When parents are in school meetings for IEPs or 504's, it feels like the school staff is speaking a different language. What are they saying about IEP's, BIP's, FBA's and MDR's? It's overwhelming to understand not only the special education process, but it's even harder to comprehend what exactly they are saying your child's deficits are. As a Special Education Advocate, I try hard to make sure parents understand the process and what the terms mean. I also like to provide educational resources to help them better understand what exactly their child struggles with and what will help them at home or at school.
WHAT ARE SPEECH AND LANGUAGE DISORDERS:
Speech and language disorders make it difficult for children to organize and articulate their thoughts, ideas and things they want to say using either written or spoken language. Some children may just have a speech delay and won't have an actual disorder. Others however can go on to get diagnosed with a specific disability.
TYPES OF LANGUAGE DISORDERS:
The most common disorders I see as a Special Education Advocate are:
- Expressive Language
- Receptive Language
- Mixed Language
Regardless of which speech and language disorder a child has, interventions and supports can greatly help improve their abilities in these areas. That is why pursuing an appropriate 504 plan or IEP is essential as soon as possible.
WHAT IS EXPRESSIVE LANGUAGE DISORDER?
This developmental disorder is fairly common in k-12 children. Often, they struggle with learning vocabulary, remembering words and putting together and using more complex sentences. They don't necessarily have a problem understanding or comprehending written or spoken language. Their challenges come in when expressing language in a verbal or written form.
WHAT DOES EXPRESSIVE LANGUAGE DISORDER LOOK LIKE?
Grammar Challenges: You may see your child have challenges using correct grammar. Sometimes their sentence structure is not well organized or very limited. They may also have a hard time using the correct verb tenses or leaving out important words.
Narrow Vocabulary Skills: Their vocabulary knowledge can appear below what their neurotypical peers can demonstrate. They may have limited word use and it may be difficult for them to express thoughts or what they want to say clearly. Remembering new words and learning new words can be really hard for them.
Limited Ability to Ask Questions: A child may exhibit a hard time initiating questions to clarify things they don't understand or need more information on. Also, if asked questions, they may give very basic or simple answers without fully conveying their thoughts.
Thought Sequence Skills: Children struggling with expressive language have a hard time explaining things in the order they happened. Explaining something in the right order or sequence can be very difficult so they often express things out of order where it may not make complete sense.
Inferred Meanings: It can be very hard for a child with an expressive language deficit to fully understand things that are inferred like idioms or metaphors. It is hard for them to connect these things into meaning.
WHAT IS RECEPTIVE LANGUAGE DISORDER?
There are five domains of language including morphology, phonology, semantics, syntax and pragmatics. These areas are affected when a child has a receptive language disorder. These challenges can make it difficult for a child to understand spoken communication, written communication, and behaviors.
WHAT DOES RECEPTIVE LANGUAGE DISORDER LOOK LIKE?
- may appear to be not listening or not interested in what is being said
- difficulty following directions or completing tasks
- limited ability to ask questions
- often misunderstands things or asks people to repeat things often
- limited vocabulary
- difficulty understanding jokes and takes things literally in meaning
- hard time focusing
MIXED EXPRESSIVE LANGUAGE & RECEPTIVE LANGUAGE DISORDER:
Some children possess both disorders which can be extremely challenging for them at school. Not only do they have a hard time comprehending things in writing or spoken, but they really struggle to organize and express their thoughts both verbally and in writing.
GET A FREE COPY OF OUR EXPRESSIVE AND RECEPTIVE LANGUAGE DOCUMENT
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU SUSPECT A SPEECH AND LANGUAGE DISORDER
Once you suspect a diagnosis, get an evaluation as soon as possible. You can obtain an independent evaluation on your own with a Speech Pathologist in your community. You can also request the school evaluate your child for a speech and language disorder in writing. Ask for an IEP evaluation and site the concerns you have and how you believe it is impacting your child academically and socially at school. If you already have an independent diagnosis, provide that diagnosis information along with your IEP evaluation request to the school. Direct you request to the Special Education Director. You can include the principal in your request as well.
WHAT HELPS AND SUPPORTS LEARNING WHEN A SPEECH AND LANGUAGE DISORDER IS PRESENT?
Depending on whether your child has one language disorder or a mixed diagnosis, there are a variety of accommodations and supports available to help them improve these deficits. If your child qualifies for an IEP, supports from resource room teachers and or a Speech Pathologist can be provided. Usually, these supports are tied to specific goals in the IEP to help your child make progress in these deficient areas. An IEP will also include a variety of accommodations to help your child. If the child does not qualify for an IEP and is place on a 504 plan, accommodations will still be put in place.
WHAT ACCOMMODATIONS SUPPORT SPEECH AND LANGUAGE DISORDERS?
There are several different accommodations that can be implemented. The accommodations should be determined specifically based on your child and his or her individual situation. Some common accommodations for speech and language disorders include:
- more time to complete classwork, assignments or homework
- breaks from work when they get overwhelmed
- providing outlines of instructions, notes and comprehensive information
- non-verbal visual cues or actions
- break larger assignments down into smaller parts
- provide vocabulary list before learning new topics
- graphic organizers to prompt writing assignments
If your suspect your child has a speech and language disorder, don't delay in getting an evaluation. You will want to get interventions started as soon as possible. Take the time to understand what expressive language and receptive language disorders look like so you know how to advocate for your child at school and have a better sense of how to support them at home. I personally know how overwhelming and frustrating the special education process is. Don't give up! Just keep advocating! If you need help, contact us!