This is part of a continuing series of posts on therapy ideas to support assistants (SLPAs) and paraprofessionals in the schools in their work with students and their supervising SLPs.
Over the last several months, we have been discussing the importance of games for preschoolers in the development of the essential skills of executive function, attention, memory, and self-control. These skills correlate highly with academic success, and play an important role in the development of language skills at all levels. This month, we are looking at how memory deficits interact with language, and what can be done within speech/language groups to support memory.
A 2011 article in LSHSS contains an in-depth look at the relationship of working memory to language development and academic success. (Did you know that SLPAs and paraprofessionals can become Associate Affiliates to ASHA [http://www.asha.org/Members/Associate-Affiliation/] and have access to their online journals, in addition to other benefits?) Boudreaux and Costanza-Smith explain that phonological working memory affects the way that young children learn and remember early vocabulary and patterns of pronunciation (think nonsense words), but also affects how children understand oral and written language and what they can do with information that is presented linguistically to them.
Boudreaux and Constanza-Smith explain that one of the most important things we can do to support students with working memory deficits is to provide visual supports in the classroom and in the therapy room.
For example, the use of visual supports (e.g., writing detailed instructions for a task on the board, using a number line in addition/subtraction equations within the math curriculum) can reduce the amount of information a child must maintain in memory, thereby improving the student’s chance for success on the task or assignment.
SLPAs and paraprofessionals should always operate within the scope defined by state and national licensing organizations and should only conduct allowable tasks under the supervision of a speech-language pathologist.