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Student Support | Meet the SCIS Speech and Language Pathologists

Written by Emily Hastings and Paula Willis, Speech and Language Pathologists at SCIS​

At Shanghai Community International School (SCIS), we recognize and respect our student learning profiles' unique developmental and cultural diversity.

Our Student Support Team has two Speech and Language Pathologists (SLPs): Emily Hastings and Paula Willis. Read more about how these incredible women are providing a positive learning experience so students can feel confident in their work, perform their best in school, and be on a career pathway of their choice.  

 

Language Skills at School  

We know that students use language skills during reading and writing tasks, but did you know that language plays a primary role in classes like Science, Music, Art, Design, Drama, and even P.E.?  

Speech and language skills directly relate to a student’s ability to contribute to classroom discussions, express their knowledge, and join in peer conversations. Students also use language to follow directions throughout the school day, such as, “Put away your books, get your blue folder, and find a spot at the table.” or an instruction in P.E. class like, “The blindfolded player must collect the beanbag and return it to the bucket.” Speech and language skills have a profound and lasting effect on academic growth. 

 

Language Skills at Home 

Language use isn’t limited to the classroom. Language is an essential skill for daily life. We use language to share our news, ask for things, seek help and problem-solve, and build relationships.  

Language skills at home start from the moment a child enters the family. Typically, a child does not need active teaching in their home language; however, providing a language-rich environment is important for all children. When learning multiple languages, specific vocabulary, and grammar do not transfer between them, yet many skills do, such as listening stamina, telling stories with a beginning-middle-end, and knowing conversation rules. 

Some children experience delays or disorders in the speech-language acquisition, meaning their home language (and all languages) are harder for them to learn. This is the population served by speech-language pathologists. 

 

Role of the Speech-Language Pathologist at SCIS 

SCIS employs two full-time speech-language pathologists (SLPs) as members of the Student Support Team. SLPs are professionals who provide formal evaluation, diagnosis, consultation, and treatment for students with clinical communication difficulties, for example:  

  • language comprehension and expression 

  • articulation of speech sounds 

  • stammering/stuttering 

  • social communication  

  • students with learning disabilities, hearing loss, cleft palate, etc.  

  • neurodiverse students (e.g., autistic) 

Working through Early Childhood, Lower School, and Upper School, and with so many diagnoses, what we do varies enormously! Our goals target communication skills that will have a meaningful impact on participation in daily life, such as following directions, negotiating with friends, or asking for help. Whilst the current therapists only work in English, we work on skills that the student needs to improve in all their languages.   

Speech-language therapy is relevant from Early Years all the way to Upper School. Evidence shows that early intervention for speech and language delays gives the best results and can reduce the need for support in later years. Early Years students may have goals around play skills, vocabulary, and early word combinations. As students grow, they need to increase their listening skills to multi-step directions, present several connected ideas, negotiate and plan group projects, explain their needs, and advocate for themselves. 

The SLP collaborates with teachers and families to promote language-building strategies, as well as coach others to be supportive conversation partners.  

Tips for supporting speech-language skills at home: 

Any activity you and your child do together is a chance for language development.   

 

Speak your home language(s) 

Give your child opportunities to practice talking and listening to the language(s) you speak at home via games, books, daily activities, and community interactions. 

 

Interact face-to-face 

Position yourself at your child’s level. For younger children, sit on the floor or at the table, or crouch down low.  

 

Comment instead of question 

Talk about what you and your child are doing or describe what your child is interested in. After speaking, pause and wait for them to respond. 

 

Repeat what your child says, using the correct words or sounds 

If your child makes an error, don’t correct it. Instead, say the sentence back so they can hear your correct model. 

 

Add new words  

If your child says, “That truck is big!”, emphasize a different word that means the same: “Yes, it’s huge!”. Or if your older student remarks, “Cities got bigger and stuff after farming”, respond, “Cities expanded after farming? Wow!” 

 

Talk about books together 

Books are a great way to expand vocabulary. Talk about the characters' attributes and feelings. Make predictions about what might happen next. For older children, encourage your child to summarize the main idea in one sentence: “This book is about a___ who___”. 

 

Play games! 

Look for games that offer opportunities to practice skills such as giving and following directions, asking and answering questions, describing, and learning new words: 

  • Barrier games, such as Hedbanz (ages 7+), and matching and memory games, such as Shopping List (ages 3-7) 

  • Word games, such as I Spy (age 3+) and Twenty Questions: (age 7+)  

  • Verbal memory games (age 8+) e.g., take turns adding items to a verbal list, each player having to repeat the whole list on their turn  

 

Students may be referred to the speech-language pathologist by their teachers or parents or be identified during SLP classroom visits and screening programs.  

Speech-language pathologists are core members of the Student Support Teams at SCIS, providing collaborative support to meet the needs of unique learners. 

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