I will outline current, evidence-based practices for language disorder therapy. The key here is CURRENT and EVIDENCE-BASED. Unfortunately, there are a lot of scams out there so beware and stick with me :).
Language Disorder Therapy
The purpose of language therapy is to jump start language development and to teach needed language skills in an integrated fashion.
Therapy is complex and systematic. Also, due to the nature of language disorders, a child’s progress should always be monitored and goals/treatment re-addressed as needed.
First, developmentally appropriate therapy goals are created from the results of a comprehensive evaluation and are designed to help a child reach communication and academic success.
Roth and Worthington (2015) came up with some basic principles for language therapy that I LOVE and LIVE by (and so should you) - I’ll summarize them below.
- Teach strategies for facilitating communication rather than teaching isolated behaviors (comprehensive approach which only makes sense since language is comprehensive)
- Provide dynamic assessment and dynamic therapy in order to monitor progress and adjust treatment plans as necessary (I also LIVE by this)
- Provide individualized treatment based on a child’s needs (goals, cues, materials, stimuli)
- Treatment goals should aim to help children achieve one level above their current level (systematic approach)
Language Therapy For Preschoolers (Ages 3–5)
Language disorder therapy will look different depending on a child’s interests, areas of need, and goals.
Below are typical areas of intervention for preschool children. These are broad examples based on expected milestones.
- Improving intelligibility: improving production of specific sounds and/or decreasing use of phonological processes
- Improving phonological awareness skills: rhyming, blending, segmenting
- Increasing size of vocabulary
- Increasing understanding of semantic relationships (i.e., categorization)
Morphology and Syntax
- Facilitating use of age-appropriate morphemes
- Increasing sentence length, complexity, and use of varied sentence types
- Increasing flexibility of language for various contexts/uses
- Initiating and maintaining conversation
- Turn taking in conversation
- Topic maintenance and appropriate topic shifts
Literacy (pre-literacy skills)
- Exposure to books
- Understanding simple story structure (characters, setting, initiating event, resolution)
- Letter knowledge
Therapy for School-Aged Children
Again, therapy for a school-aged child will look different depending on each child’s individual areas of need and strengths. Also, therapy will include materials from a child’s school curriculum as able.
Some typical areas of intervention include:
Literacy Skills (not decoding and fluency)
- Reading comprehension
- Writing (structure - main idea, details, introduction, etc..)
- Paraphrasing information
Metacognitive and Metalinguistic Skills
- Self-monitoring skills
- Increasing awareness of language rules
- Increasing vocabulary and improving vocabulary depth
- Understanding figurative language and multiple-meaning words
Morphology and Syntax
- Increasing use of advanced morphology
- Improving morpho-syntactic skills
- Understand and use complex sentence structures
- Ability to correct grammar errors
- Using language in various contexts
- Differentiating levels of discourse (i.e., academic vs social interaction)
- Learn how to repair communication breakdowns
These interventions are based on operant learning: reduce/eliminate the unwanted behaviors and replace them with new behaviors.
Some examples include:
- Discrete Trial Training: Teaches a new behavior systematically. A child receives a reward for the desired behavior and a consequence for the unwanted behavior. Articulation therapy usually uses this one!
- Incidental Teaching: This is a popular language technique for early childhood clients. Basically, you follow the child’s lead. The child attempts to communicate are reinforced and shaped into desired behaviors.
- Milieu Therapy: This one is new for me. However, as I learn more about it, I realize that I am already doing it but now I have a name for it. From what I understand, it is reinforcing desired language behaviors during daily activities (the whole purpose of my site!) and as naturally as possible.
- Clinician-Oriented: The speech pathologist chooses stimuli/activity and provides specific cues and reinforcement for correct responses. This approach uses operant learning (see above).
- Child-Oriented: The speech pathologist follows the child’s lead and uses indirect language stimulation techniques to stimulate language growth. This approach is typically used with young children but can be modified for use with older children.
- Hybrid: The speech pathologist creates activities that are meaningful and natural for the child but allows for multiple opportunities for the child to practice targeted language forms “spontaneously.
What you can do at home today!
Now, we are getting to the good stuff. What can you do about it!
There is actually A LOT you can do. It will depend on your child’s age and areas of need.
Below are free, functional language disorder therapy games by age:
Paid options. For a few dollars, you will access to step-by-step guides and printable materials.
- Join our membership program for a step-by-step guide on how to elicit those first words.
Good luck with your therapy program and leave a note if you have a question or concern.