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Frequently Asked Questions

“My child’s teacher says he is having problems in class but I’m surprised as he has always done really well. What’s changed and why is this happening now?”

Children with mild learning difficulties commonly go unnoticed for years if they have good social skills and are well behaved. It is often not until the demands of school increase that they come their teacher’s attention. This can often be due to underlying language difficulties which are impeding their ability to either understand the class content or express their understanding. Speak & Write conduct full language assessments aimed to pin point the problem or ‘missing link’ so that the student and parents have a better understanding of how this may be impacting their success. Therapy plans are then developed with the student’s and parent’s goals in mind, which involve teaching the students techniques to overcome or manage their difficulties.

“I’ve read my daughter’s essays and she doesn’t seem to be able to explain or expand her ideas clearly. I try to help her but she gets frustrated and we end up arguing. What else can I do?”

Teenagers can find it hard to work with their parents on homework and assignments because the normal parent-child relationship issues get in the way. Students often find it easier to work with the clinicians at Speak & Write as they are not a parent, nor a teacher. The clinician works within the school system therefore they also understand what is expected of the student and can integrate the student’s curriculum into therapy.

“My son always leaves his assignments to the last minute and therefore doesn’t achieve the marks he could if he planned ahead. How can I encourage him to see the benefits of forward planning?”

Students often avoid homework and assignments because they don’t understand what is being asked of them or “how to start”. Speak & Write clinicians teach students language processing techniques to help their comprehension and expression across all subjects and as well as life beyond school. Clinicians also teach students how to organise their workload to ensure they allow themselves enough time to produce quality work.

“Will my child grow out of this?”
“My child seems to still use ‘baby talk’ whilst her other friends are speaking properly. Will my child grow out of this?”
“My child only stutters when she’s excited or rushing to get her words out. Will my child grow out of this?”
“I was slow to learn to speak and read but I still did OK, do I need to worry about my child?”

Early intervention is essential. Research has found the younger a child is when they receive therapy, the better their social, academic and vocational future.  Do not wait to have an assessment if you have concerns, please contact us.

“Why is correct speech important?”

Speech – Understanding how to say words correctly is essential for good literacy skills. If a child has trouble identifying and using the correct sounds in words, they are likely to have difficulty spelling or reading words. Therefore the Speech Pathologists at Speak & Write provide programs designed to address a child’s speech problems with the bigger picture in mind, i.e.  today’s speech skills are tomorrow’s reading and writing skills.

“Why is my child finding it so hard to learn to read and spell?”

It is human nature to communicate however writing and understanding how letter shapes on a page translate into meaning is something we all have to learn by instruction. If your child is one of the many Australian children not developing their reading and writing skills easily, and as a result not achieving their potential, then most likely their learning style is different to that catered to in mainstream schools. Speak & Write create individual literacy programs in conjunction with the student and their parents to ensure we work together towards a goal whilst keeping the individuals learning style and preferences in mind.

“How long will this take?”

Most children with speech difficulties only, can achieve promising results within 8-10 sessions when accompanied by committed home practice. Children with language and literacy difficulties can need help for anything from a term or two, to years depending on the nature of their learning difficulty. Every child is unique and so too are their difficulties, therefore a full assessment must be conducted before an estimate on the necessary treatment duration can be made.

“Why does my child have trouble spelling when their reading is fine?”

We are often asked this question by parents. Many feel frustrated by the fact that their child can read OK, but when it comes to spelling … Another story. The reason some children can read more easily than spell can be explained.

Spelling uses partly different cognitive skills. Reading is a decoding activity. We read/decode letters into sounds and put it all together to say the word. If our language skills are good, we can anticipate the word. Whereas writing is an encoding activity that requires more cognitive processes. To spell a word while writing we have to:

1. hold the word we want to spell in our auditory memory. We often repeat it to ourselves as we try to spell it.
2. sequence the sounds in the word we want to spell, using our working memory.
3. recall how to write each sound by matching our phonological memory (memory of the speech sound) with our orthographic memory (visual memory of the written form) and select the correct letters. English has many different ways of representing the same sound and has some letter combinations that can represent more than one sound. For example, there are five ways to spell the sound ‘ay’: ay, ai, a-e. eigh, ei.

Added to this, English has many spellings that are difficult to predict. It is a language with diverse origins; German, Latin, French, and Greek are common sources, and each follows a different set of rules for spelling.

Finally, we also have to remember the sentence in which we were trying to use the word and where we are up to in the whole written piece.

As you can see, spelling is a very complex mental activity! However, having strong letter-sound knowledge, being taught the rules of spelling and understanding word roots can all help children attain better spelling abilities.

“Is my child dyslexic?” “What is dyslexia?”

Dyslexia refers a range of learning difficulties which are not caused by any intellectual impairment. Even the most bright and intelligent student can demonstrate some or several dyslexic behaviours. To discuss your concerns, please contact us.

“Should I get my child’s hearing checked?”

Definitely. If a child cannot hear well, they will not be able to speak well and this will impact their literacy development. A full hearing assessment by a specialist who conducts auditory processing tests is highly recommended as they assesses a child ability to both ’hear’ the sound (ear function) and ‘understand’ speech sounds (the brain’s ability to process the information correctly). At the minimum, a standard hearing assessment by from an audiologist would be recommended.

“Should I get my child’s eyes checked?”

Yes, it is highly recommended given that a high proportion of children with learning difficulties also have visual processing problems. Assessment is best conducted by a Behavioural Optometrist for two reasons; 1) they have a special interest in patients with learning difficulties, 2) they assess the child’s eyes and also how the brain processes the information the eyes see. Therefore your child may be told they have no problems with their eyes, however this does not mean their brain can accurately interpret what they see. Please refer to the The Australasian College of Behavioural Optometrists site for further details and a list of practitioners.  Click here for more details.

If you have any questions of your own, please do not hesitate to contact Speak & Write.