Speech Pathology in the Classroom

By Meagan Tucker

Senior Speech Pathologist

Students with speech, language and communication difficulties often receive support from a speech pathologist. Sometimes, a student’s speech pathologist may work alongside students, teachers and educational support staff in the classroom to support engagement and participation in school activities.

Why might a speech pathologist be required to support a student in a classroom?

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Difficulties with speech, language and communication can impact a student’s ability to complete schoolwork, follow instructions, and develop relationships with their peers. Speech, language and communication skills, such as the awareness of sounds in words, vocabulary knowledge, and the ability to understand the structure of sentences and stories underpin learning. Some of the areas that may be supported in the classroom environment include:

Speech:

Students may have difficulty with spoken language. They may struggle to say sounds or speak clearly, impacting their ability to participate in whole class and group activities and to communicate effectively with their peers.

Language:

The student may have difficulty with understanding (receptive language) and with using spoken language (expressive language skills).  Expressive language skills are required to express your wants, needs, thoughts and feelings through verbal and/or non-verbal communication. Receptive language skills are essential to understanding and comprehending spoken and written language. Children who have difficulty understanding language may struggle with the following:

  • Following directions
  • Understanding what gestures mean
  • Answering questions
  • Identifying objects and pictures
  • Reading comprehension
  • Understanding a story

Literacy:

Students may require support to develop their pre-literacy skills such as phonological awareness (the awareness that words are made up of separate parts and sounds) and letter/sound knowledge, which are essential in the development of literacy skills.

Swallowing and Nutrition:

Students may require support to ensure mealtime safety in all environments, including school. Adequate nutrition is vital in managing fatigue and facilitating participation in learning, therapy and play.

Social Communication:

Students may have difficulty interacting with peers, participating in conversations, playing games, engaging in conflict resolution and understanding the perspectives of others, all of which are an important part of school life.

Complex Communication:

Students may use a variety of communication methods that are alternatives to speech such as signs, gestures, communication books, or speech output devices. These are called augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Speech pathologists may work with a student’s school support network to integrate AAC into the learning environment. The speech pathologist may work directly with the student to develop their communication skills as well providing support to educators and peers to understand how the student communicates.

How can a speech pathologist support a student?

The speech pathologist’s main goal is to help the student do well at school, if necessary, the speech pathologist will reach out to the student’s school and teacher and work with them to come up with a suitable arrangement. You can learn more about this by reading our article How do therapists work in schools?

Once in the classroom, the speech pathologist will deliver services to support the student to achieve their goals. Working in collaboration with a student’s support network such as families and education staff ensures that support and strategies can be embedded into daily routines and activities consistently across all environments.

Speech Pathology

Our speech pathologists provide support to people who have difficulty communicating and swallowing.