Too often I come across administrators, teachers, and even sometimes parents who underestimate the impact of language upon academic success. Think about how content is delivered within the classroom. Think about how directions are given. Think about how your child is asked to convey his/her knowledge. All of these modes are through language. As a result, children with language impairments ARE at academic risk. Understanding what the specific challenges your child faces and what accommodations can or should be made within their academic environment can make a world of difference in their success and growth.
Language Impaired children may not qualify for Special Education with a “Specific Learning Disability” but they may qualify with a “Speech and Language Impairment”. This disability entitles them to the classroom accommodations that they need just as any child with a learning disability is entitled to. These accommodations would be laid out in an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) tailored especially for your child’s needs. Some accommodations, depending on the nature of your child’s language impairment may include things like: having your child repeat directions back to the teacher, allowing your child extended time on tests and assignments, providing your child with a word bank for written essays, providing your child with a copy of the teacher’s notes, multi sensory presentation of information, frequently checking with your child for comprehension, seating your child near the teacher, etc… The accommodations would be driven by your child’s disability and formulated by a team of professionals such as the classroom teacher, the speech-language pathologist, a psychologist, the principal… You also are an important part of your child’s educational team and so facilitating regular and open communication channels with your child’s school is imperative. With good support at home and at school to teach and facilitate use of strategies, children can have really successful outcomes.
Sometimes, you, as the parent, are your child’s entry point for getting the help that they need within the educational system. With that in mind, remember the critical role that language plays in both the way that information is presented at school and in the way that our children are asked to convey their knowledge, and if somebody hints that accommodations are not needed because “it is just a language impairment”, stand ready to help them to adjust their perspective on your child’s behalf.