Speech Language

Speech and language therapists by school building

  • Altamont Elementary School: Bonnie Martel, Karen Lajeunesse
  • Guilderland Elementary School: Anna Hanson
  • Lynnwood Elementary School: Shauna Otsu-Schechner, Chris Van Oort
  • Pine Bush Elementary School: Chris VanOort
  • Westmere Elementary School: Carrie Windecker
  • Farnsworth Middle School: Katelynn Carroll, Katie Giglio
  • Guilderland High School: Debra Kottage-Perrotto

What types of speech and language disorders affect school-age children?

Children may experience one or more of the following disorders:

  • Speech sound disorders – (difficulty pronouncing sounds)
  • Language disorders – (difficulty understanding what they hear as well as expressing themselves with words)
  • Cognitive-communication disorders – (difficulty with thinking skills including perception, memory, awareness, reasoning, judgment, intellect and imagination)
  • Stuttering (fluency) disorders – (interruption of the flow of speech that may include hesitations, repetitions, prolongations of sounds or words)
  • Voice disorders – (quality of voice that may include hoarseness, nasality, volume (too loud or soft)

If my child has a speech or language disorder, how does it affect their learning?

Language [reading, writing, listening, gesturing & speaking] is the basis of communication. People with a communication disorder frequently do not perform at grade level. They may struggle with reading, have difficulty understanding and expressing language, misunderstand social cues, avoid attending school, show poor judgment, and have difficulty with tests. Difficulty in learning to listen, speak, read, or write can result from problems in language development. Problems can occur in the production, comprehension, and awareness of language sounds, syllables, words, sentences, and conversation. Individuals with reading and writing problems also may have trouble using language to communicate, think, and learn.

What can speech and language therapy for my child include?

  • Articulation therapy: When a child distorts a sound that should be developmentally stable, s/he may receive articulation therapy [or speedy speech], to address the sound(s)
  • Language therapy: When a child has difficulty understanding language, needs to increase a vocabulary base, has difficulty processing language in a large classroom, doesn’t understand basic concepts, abstract concepts, or has difficulty with the curriculum
  • Stuttering therapy: If a child stutters, the child may receive stuttering therapy to work on ways to become more fluent when speaking across different situations and with different people in different environments
  • Pragmatics [social skills]: Some students may have difficulty understanding the concept of sharing, keeping up with the pace of social language in the upper grades, or picking up on subtle hints such as eye contact, facial expressions and body language. Children who have difficulty beginning and ending conversations or topic maintenance receive functional support. At the high school level, many students receive functional support in the work place to help them carry out these skills in real world situations.

What is “Speedy Speech”?

  • Children with mild articulation errors (could be any number of errors, including clusters)
  • Research based: In October 2005, “a new program was developed for elementary school students who did not qualify for speech/language services, but whose spontaneous speech contained sound errors that were no longer developmentally appropriate.” (Kuhn, Debra. “Speedy Speech: Efficient Service Delivery for Articulation Errors”, School-Based Issues. Dec. 2006.)
  • Children are seen individually outside the classroom, 3-4 times per week for 5-10 minutes
  • Children receive homework each night do to with parents to practice sound
  • Speedy speech is a “carryover/homework-based” program

What does a speech and language assessment include?

  • Observation of student
  • Minimum of two standardized tests
  • Discussion with classroom teacher & parent
  • Discussion at IST (Instructional Support Team) and/or with parent

How do I find out the results?

Typically, the SLP will send home a report and discuss it with you over the phone OR at an IST meeting (Instructional Support Team)

What if my child needs a speech and language evaluation and attends a private school?

  • Written referral is made by parent/ school to Administrator for Elementary Special Programs
  • Referral is assigned to district Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP)
  • SLP contacts the parent to discuss options; at home strategies, clinical therapy, speech and language evaluation or contact with educator to suggest classroom interventions.
  • If a referral does not result in an evaluation, the SLP will summarize conversation with parent(s) and/or informal observations, share summary with family and obtain parent signature on summary report.
  • If an evaluation is the agreed upon option, parent is asked to sign permission and return to the SLP.
  • SLP and parent make arrangements for the evaluation
  • When the evaluation is complete and a report is generated, the SLP shares the report with the parent.
  • Parent is responsible to share report with school personnel.
  • School personnel may contact SLP directly with questions or request a meeting with parent, school staff and SLP if appropriate.
  • If the child is going to receive speech/language therapy, the SLP who will provide services will get in touch with the parent to discuss times/frequency

What are some helpful websites for questions about speech-language development?

