Toddler2Teen SLT

Should I get my teenage son assessed by a speech and language therapist? - case study

An observant and empathetic teacher suggested to the parents of a 13 year old boy that something 'didn't quite add up' when she was reviewing their son's progress. He was referred to the school assessment centre and used a computer programme that identified him as having a form of dyslexia affecting his short term auditory memory.speech therapy teenagers

His parents also heard of a speech and language therapist from a friend, who had been working in the local village school and who was recommended by the Headteacher of that school. They contacted Jenny Roder from Toddler2teen speech and language therapy and discussed their son's profile over the phone. Following this conversation, the therapist suggested some possible theories for his lack of understanding and they decided that an assessment would give them further insight into their son's difficulties.

An assessment was completed over two sessions and a lengthy and detailed report was written, explaining both to parents and to his teachers where his language problems lay. Practical suggestions were made throughout the report as to what strategies could be taught and how teachers might modify school work to help this student if they had the resources and time to do so.

A meeting was held with his parents who wanted to know whether his learning and behaviour was a result of past 'bad' school experiences or whether there was truly a language issue. Although it is a complicated business at age 13 to tease out all the possible strands of possible cause, the result was a boy who was experiencing failure, who had low self-esteem and who clearly needed help to forge a better way ahead.

A plan of intervention was mapped out and weekly sessions at school were timetabled with parents attending every fortnight or so. This was in order that they could help support their son at home with the new strategies for improving both his comprehension and his ability to express himself both verbally and in writing.

A programme based upon Visualising and Verbalising Language was taught and this student quickly learnt how to 'see' imagined pictures of both spoken sentences and written paragraphs. Once learnt,this picturing strategy was used to work out the answers to inferencing questions. Simply by looking at the coloured cards used for visualisation, this boy was able to 'see' the answers by looking at his imagined pictures of the text. Visualising is a very powerful strategy and once learnt can never be forgotten. It is a bit like riding a bike. If it is not done for a while, you might be a bit wobbly but the skill soon comes right back.

This student also overcame his difficulty with starting a piece of written work. We practised using the visualising strategy cards to order and organise his writing. Card one was the first paragraph, card two the second and card three the final paragraph. When his first report of an article was completed this young man was amazed at how easy it was and asked if he could use the method in class. We progressed each week looking at how opinions could be expressed, how comparisons could be organised and written about and finally we began to challenge him to use new vocabulary in fluent spoken sentences. At the end of the term of weekly therapy, he was a changed boy.

Parents and his teachers reported that he was now settled, confident and making the choice to work hard in class knowing that he had the full support of everyone who knew his difficulties. His attainment levels for subjects in school improved beyond expectation and this was a fantastic tangible reward for his efforts.

If one message can be sent out to parents or teachers reading this article, it is that it is never too late to give help to a young person who is failing to progress at school. Language demands for class work and homework change throughout school life. Sometimes children can manage through primary school but find that the abstract nature of the secondary curriculum can be an overload for their language processing skills.

If in doubt, ask an experienced speech and language therapist to complete an assessment and to take a detailed amount of information from both teachers and parents. If there is a language based problem then the speech and language therapist will identify it and then implement a programme of work to help the student move forward.

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