacy development for these pupils try these ideas. You should find they benefit all pupils, not just the children with dyspraxia.
- Introduce sound cards – pictures to represent sounds e.g. The Speech Link sound cards.
- Teach letter sound relationships using hand signs (e.g. Cued Articulation*) for sounds and finger spelling for letters. Make sure you use the hand sign up at your mouth to show it represents speech and the finger spelling sign down by the page to represent letters.
- Develop an awareness of sounds in words, e.g. ask the child to find something in the classroom beginning with a given sound, or to decide which two words have the same sound at the beginning from a choice of three pictures.
- Work on segmentation skills using sound cards and coloured cubes to provide visual support.
- Use whole word teaching strategies.

Speech Link Activity Resources
It is likely that pupils with verbal dyspraxia will take a long time to grasp phonics and will require time for repetition and revision of skills.

Dyspraxia and Language

Dyspraxia can also affect a child’s understanding and use of spoken language.
Pupils with Dyspraxia may have difficulty: You could try…. Understanding concept vocabulary related to time and space • Introducing reference pictures to represent position words • Hiding a ‘character’ in different places around the classroom on request e.g. where’s the monster hiding today? • Working on one concept at a time • Allowing time for overlearning before moving on to the next concept • Introducing a concept of the day/week and provide lots of opportunities for the pupil to hear, see and experience the concept Remembering and following instructions • Using simple language alongside some visual prompts e.g. task management boards • Giving extra time for child to process the language • Providing repetition of instructions • Using demonstration i.e. show the child what to do Sequencing instructions or tasks • Using task management boards and visual timetables Giving explanations or answering questions • Using sentence and story planners and story • Rehearsing answers with talk partner or adult • Using scaffolding techniques to lead pupil to the answer

*Cued articulation is a signing system that was developed by Speech and Language Therapist, Jane Passey, to help anyone who has difficulty processing, pronouncing or sequencing English speech sounds. Each sound has its own hand cue which the adult uses to show the child how and where the sound is produced. It is a very simple system to use and can work extremely well for many pupils with a variety of speech difficulties including Dyspraxia.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, 19 August 2016

SLCN Update: Language Delay by Numbers (Infographic), by Derry Patterson, SaLT

Approximate reading time: Under a minute.

In the last few years the importance of early language development has come into sharp focus. The link between environment in early childhood and language development is well established. 

Here are a few uncomfortable numbers:

40% Of the poorest boys in England start school without the language skills needed to learn. Read On Get On campaign.  7 years. Is the gap between the best and worst 10 year old readers in England. Read On Get On campaign.  25% Of children start school unable to communicate at the level expected for their age. Early Intervention Foundation Report  1 in 3 Children growing up in poverty have delayed language development. ICan  15 months If you lag behind by more than 15months when you start school you are unlikely to be able to catch up.  8 million Fewer words heard a year by children living in social disadvantage. Early Language Delays in the UK

Sources: Early Language Delays in the UK. Law, J. et al (2013)/Read On Get On campaign (2014) Early Intervention Foundation report (2015)

Labels: , , ,

Friday, 12 August 2016

Education Update: 'Funding for Disadvantaged Pupils’ Report, by Jo Chessum, Specialist Teacher

Approximate reading time: 2 mins, 30 secs.

With Pupil Premium children being a key focus of Ofsted Inspections, here’s a summary of the recent Funding for Disadvantaged Pupils’ Report published in September 2015.

The report shows that the funding has narrowed the gap for both primary and secondary aged pupils. However, the gap has remained large and progress has been uneven across the country. Although there is a growing evidence base for ‘what works’, the report claims that more needs to be done to encourage schools to use and share ‘best practice’. The report goes on to suggest that Pupil Premium Reviews should be mandatory for schools that fail to evidence effective use of the funding.

Lack of parental engagement has been identified by many schools as a significant barrier to closing the attainment gap. The report suggests that very few schools are using the Pupil Premium to address this and that clear guidance is required on ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘how’!
Only 37% of schools recommended for a Pupil Premium Review actually had one. Disadvantaged pupils do better in schools where they are present in very high or very low numbers. Only one third of schools fully adhere to the requirements of the Pupil Premium Annual Report.
Top Tip
Parental engagement has been identified as a significant barrier to closing the attainment gap but schools are not using Pupil Premium to address this. Here are some of the ideas we have seen used to engage ‘hard to reach’ parents. Why not try some out in your school?

• Staff greet parents at the school gate, putting faces to names.
• Parental Support Workers/Family Liaison Workers offer 1:1 or small group support.
Home visits to make contact outside of the school environment.
• Frequent text message updates to highlight children’s achievements.
• ‘Welcome to School’ room that feels more like a lounge than a meeting room.
• ‘Success Lounge’ for sharing positive experiences.
Workshops on phonics, language, writing, etc. to help parents understand what their child is learning.
Workshops on English, ICT, etc. to develop the parents’ own skill base.
Workshops on how to understand school reports, EHCPs, etc.
Out of school hours learning opportunities for children and their parents, both academic and fun!
Resources to support learning outside school.
Parent mentors through a ‘Parent Support Group’.
Parent-led workshops relating to personal experiences.
Child-led workshops to encourage parents to attend.

Read more: Narrowing the Gap

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Friday, 5 August 2016

Effective TA Support for SLCN in the Classroom

Approximate reading time: Under 1 min, 30 secs.

One of the messages we are keen to share is that those strategies that support children with language delay or difficulties can also promote learning for children with other or indeed no additional needs. Embedding such strategies into daily classroom practice is a move towards a more inclusive approach but that must involve both teachers and TAs.

Pre-Teaching key concepts, ideas and vocabulary prior to lessons can enable children to access learning at a higher level, rather than focusing on meaning alone.

Repetition and Clarification of instructions or information helps children to understand. Remember to maintain some level of challenge. Encouraging children to break down tasks into manageable chunks and think about their organisation can help children develop a more independent approach to learning.

Commentary is a very useful tool and not just for younger children. Providing a narrative whilst children are working on tasks models good language and helps children understand processes. Encouraging children to provide commentary for each other extends opportunities for use of language across a range of classroom activities.

Rehearsal allows children to practise oral work (or orally for written work). Repeating what they have said, word for word, helps them check for sense and structure. Asking open questions, those that require more than just a one word answer, promotes higher level thinking and provides a deeper learning experience.

FREE RESOURCE: Teacher lesson guidance for TAs! Download from

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,