Language is the thing that differentiates human beings from others. The ability to use language for communication is a crucial skill that is learned at an early age. It is an integral part of life in society. An individual needs language to express feelings, thoughts, and emotions, to communicate with other people, to learn, and to work. Consequently, proper and timely development of speech competence is crucial since it may influence a person’s further life. Unfortunately, some children have certain speech, language, or hearing problems. These issues negatively affect speech competence and, as a result, communicative skills. Since such disorders are usually revealed at an early age and can be corrected, the role of a teacher in this process is crucial.
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From the moment of birth, a child is with the parents. They may be loving and attentive but not language specialists. Hence, they may not notice the speech, language, or hearing disorders unless they are evident. Those children observe developmental language delay. It means that they do not develop speech and language according to their age or are behind in those necessary skills. When a child starts school, he or she spends part of a day with a teacher. Thus, it is the responsibility of a classroom teacher to notice any discrepancies in a child’s development and to inform parents to provide a child with the support of specialists.
The teachers themselves cannot make a decision that a child has a developmental language delay. The primary task of a teacher is to notice the problem, possibly observe it for some time, and finally, suggest parents consult a language pathologist. Teachers are not allowed to make any diagnoses since they are not doctors. They can just monitor children’s behavior, their participation in activities, and reactions to certain tasks. There are the accepted norms of what a child should do and know at every developmental stage. Of course, these standards are approximate and cannot be applied to all individuals since every child follows a personal development pattern. However, they should correspond to the norms with some variations. The situation when a child has a slower language development than his or her equals are called a language delay. A teacher during the pre-school period may observe and evaluate the ability of children to understand and use language, the ability to say complete sentences and communicate with other kids, the vocabulary that a child operates. The failure in some or all those issues would mean the developmental language delay.
The problems with language abilities and speech competence may have diverse causes. For example, the inability to speak can be conditioned with poor hearing or total loss of hearing. In this case, it is a medical problem and should be solved by the corresponding professional. Only after the physical obstacle is removed, a teacher may join the learning process. If the gearing is not the reason, the cause of speech problems can be found in neurological, physical, or mental issues. They may include problems with voice or articulation, brain damage, environmental deprivation, intellectual disability, etc. As soon as the reason is defined, it is the task of a classroom teacher to organize the learning process in a way to meets the needs of children with problems.
Some schools have separate classes for children with speech, language, and hearing problems. However, the majority of educational institutions provide inclusive education. On the one hand, it can be good for a child. The environment of healthy children might stimulate a child with a delay to work harder. On the other hand, it will be more complicated for teachers. They will have to create a learning environment both helpful for children with problems and challenging for the ones without developmental delays. The difficulties faced by both teachers and children with problems are as follows. First of all, these children have trouble with grasping concepts of grammar and syntax. They demonstrate an understanding of the issues but slower than the average child. Secondly, they need more time to learn the rules or the parts of speech or to comprehend the meaning of a word or sentence. Consequently, a teacher needs to talk slower, with more distinct articulation. Sometimes multiple repetitions or demonstrations can be necessary.
Since speech and language skills are vital for future academic success, a complex approach is needed to minimize the problems. Apart from the teacher, a team of specialists should cooperate. This group includes a language pathologist, psychologist, neurologist in case the problems have a neurological origin, and the parents. The teacher is the main person who provides the learning process. A neurologist treats the corresponding problems in case of necessity. Psychologist takes care of the mental condition of children and eliminates the psychological problems. Language pathologist works with particular language and speech disorders. A specialist may improve pronunciation, articulation, comprehension, etc., thus enabling a classroom teacher to use a wider range of activities aimed at speech and language development. Parents are also equal participants of this team. They are responsible for the continuous learning of their children. Their task is to provide a suitable environment and support every success a child has in the development of speech and language.
On the whole, problems with speech, language, and hearing occur in many children. The responsibility of a classroom teacher together with parents is to detect the disorders and provide the necessary assistance. A timely interference in speech and language problems will enable the development of communicative skills, which are crucial in modern society.