Triple L Paediatric Speech Pathology and Audiology, Redlands City

The Role Of The Speech Pathologist In Literacy Development

A Speech Pathologist works closely with you and your child to firstly complete an assessment to determine your child’s ability to understand spoken and written language and to communicate their thoughts. Speech pathology intervention can then focus on the specific language and literacy difficulties that have been identified during the assessment process. Addressing any language or literacy difficulties that your child may be experiencing is vitally important to their communication development, learning and academic success.

A Speech Pathologist can provide early intervention to identify and treat difficulties in the foundational skills required for your child to learn to read and spell.

These skills include the following:

Phonological Awareness

Phonological awareness is the prerequisite skill for learning to read and spell and is usually learnt during the preschool years.  Phonological awareness skills can be developed through activities including word rhyming, syllabification, counting of sounds within a word, and initial, medial and final sound identification.

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Auditory Discrimination

The ability to detect the differences between similar sounds in words e.g. a/u, e/i/ee, voiced and voiceless consonants (p/b, t/d,k/g etc.

Auditory Analysis and Synthesis

The breaking up of words into their individual phonemes/sounds and the blending together of sounds to make words. These skills are used to break up multi-syllabic words into their syllables and blend syllables to form multi-syllabic words.

Auditory Perceptual Skills

Linking the sounds that we hear with their appropriate grapheme/letter pattern/s and representing them in the written form adequately.  For example, if a child is orally presented with the word ‘sprite’, they must be able to identify the fact that the word consists of one syllable. They must be able to recognise that the word consists of five sounds and that the vowel sound is a long vowel sound (S-P-R-IE-T). They must then be able to represent these sounds in the written form and use an appropriate grapheme/letter pattern for the long vowel sound.

Auditory Closure

Auditory closure is the ability to use information already available on an auditory and/or written level in order to predict or infer sounds or words that might have been missed. At a basic level, for example, this would enable someone to identify a missing sound within a word based on our knowledge of the pattern of the word or the context in which it is given. A more complex situation may require using of information that is given in listening or reading comprehension tasks in order to answer an abstract question that requires problem-solving or inferential skills.

Auditory and Word Association

The linking of words or ideas into specific groups or categories is known as Word Association. A child with these difficulties may struggle to create a ‘mind map’ of ideas as they cannot identify common links or main ideas between words, written paragraphs or whole passages.

Auditory Sequencing

Arranging a set of events or ideas in a logically sequenced order. At a simple level, a child in Preschool may struggle to explain procedures such as ‘getting ready for school in the morning’, ‘making a bowl of cereal’ or ‘describing their day’ i.e. sequencing of a story. At a more complex level a child in primary/high school may struggle with the planning of a creative writing task as they struggle to list the events or ideas in a logical order.   

Auditory Memory

The ability to recall auditory presented information and use this information functionally e.g. to verbally reason.

Auditory Figure-Ground Discrimination

The ability to understand and recall speech within the presence of background noise i.e. the classroom setting.

If your child has difficulties in these foundational skills that are left untreated, it may cause significant difficulties in the senior primary and high school years as these skills underpin spoken and written language comprehension and study skills.

‘Language’ refers to both spoken and also encompasses written language and the speech pathologist’s role thus includes assistance with all aspects of writing including:

  • Simple and complex grammatical sentence development, description (through use of adjective and adverb development), ability to sequence and use sequential concepts sufficiently etc.
  • The use and selection of the appropriate register and vocabulary depending on the intent of the written work
  • Appropriate use of punctuation
  • Creative writing
  • Essay structure and planning

Please also note that if you have concerns regarding your child’s literacy development, an audiology assessment is always a good place to start. This will determine whether your child may have any underlying hearing or listening problems that are impacting on their ability to understand and remember what they hear.