Chapter 7 Summary-Spreading the Words

Jamie Priddy shares:

In my opinion, this chapter emphasizes one of the most challenging parts of our job as school-based speech-language pathologists: In order to make the greatest change in our students, all parents, caregivers, team members, teachers, doctors, essentially all adults in the country, need to understand the problem in order to be part of the solution. In all of our discussions with teachers in the hallway of our schools, parents in ARC meetings and outside service providers through e-mail, we are always striving to teach (“sell” might be a better word) that language is so very important to the development of our students.  This chapter was all about getting everyone on the same page to create lasting impact on the language skills of our children, particularly birth through age three.

Suskind explains that while the achievement gap for school age children is impossible to hide from, the birth through three age group is a fairly invisible period. The achievement gap is already noticeable at this young age; however, without analyzing scientific research and data, it is easy to miss. To solve this problem, we must know when the problem begins, as well as what to do about it. The hard part is getting adults to understand the importance of the early language environment before it is too late.

By far, America’s greatest resource is its children. These babies will grow up to be the future citizens who will attempt to make this world productive and established. In order to help them develop into the best versions of themselves, America needs to utilize its second greatest resource—parent talk. Suskind defines parent talk as “the quality and quantity of words in an early language environment”. As SLPs, we know just how powerful parent talk is to our children. We are the ones who clearly understand the problem of a lack of quality interaction between child and caregiver and actively support the solution. But it’s not enough for us to know and work toward the goal on our own. We need society, most importantly parents, to get on board with us to achieve optimal success. Suskind goes on to explain that through the Nudge Theory, we can expand our impact and share our knowledge with those closest to us in hopes that small nudges will create a ripple effect of “spreading the words”.  Kudos to us because: THIS IS WHAT WE DO EVERYDAY. Great things can happen when the power of parent talk is shared during natural conversations with teachers, parents, doctors, other professionals. How many times during ARC meetings do we suggest that parents read with their kids, ask them questions, take the time to engage in normal conversation without technology around? The author used the example of James in the chapter. He appears to be a wonderfully involved father who demonstrated that one person really can make a huge difference. He completed the Thirty Million Words program and was so inspired by the impact it had on his son that he wanted to share his knowledge with family and friends. He taught the Three T’s through skype, through conversation and by example. He showed that parents really are the key to change in the youngest population of students.

In summary, this chapter reminds us that children aren’t born smart, they are made smart through engaging with parents and caregivers, and specifically when the parents tune in, talk more, and take turns. By sharing this information with parents of young kids, we can give them the power to change their child’s brain and future.

Thanks, Jamie!


3 thoughts on “Chapter 7 Summary-Spreading the Words

  1. Marie Fisher says:


    Your summary & this chapter reminded me of a thesis that I did in graduate school. I interviewed 20+ SLPs at various job sites (primarily different schools) to report a (possible) correlation between parent involvement and student progress in therapy. My findings were all over the place due to different age groups, types of schools, etc… BUT it was interesting to see how many school based SLPs reported such little parent interactions. A majority of the SLPs reported involvement 1 time per year at the annual meeting. It’s hard to try and get parents involved but I think that it is so necessary for true progress. I try and send home a monthly newsletter (AAC version or the general language/fluency/ artic version) with strategies, activities and websites parents can do at home.

  2. Sarah Niemann says:

    I agree that one of the most important parts of our job is trying to get all involved and understanding the problem in order to be part of the solution. This chapter made me think about the students I see (80-90% MSD population) and trying to get all involved, especially teachers. Reading the other comments on the summary and application of chapter 7, I have some ideas regarding increase in parent communication and involvement but I was also wondering what others’ experiences have been with getting teachers to “buy-in” and practice in the classroom? This year it seems to be more of a struggle to make sure communication targets are being practiced throughout the school day and “not just in speech”. I mostly work with students in the resource classroom so that staff and teachers can see how I work with the students, have sent resources to them, offered to meet with them before/after school to answer any questions, created simple forms for ways they can use systems with class jobs and in different classes, made cheat sheets for different strategies etc. Have others had these experiences regarding teacher buy-in and implementation? What do you feel was successful with getting others on board?

  3. Karen Reynolds says:

    Well said. After 24+ years in this field, we continue to need to educate families, staff, friends and the community. I often think why, after all these years, are we still struggling to close the achievement gap? I think early intervention gets forgotten. We move children to developmental delays and then, when they age out, to other disability areas or they do not qualify for those other areas and then they are left to make progress without ECE assistance. I think the achievement gap absolutely starts at birth and we need to do a better job of making sure these students do not fall through the cracks.

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