The first, was a discussion I was having with my principal and a few teachers. The Principal mentioned how in one of her previous schools, an older elementary student (5th or 6th grade) had an /r/ problem and was not being seen because “it didn’t affect his education” since he had all As and Bs.
In another instance, a discussion was held in an online forum where SLPs were not allowed to help students with single-sound errors because it was “not impacting their education.” In yet another instance, in the ASHA School Based Issues list-serve the need for “educational impact” was raised.
What I’d like to know is: when did grades become all of education?
When children come to school it’s not to learn academics. The teachers aren’t preparing them just for learning mathematics, reading, penmanship, and social studies. From an early age, they are also taught social skills, public speaking, how to present oral reports, collaboration, and (in a good school or with good teachers) self-confidence. These aspects are a vital part of the “education” process. Don’t believe me? Okay… look here:
From the Common Core State Standards for 5th grade: ” CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 5 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.”
Still not convinced? Okay, try this 6th grade standard: “CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.6.4 Present claims and findings, sequencing ideas logically and using pertinent descriptions, facts, and details to accentuate main ideas or themes; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.”
Now, since I abhor the idea of having to wait until 5th or 6th grade to work on an /r/ or /s/ problem, let’s see what I can find a bit earlier. Here’s a 3rd grade standard “CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.3.4 Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.”
I think I’m beating a dead horse with the standards (and I try really hard not to do that too often, so let’s change gears just a bit).
What does the profession have to say about “educational impact?”
This is an excerpt from the Division 4 Perspectives. Yes, it mainly has to deal with stuttering; however, what works for stuttering works for articulation as well.
“In some cases, the student who stutters (SWS) may be viewed as a “slow learner” by the teacher and classmates because they are difficult to understand or they do not speak at all in class. For example, a SWS may be embarrassed to ask a teacher to clarify misunderstood concepts.” Insert “articulation error” for “stutter” and it’s still 100% accurate.
From the same article: “…the SLP can address issues of decreased participation in classroom discussions, difficulties giving oral presentations, decreased oral reading fluency, and reluctance to participate in cooperative learning projects. These children may be “passing,” but are not maximizing their potential.” Hmm…there’s some food for thought. They may be “passing” but not “maximizing” so by NOT providing services we are actually causing detriment? Oh oh…that’s a discrimination lawsuit waiting to happen.
This is from the Division 16 perspective. It is specifically geared toward School-based issues. It reads:
“The Reading/Language Arts Content Standards for most states address listening and speaking skills or written and oral language skills. The California frameworks include “share information and ideas, speaking audibly in complete coherent sentences” (California State Board of Education, 1997, p. 5) and “speak clearly and at an appropriate pace for the type of communication (e.g., informal discussion, report to class)” (p. 15). Adverse effects would then include the student inability to achieve speech clarity in the oral applications of the language arts curriculum.”
More from the same article:
“In a recent IEP, a speech student volunteered that he didn’t speak up in class because of his speech problem. Some students are embarrassed about their speech. As a result of their concern about how they sound, they may not participate in the classroom discussions if given opportunity to avoid it. Many teachers grade students on their classroom participation. Being reticent to speak up in class could affect their grade.”
Perhaps most importantly is a critical element regarding education that is over-looked. The purpose of education is NOT to get them through grade 12 (are you surprised by this?). It’s not to encourage them to go to college or vocational school (say what?). The purpose of education is to prepare them for life and to help them become functional adults. Functional adults capable of going on interviews, holding down jobs, etc. From the time a student enters kindergarten we are working toward that end. By teaching a student how to “do” school, they learn work ethics, following directions, completing assignments, interview skills, how to become self-starters, how to advocate for themselves (which translates to negotiating salary and working conditions), independent thinking, etc. By not providing services to those students with single-sound errors, we are hindering their ability to become functional adults.
Don’t believe me? This is from the Division 16 perspective again:
“An additional consideration of adverse effects due to poor articulation may place limitations on a student’s vocational choices. Education provides everyone with a greater number of options in the world of work. If one’s speech adversely draws attention to a person, careers such as sales, media, retail, and customer service are a few choices that may not be considerations for a person with a speech disorder.”
One of the first things my principal thought of when she heard the student speak was “how was he going to get a job?” She had a point – regardless of whether or not it’s true, society views people with speaking differences as less than perfect. This is evident in the number of comedy sketches that portray people with articulation errors and the number of people looking for accent reduction therapy. People think it’s “funny sounding” and if two candidates apply for the same job, it most likely will not be the one with the articulation difference that gets hired.
So…the next time someone asks you “How is it affecting his education” look beyond grades…look beyond academics and look at his education – his life. If you can honestly say that not being able to say /r/ or /s/ won’t adversely affect his life when he’s an adult – more power to you. For me, I’m not willing to take that chance. I want to know I have done everything possible to help this student be successful in life – and if that means I advocate for them to be able to receive services so they don’t sound different from their peers….then that’s what I’m going to do.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. How does your school district help these students? How can we all advocate to get these students help?
Until then…Adventure on!