Speech pathology in schools – what does a session involve?

Have you ever wondered about our speech pathology sessions and the way they’re delivered in a learning environment?

Our speech pathologists work with very young children and school age children who are living with a vision impairment. They can deliver therapy in the home, school or child care environment.

Communication is one of the building blocks in life. Speech and language problems can impact a child’s ability to think and learn, therefore preventing interaction with others.

Speech Pathologist Emily crouching next to Harlen in play area filled with bean bags ec
Our speech pathologists visit schools. Emily is pictured here with Harlen.

Being able to express ideas is fundamental to a child’s development. Our Speech Pathologists can offer support to:

  • Encourage better speech to ensure it’s easier to understand
  • Support the development of pre-linguistic skills – such as joint attention
  • Improve general communication skills
  • Express and understand written and spoken language
  • Find alternative communication methods
  • Develop mealtime and feeding skills to enable safe eating and drinking
  • Liaise with hospital-based speech pathologists on speech and swallowing disorders
  • Work with family members or caregivers to help with communication strategies
  • Identify any communication aids that may be useful

VisAbility Speech Pathologist Emily gives us an insight into speech pathology in schools with Harlen.

Harlen is four-years-old and has vision impairment, nystagmus, bilateral esotropia, and global developmental delay. He attends a state primary school in the northern suburbs.

Speech pathology in schools

I love my visits to see Harlen who is a very engaging, chatty boy. Harlen has been a client since 2019 and has received other services including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, psychology, and dietetics.

We have established a series of goals for Harlen to improve his expressive and receptive language and narrative skills. Harlen spends an hour with me every fortnight. The beauty of him receiving these sessions in school, means he is more alert and less tired than if they were at the end of the day at home. We try to arrange sessions that fit with his timetable, so he doesn’t miss any important lessons.

Book share activity

When I arrive at the school, we go to a dedicated therapy room and I take out ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ book. Written in 1969, it is still as popular today as it was more than fifty years ago.

A book share activity is one of the best ways to start a session. Reading and talking about the objects that feature in this book encourages language development. In this task, I focus on the fruits in the book, and I encourage Harlen to label the types of food the caterpillar has eaten.

Emily and Harlen point to a fruit in the book
Emily shares a book with Harlen

We recap the story together. I have some cut-out pictures from the story to recap the main events. I ask questions about the story to encourage speech and initiate responses.

On occasions, the storyline will prompt other discussions. In this case, Harlen mentioned a recent holiday to Jurien Bay and his experience of having a bubble bath.

When a child initiates conversation from our book sharing time, I always engage in further talk.

Categorisation and description

The next task is to investigate word meanings and their context through semantics (link opens in new window). Semantics is the study of words, sentences, and phrases and the meaning drawn from them.

I have a box and encourage Harlen to pick out an object. There are three categories within the box: transport, food, and clothes. I want Harlen to group the items – the lorry, plane and car go together, the carrot, apple, and grapes, and the shoes and shirt etc.

Emily and Harlen sit together with Harlen holding a plane up high
Harlen groups together items that match

Semantics are important for a child because it helps develop a better understanding of the world around them. It is more than vocabulary and meaning. It is the ability to understand how these objects connect in ways of:

  • Categorisation (categories and subcategories)
  • Comparison (same and different)
  • Descriptions (talking about function/location/purpose)
  • Associations (matching items that belong together)

Sentence structure

A group of words together can become a sentence. However, for a sentence to be complete, it must express a complete thought and contain a subject, object, and verb. This is basic sentence structure at its simplest.

Emily and Harlen with card games snap
Object cards are used for sentence construction

We finish the session by making some sentences.

Harlen picks a card to select a subject, an action (verb) and an object.

We put the pictures in order to make a sentence.

The sentences are simple: “The man is reading to the baby” or “the wizard is driving the car.”

If you would like to learn more about speech pathology in schools and other services we offer, speak to our Client Experience Team on cetenquiries@visability.com.au.

All our speech pathologists are fully qualified with vast experience working with children with disabilities and low vision. Contact us if you have questions about how we can support your child – whether that be developing language and communication skills or helping with feeding.