Learning about literacy: the role of a Speech Language Therapist

Literacy refers to reading and writing skills.

How do literacy skills develop?

Early pre -literacy skills are developed by reading books, following narratives, recognising sign boards in the environment, learning vocabulary, and identifying letters and sounds. By creating this love for reading at an early age, parents provide the foundations for building early literacy skills.

Why does a child struggle with literacy?

Children with speech and language delays often have difficulty with literacy skills. Children who have difficulty with articulation (pronouncing) or understanding certain speech sounds may have difficulty with reading and writing those sounds as well. This can lead to trouble in decoding and sounding out words.

Children with language delays may not fully understand all parts of language, such as grammar, syntax (sentence structure), vocabulary, etc. This can lead to problems understanding text or putting ideas into writing in a logical manner.

Signs that your child is struggling with literacy in preschool

  • Challenges in recognising letters by age 5.
  • Difficulty with phonological awareness skills.
  • Resistance to reading activities.

Signs that your child is struggling with literacy in primary school

  • Guessing unknown words.
  • Difficulty with spelling.
  • Slow paced reading  and gets easily distracted or irritable with reading-related tasks.

How can Speech Language Therapists (SLT) help improve literacy?

  • Before children are ready to read, write, and spell, they develop phonological awareness skills. These skills help them understand how words are made up of sounds and sounds are represented by letters. SLT’s can help develop these skills.
  • SLT’s play a role in correcting the underlying speech and language problems such as speech sound production, working on grammar and vocabulary etc.
  • SLT’s are able to improve literacy through directly teaching the skills of reading and writing. They aid literacy through targeting reading with the purpose of comprehension.
  • Furthermore, SLT’s target reading fluency as those who are able to read fluently will also have better comprehension.

If you are concerned with any of the above signs listed above, it is best to contact a Speech Language Therapist (SLT) for an assessment of your child’s speech and language and literacy skills. No age is too early to meet for an assessment to decide if treatment is needed.  

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