  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association – Speech and Language Development
  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association – Late Bloomer or Language Problem?
  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: Speech Referral Guidelines for Pediatrics – Knowing when to refer your child.
  • Super Duper Publications – Buy speech/language items, read parent-friendly hand-outs and a parent help section.
  • The Stuttering Foundation – Find parent and child resources and get answers to questions about stuttering.

What can I do at home?

  • Games, Ideas, and books to encourage language skills:
    • Enrich vocabulary with language-based games such as I spy, Guess Who, 20 Questions, Scattegories, Apples to Apples, Catch Phrase, Guess Who, or Wheel of Fortune. Crossword puzzles and word search games are excellent written vocabulary games.
    • Books: Amelia Bedelia, Riddle and Joke books, Rhyming books, Cookbooks and Cooking activities (for sequencing and following directions), If You Give a Mouse a Cookie book series, seasonal books to talk about seasonal vocabulary (books about holidays, seasons, etc.)

As you’re reading, stop every page or so to ask questions about what’s happening & what may happen next

  • Use everyday objects around the house to teach plurals. “I have a spoon. You have two spoons.
  • Provide an “auditory-enriched environment”. Surrounding your child with various types of sound stimulation opens up the ears for learning. Try books on CD/tape, various types of music, and environmental sound tapes/CDs.
  • Have fun conversations! Use the dinner table like a speech clinic. Discuss everything from daily events to what’s in each room of the house. Conversational skills, such as continuation of the topic and turn taking are essential parts of speech and language.
  • Know your child’s learning strengths and weaknesses. There are many forms of intelligence, including linguistic, kinesthetic (body), musical, artistic, logical, and social. Use your child’s strong areas to help speech and language develop. For example, if you child is gifted musically, let him/her sing a song to practice speech sounds.


  • When reading to your child, use good speech models and ask your child to repeat. Children learn speech and language through imitation.
  • Being aware of your own speech production, including grammar/articulation, helps your child improve his/her own skill.
  • Point out words with their speech sound while speaking and reading, or ask how many words s/he can think of that have the targeted sound.
  • While brushing their teeth in a mirror, explore the way you can move the tongue, teeth, and lips and what positions they need to be in to produce target sounds
  • Use a mirror to help your child with articulation homework. Your child learns where to position the tongue, lips, and teeth in therapy. The child uses a mirror to watch the mouth until s/he can make the sound correctly in words.
  • Let your child know how important speech is to you. If your child thinks that speech comes AFTER all other things, s/he will not do the best he/she can.

Auditory processing

From Susan Bell’s book, What is Auditory Processing?:

  • Use family trips and errands as a way for children to listen and learn. For example, on a trip to the supermarket, tell your child 3 or 4 items you need, then ask for them to be repeated or brought to you.
  • To help with memory, break information into shorter “chunks” or segments, and pause between each segment. For example: “Put on your pajamas (pause), and wash your face (pause). Chunking spoken messages allows children more time to process or absorb the entire message.
  • Get children’s attention before you speak to them. Cue them to “tune in” by saying, “Susie, this is important…” or “Ryan, listen carefully-I’m going to tell you what to do.” Vary the attention-getting phrases so the child doesn’t begin to tune them out as well.

Language Processing

*Taken from The Source for Processing Disorders by Gail J. Richard, PhD (2001)

  • When you are taking a child to new places or involving him/her in new activities, try to give experiences using as many senses as possible (for example, in a new museum, s/he can look at an exhibit, listen to the sounds the exhibit is making, touch parts of it-if allowed, move like the statues in the exhibit, etc.). S/He will be more likely to remember what s/he’s experienced if s/he’s had exposure to it through as many modalities as possible.
  • Supplement what you say with something s/he can see, when this is possible. If you’re asking him/her to go to the table and get the backpack, you can also point to the backpack.
  • If you’ve done something like seeing a movie, buy a book about the movie (preferably with pictures or photos from the movie), so that s/he will have something concrete to help review what happened in the movie. Have your child retell the events in the movie while looking at the book. Picture book/CD sets related to movies seen are also a good way to review the movie.
  • Allow your child “thinking time” before you expect an answer to a question. The typical amount of time we expect between a question and an answer is 2-4 seconds. A rule of thumb is to count to 10 before you help answer a question. This is hard to do, but it’s probably the single most important strategy you can use.
  • Feel free to repeat, rephrase or further explain what you’ve said to your child if you think it will help him/her understand (you should still give him plenty of time to respond).
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