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Why Speech and Language Skills are Essential for Academic Success

10 Oct 2020

Why Speech and Language Skills are Essential for Academic Success

By Leanne Sherred

Language is the basis of communication. It helps children express themselves, understand others, and serves as the precursor for speech production.

There are many reasons why underdeveloped speech and language skills can take a toll on classroom performance. Without a strong foundation of language, children can struggle academically, experience poor confidence, feel withdrawn and isolated, and more. 

In this article, we’re going to discuss common communication problems in young children, how they can affect academic achievement, and why early intervention is critical.


Typical Communication Issues

Speech and language disorders in children are fairly common, with 8% of children between the ages of 3-17 experiencing them

Some common disorders that can have an impact of academics include:

●    Speech Sound Disorders: Children with speech sound disorders have difficulty pronouncing sounds and words past an expected age. Common examples include the “z” “sh” and “zh” sounds. Speech sound disorders cover both articulation disorders, where children have trouble coordinating their mouth movements to produce legible speech, and phonological disorders, in which children can pronounce sounds correctly but have trouble stringing them together into coherent words. 

●    Speech Delay: This occurs when a child doesn’t reach typical speech milestones for their age. This is common in a child’s preschool years, and is often recognizable in children that are lagging behind their peers. 

●    Language Disorders: Language disorders can affect how children express their thoughts, utilize new vocabulary, or put words into sentences (expressive language disorder), as well as how well they comprehend people around them and interpret meaning from verbal or written communication (receptive language).

●    Stuttering: Stuttering is common in young children, and can disrupt the flow of their speech. They may repeat sounds or words, extend them, use interjections, or routinely pause when talking. While stuttering doesn’t affect how children retain and interpret language, it can affect their confidence and self-esteem. 

●    Lisps: Lisps are one of the most noticeable and common speech imperfections in young children. They occur due to incorrect tongue placement that typically causes someone to make a “th” sound when attempting to use a “s” or “z” sound. And while they don’t often have an outsized effect on a person’s ability to be understood, they can lead children to feel insecure and embarrassed. 


How Communication Issues Can Affect a Child’s Academic Success

There are a number of reasons why speech and language deficits can cause poor grades and lead children to struggle academically. 

●    Language Comprehension: Many children with speech and language issues struggle to process and comprehend verbal instruction. This can affect their ability to remember information, absorb lessons, follow directions, and complete homework assignments. 

●    Reading and Writing: A solid foundation in language is essential for early literacy skills, such as reading, writing, and spelling. Children must be able to isolate and differentiate certain speech sounds, and then map these sounds onto printed letters and words. This is why the ability to comprehend both verbal and nonverbal communication is one of the earlier precursors for literacy achievement.

●    Social and Emotional Well-Being: Once children enter school, and they’re surrounded by classmates their own age, their communication challenges can become more pronounced and noticeable. Children are keen observers of their surroundings, and these stark differences can lead to poor confidence and social isolation due to fear of being teased or embarrassed.

●    Lack of Participation: Similarly, students that are self-conscious may be less likely to hold meaningful conversations, socialize with peers, and speak publically within a group setting. This can undermine their ability to be an active participant in class. 


How You Can Help

As an educator, you play a key role in helping identify signs of communication difficulties, speaking with parents, and ensuring children receive appropriate intervention. 

Speech therapy from a certified and licensed speech-language pathologist is generally recommended for children struggling with communication skills. These communication experts can help evaluate, diagnosis, and treat a wide range of speech and language issues. 

In addition to speech therapy offered in school, many parents choose to seek supplemental care. Increasingly, online speech therapy has been growing in popularity both due to COVID-19, as well as the many affordability and convenience advantages it offers to families. 

Either way, ensuring children receive the appropriate intervention will help them grow into effective and confident communicators so they can reach their full academic potential. 


About Leanne Sherred, M.S. CCC-SLP:

Leanne calls Austin, Texas home but studied Speech and Hearing Sciences at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and gained her Master's in Speech-language pathology from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She has worked in pediatric outpatient clinics, schools, early intervention, and home health. Leanne is currently the President and Founder of Expressable online speech therapy, a company that envisions a modern and affordable way for anyone who needs speech therapy to access these vital services. You can check out her blog here


The views expressed by the writer and recommendations above do not necessarily reflect the views and recommendations of The Educator.




1- How to Support Speech Development in Children

2- How to Identify Early Developmental Delays with Speech

3- Supporting Children With Autism


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