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 https://www.superduperinc.com/handouts/pdf/82_commonArticulation.pdf
The second is a link to the ASHA resource containing phonemic inventories for over 15 languages. https://www.asha.org/practice/multicultural/phono/
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.