Virtual school challenges for children with speech and language disorders: How teachers can help

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Statistics indicate that at least 5 percent to 8 percent of American preschool kids deal with some kind of speech and language disorder. This figure translates into 1 in 12 kids, and chances are that you have a child with special needs in your class. Teaching and helping the student in a physical classroom can be challenging enough. But, when you’re conducting virtual classes, you’ll need to come up with creative solutions to ensure that the student feels confident, feels included, and doesn’t fall behind in their chosen goals. Read ahead for five helpful tips you can use from a Speech-Language Pathologist.

1. Stay connected with the parents

A great first step is to have open lines of communication with the parents. You’ll develop insights into any online speech therapy their child is getting and learn how to integrate recent focuses into class. Do keep in mind that each child has unique capabilities, and you might have to adjust classes to accommodate them even if you’ve dealt with similar delays in other students. Talking to the family is essential as you figure out innovative methods for reaching their child.

2. Aid in the child’s understanding

Relaying lessons in real life involves various cues like facial expressions, body language, and lip movement. Children with speech and language disorders may be learning to pay careful attention to all of these cues so that they can build their own skills. You can help by highlighting each word in any text and speaking slowly and clearly so that the child has time to process. Make sure to use captioning if it’s available with pauses in-between thoughts that give the student time to think. Rephrasing sentences or coming up with alternate terms can help the process if a student doesn’t pick up on meaning after the first time.

3. Give the child more time

Children who stutter or tend to mispronounce words have trouble making themselves understood. These issues often result in a lack of confidence and shyness. Give the student time to speak sentences and encourage them to speak slowly.

If you miss the meaning, ask them to repeat what they’re trying to say or use different words to communicate the message. Allow different tools to be used, like typing in the chat box or drawing images to convey ideas on a whiteboard or writing words and pointing to them. You could also encourage the child to use gestures when trying to express a thought. Communication isn’t exclusively verbal and using a combination of strategies will ultimately build your student’s linguistic abilities at their own pace.

4. Eliminate distractions

Possibly the most significant challenge that children with speech and language disorders face is discerning words and concentrating amidst distractions. That’s been a huge roadblock for many kids as they try to learn from home with family, pets, and toys all nearby.

Speech-language pathologists (SLP) may ask parents to help eliminate distractions. This may be done by blocking the videos of other classmates or the student’s own video image on the screen so that the child can focus entirely on what the teacher is saying. Parents and caregivers will communicate what they’re trying to do. On your part, you can support any learning strategies they’re adopting.

5. Work out a script the child can use

A critical step in helping a child through speech and language delays is creating a positive, supportive atmosphere for learning. Parents are encouraged to teach the child a specific script like, Please say it again. I did not get it. Whenever the child faces difficulties, they can say the sentence to indicate they need help. Look out for these verbal cues and help by repeating the sentence or writing it down so the child can understand.

Virtual classes may be more effective for teaching

Interesting enough, virtual classes could be more effective in helping children with special abilities learn. That’s because they can take classes from their comfort zones at home with their parents nearby to help. Kids benefit from social interaction with their peers, but ultimately can learn in a variety of encouraging environments. As the teacher, your support can go a long way in helping any child overcome challenges and grow as a student and person.

Story by Russell Michelson


Augusta Health Kris McMackin CPA
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Augusta Free Press