Chapter 3 Application

I was extremely excited to be assigned the “Neuroplasticity” chapter, as I find brain science to be one of the most interesting topics to read about. But I was a bit stumped initially on how to address neuroplasticity in application form. So I decided to focus on some specific points Dana Suskind made within the chapter and derive some application possibilities from those.

It’s All in the Timing

In this section of chapter 3, Suskind reminds us that brain development, “occurs in a hierarchical fashion, with the ‘basic’ abilities providing the foundation on which the more complex ones are built.” I was thinking about how important this concept is when deciding IEP goals. We are constantly having to assess which skill to work on at what time with our students. Specifically, this reminded me about minimal pairs.  So many of our phonological students don’t actually hear the difference between a /g/ and a /d/ or the word “row” and the word “rope” or an /st/ and an /s/.  And yet oftentimes, I skip right over any discrimination training and go straight to working on producing the target sound. So my first takeaway “application” is just a reminder to not skip the minimal pair discrimination work. Maybe the rest of you are always on top of this, but I was glad to have the reminder to build a solid foundation before moving onto complex skills.

Why Can’t We Do It?

In this section, Suskind writes about what we already know as SLPs: that all children are born with systems in tact to learn phonemes from all languages, but if they are not exposed to certain phonemes in the first year of life, those neurological pathways are deemed “extraneous” by the brain and sounds  to which we were not exposed become much more difficult to hear or speak later in life.

The application here is fairly straightforward – don’t forget to consider phonological differences and limitations with our ESL students. I am including links to 2 resources. The first is a Super Duper handout differentiating sounds in English and Spanish

The second is a link to the ASHA resource containing phonemic inventories for over 15 languages.

Hopefully these can be of use if you are evaluating a child from one of these backgrounds. And hopefully everyone enjoyed chapter 3 as much as I did.

4 thoughts on “Chapter 3 Application

  1. Pam Schmit says:

    Good point about discrimination training. I don’t give it much attention either. Thank you for the references. I already read through some of the information regarding Somali, as I just screened a Somali student yesterday. I think I will keep that ASHA website on my “favorites.”

  2. Erica Hayes says:

    One of my “take-aways” from this chapter relates from the work that I do with preschoolers with autism. I really thought about how many of these children do not seek interaction with parents or children. They are often in their own world. As that neurological pruning process is occurring, if they are “tuned out”, they are missing opportunities to receive this language stimulation. I can only imagine how many important neural pathways are eliminated due to this fact.

    Often when talking to parents about how to work with their children, I focus on very specific skills, usually starting with intentional communication acts like requesting. This chapter, plus other research I have recently read about the importance of play, has really made me feel like I need to encourage parents to just be ENGAGED with their child; helping them to know how to get their child interested in playful interactions, songs, motor games and a variety of play activities. Through these playful interactions, the child will be “tuned in” and really receiving all of the good language models that the parent is giving. This could help to strengthen those important neural pathways related to language and communication. Also, I feel that this might be less intimidating and seem more “do-able” for many parents of young children than managing a book of PECS pictures or carrying around a communication board/device. I will continue to encourage the use of those of course, but I feel like if i start with just helping parents work on getting the child “tuned in” more often throughout the day initially, then when we discuss using pictures/AAC or encouraging the use or more words, they will have established more opportunities for communication to happen. After reading this chapter, I understand the science of why this is so important and will be able to better explain that to parents.

  3. Karen says:

    Thank you for the resources. The information regarding our ESL population will be very useful. I try to keep explanations to parents simple regarding early speech and language development. The best advice I received was to be positive. I try to explain to parents when they ask how their child is doing that today was better than last time and next time will be better than today. This encourages them that there is hope that their children’s speech and language will improve.

  4. Carolyn Dent says:

    Great reminder about auditory discrimination not being forgotten. This is something with which I need to do a better job of probing, especially when evaluating children at the diagnostic center (when you only get one opportunity and can’t scoop the student out of class to obtain more information.) Also, the ASHA links are very helpful for my DC evaluations as well as evaluations for the ESL population in my school.

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