Speech Language Campaign

Weakley Schools Speech/Language Pathologists See Increase in Communication Difficulties
Posted on 05/16/2021
This is the image for the news article titled Weakley Schools Speech/Language Pathologists See Increase in Communication DifficultiesAs the national Better Speech and Hearing Month comes to a close, Weakley County Schools’ speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are set to launch an awareness campaign to help families know speech and language disorders are among the most common disorders in school-aged children and are treatable. Some can even be prevented if identified early.

The four SLPs working with Weakley County students are Gena Harris, Caitlin Tucker, Kristin Westphal, and Lauren Mitchell. They are collaborating to provide the content for the campaign which will appear on www.weakleycountyschools.com and in the system’s social media.

Speech and language referrals have increased over the last few years, the group reported in a recent meeting to discuss the campaign. As one means to address that rise, the new webpages and related social media posts will provide parents with background on speech and language milestones, tips to encourage language and speech development at home, community resources and other informational links.

Harris is in her 20th year with the district and focuses on the Dresden schools. She has a Master of Science and a Certificate of Clinical Competence. Her long view enables her to point out that currently more students overall -- and particularly pre-K -- are presenting with language issues such as how well they understand what they hear or read and how they use words to talk with others.

Mitchell began her WCS stint in August with Gleason and Greenfield Schools. She has her Master of Science and recently completed her clinical fellowship.

definitionsMitchell observed that many families are not aware that SLPs with the school system can start interventions beginning at three years of age.

Tucker and Kristin Westphal round out the SLP team. Both have their masters’ and Certificates of Clinical Competence. Tucker is in her fifth year and works with Sharon School while Westphal completed her second year serving Martin Primary and Martin Elementary.

They have all seen a rise in speech and language delays among young children. One contributing factor to this increase in developmental delays, they say, may be linked to increased screen time in children.

Westphal added, “I can tell how far behind the younger children are. We have a cause – not providing good speech models, vocabulary, and social skills like turn-taking; and we have an effect – limited speech sounds and reduced vocabulary.”

Tucker pointed out that closures due to the pandemic last spring put a spotlight on what happens when the necessary interaction is reduced. “We have definitely seen students be less verbal since schools were closed and have observed improvement since returning,” she said.

When the specialists’ ongoing interaction with students came to a halt in March, contacts with their students continued throughout the spring and summer. Students who were a part of the Monitored Distance Education program and studied at home also continued to be served by the SLPs.

Speech/language pathologists address a myriad of issues including how sounds are said and put together into words; how well language that is heard, read or spoken is understood; literacy; how well social communication like taking turns is followed; how voices sound; fluency or how well speech flows; cognitive communication; and feeding and swallowing.

If concerned about a child’s speech or language, contact the local school.

Weakley Schools Speech/Language Pathologists
are concerned about a rise in speech and language delays among young children. They recently met to discuss an awareness campaign that will include approaches families can use to disconnect from technology, tips for eliciting language in young children, and suggestions for games and activities to practice social skills and build vocabulary. Gathered for the discussion were (from left to right) Kristin Westphal, Lauren Mitchell, Caitlin Tucker, and Gena Harris.

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