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Frequently Asked Questions

What causes my child to have a speech problem?

It is generally very difficult to know the exact cause of a child’s speech problem. Each child's speech is influenced by many factors. Hearing ability is one factor. Repeated ear infections that impair a child’s ability to hear correctly can directly affect his/her communication skills. Genetic inheritance may also be a factor. It is common, though not always true, that one or both parents or their relatives had speech problems when they were young. While many speech and language patterns can be called "baby talk" and are part of a young child's normal development, if appropriate speech habits are not encouraged, speech and language errors can become a concern when not outgrown as expected. Other possible causes may include an inability to sequence and say sounds, difficulties with fine motor movements, or weaknesses of the lips, jaw, or tongue.

How do developmental speech and language delays impact my child's education and academic performance?

The NJ Core Curriculum Content Standards, article 3.3, states the following with regards to speaking: All students will speak in clear, concise, organized language that varies in content and form for different audiences and purposes.

Communication skills are the foundation of the educational experience. Articulation delays or disorders directly affect a student's ability to speak in a clear concise manner. If a child has difficulty with articulation skills, it may affect the ability to spell, discriminate sounds, and decode words and ultimately to read. Articulation difficulties may interfere with a student’s ability to convey his message effectively and clearly.

Language skills are necessary for effective communication and are needed in all academic areas, as well as social development. Vocabulary and concept growth continues during the years children are in school. Reading and writing are taught and as students get older the understanding and use of language become more complex. A student with a receptive and/or expressive language delay may have difficulty speaking in full sentences, comprehending spoken language, processing information that is lengthy, and learning new word meanings and concepts.

Developmental language delays can negatively impact academic performance in various areas such as: grammar, formulating and responding to questions, expressing thoughts, using complete sentences and engaging in conversational skills.

All communication disorders have the potential of isolating a child from his/her educational and social surroundings. Therefore it is essential to identify any child whose language is not developing normally. Early identification and appropriate intervention may reduce the severity of a language disorder.
What is the role of the Speech-Language Specialist?

The Speech-Language Specialist assists children who have communication disorders in various ways. They provide diagnostic evaluations of children suspected of speech/and or language delays, conduct individual and group therapy, consult with the child's teacher, share their insight and expertise on ways to facilitate the child's communication in the class, and offer parents techniques to implement at home for encouraging the improvement of speech and/or language skills.

How is a child identified for possible speech and/or language services?

The classroom teacher, a support teacher, or the parents may submit a written request for a speech evaluation to the Speech-Language Specialist. If a voice disorder is suspected, the child must first be referred to an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor). If voice therapy is necessary, the doctor's prescription is used to initiate speech therapy. In the case of preschool children, the parent must initiate the request for an evaluation and submit the request to the secretary for the preschool disabled program.

What is the process for determining whether a child is eligible for services?
  • Within 20 calendar days of receiving the referral, a meeting is held with the parents. They are sent an appointment notice requesting their presence at an initial determination meeting to decide if an evaluation is warranted.
  • If testing is necessary, the parents will be asked for their signature giving permission to proceed with the evaluation. All testing and evaluations are individualized and begin only with parental consent.
  • The therapist will obtain a written statement from the regular education teacher regarding the impact of the disability on the child’s educational performance.
  • Upon completion of the speech evaluation, the test results are compared to the specific criteria for speech disorders and/or communication impairment to determine whether the student qualifies for speech/language services.
  • A second meeting is then held. Parents will receive a written report of the evaluation. The outcome of testing will be discussed. If the child’s disability meets eligibility criteria for a speech disorder (articulation, fluency, or voice), and the parents are in agreement, the therapist will develop an individual educational program (IEP) to meet the student’s speech needs. The parents sign the IEP giving permission for their child to be included in the speech program and the student receives the classification eligible for speech and language services.
  • Similarly, if the child's disability meets the criteria for a communication impairment (i.e. a problem with syntax, morphology, semantics, and/or pragmatics), the student will receive the identical classification eligible for speech and language services.
What types of tests are administered?

Formal articulation tests are administered to assess speech sound development. Additional language and fluency tests are considered only for those students exhibiting difficulties in these areas. The speech and language therapist will choose the test(s) most appropriate to your child's problem. Voice problems, referred to the therapist, require prior evaluation by the student’s physician and are eligible for speech services only if voice therapy is prescribed.

Will my child leave the classroom for this service?

Speech/language therapy sessions are provided in individual, small group and classroom settings. Depending on the therapist's assessment and the severity of the student's disability, the number of sessions is then determined. Whenever possible, these sessions are scheduled so as not to interfere with reading and math instruction and to avoid all specials (basic skills, resource, media, music, art, gym, computers). Therapy sessions are held in accordance with each individual school's calendar, school building's schedule and grade level needs.

How long will my child remain in the program?

The length of time is an individual matter, depending on the type and severity of the disorder. In determining the need for continued therapy, the therapist makes a yearly determination of the student's progress and develops a new IEP if needed or recommends dismissal from the program if all goals have been achieved. Parents are invited to an Annual Review meeting where these decisions are discussed and the determination made. When necessary, speech and/or language therapy may continue throughout a student's middle school years and beyond.
What can I do to improve my child’s speech and language?

Be a good speech model. When you child makes an error, correct and repeat what he/she said. Children learn correct speech and language by listening to the speech of their parents and other significant adults.

When your child says something and you don't understand, don't pretend that you do. Instead, encourage your child to tell you again and make every effort to understand. Inability to communicate a message can be very frustrating. Letting him/her know that you do understand encourages good language use.

Literacy-rich environments are crucial for building a child's listening, speaking, reading, and writing abilities. Read to your child. The more your child hears the words and sentences, the more opportunity he/she has to acquire new vocabulary, master speech sound production, and retain and use the language. And after repeated readings of a story, children have been shown to use more language and respond more frequently to questions in more complex ways than they do after hearing it only once.