What is literacy?

In its most simple form, literacy is a persons combined ability to read and write. We typically think of literacy learning starting once a child enters formal schooling – however, foundational pre-literacy skills begin developing at a much younger age.

By 3 or 4 years old, a child enjoys listening to books and talking about their favourite stories, they understand that printed words carry meaning (even if they don’t completely understand what it is yet), they make attempts to read and/or write, and are able to identify common and familiar signs and labels such as “stop” and “go” signs.

Why is it important for my child to develop these skills?

It is critical for young children to be exposed to pre-literacy skills such as rhyme, a varied vocabulary and basic print concepts (e.g. understanding that print is read from left to right, and from the top to the bottom of the page), as this forms the basis for developing more sophisticated reading and writing skills as they grow. Children and adults are required to read and write every single day of our lives, such as reading road signs and directions, completing forms with our personal information, understanding price tags at the shops, sending and receiving text messages, emails and much, MUCH more. Without the foundational skills, children may struggle to learn higher level literacy skills such as word and sound manipulation, impacting their long-term development of reading and writing.

Who can have difficulties with literacy?

A true cause of literacy difficulties is unknown, and it may vary between person to person. Sometimes literacy difficulties may be caused by difficulties processing information, difficulties with attention, or a co-occurring language disorder.

How to assist literacy development in everyday interactions

We can help our children learn literacy and pre literacy skills every day while we go about our regular routines at home and in the community.

For young children, including babies (yes, babies!) we can:

  • Sing nursery rhymes paired with actions and gestures
  • Read story books and talk about the pictures, pointing to the words as we read from left to right
  • Let your child hold the book and turn the pages
  • Point out and talk about things we see from the car window e.g. “Look! A brown cow, a long bus, a blue house!”
  • Use alphabet toys in the bath, sing the alphabet as we point to the letters

For children aged 3 years and older we can:

  • Read story books and ask questions about the story, such as what they think will happen next
  • Show them rhyming words in books, and ask if they can think of more E.g. “Both these words end in -at! Cat, hat. Can you think of more? Fat, sat, rat, bat…”
  • Play ‘I Spy’ to learn to identify the beginning sounds of words
  • Point out letters on a menu and talk about them e.g. “I found an ‘R’, your name starts with ‘R’! Can you find one too?”
  • Draw your child’s attention to road signs as you drive or walk past, talk about what they look like and what they mean
  • Show your child labels and tags on clothes, toys and food at the shops, point out the print and talk about what information they give us

If you child is experiencing ongoing difficulties with literacy such as reading and writing, please do not hesitate to call Harrison Speech Pathology for further information.

A stroke happens when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. Blood flow to the brain is essential as it carries oxygen and nutrients to keep the brain working. If blood flow stops to an area of the brain the cells begin to die. A stroke may be caused by a blockage (ischaemic stroke) or a bleed (haemorrhagic).

If you suspect yourself or another person is having a stroke you should phone 000 immediately. Early medical treatment is an important factor for survival and recovery.

Look out for the acronym FAST. If you see any of these symptoms seek help.

F – Face: do they have a drooping face and/or asymmetry?

A – Arms: are they unable to lift one or both of their arms? have their arm(s) lost strength?

S – Speech: is their speech slurred?

T – Time: each passing minute is important so call 000 immediately

What are the common effects of a stroke?

The effects of a stroke depend on where the stroke occurred and the extent of damage to the brain. The following are common effects of a stroke:

  • Weakness in one side of the body (often the opposite side of where the stroke occurred in the brain)
  • Poor movement and difficulty coordinating movements
  • Not recognizing one side of the body (neglect)
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulties understanding language
  • Difficulties saying words and sentences
  • Problems chewing and swallowing food, drinks, and saliva
  • Incontinence
  • Voice issues
  • Changes to senses – taste, sight, hearing, smell, touch
  • Vision loss
  • Fatigue
  • Change in mood and personality
  • Difficulties solving everyday problems
  • Fatality

How can a speech pathologist help a person who has had a stroke?

Speech pathology may be involved in the initial acute management of a stroke and long-term therapy.

Initially a speech pathologist may assist in determining how the stroke has affected communication and swallowing. The therapist may recommend and teach Augmentative and Alternative Communication Systems (AAC) so the person can communicate and make choices about their medical plans. They may also assist family, friends, and medical staff to communicate effectively with the person. Additionally, a speech pathologist may change the person’s diet and food/drink to ensure they can eat, drink, and take medications safely.

Following initial medical treatment, a speech pathologist is commonly involved in long term management to assist the person to return to previous activities, or to assist them to manage their changed functioning. A speech pathologist may help with the following:

  • Implement AAC systems to support a person’s specific communication needs
  • Support a person who cannot think of the word they want to say
  • Support a person who says the wrong words
  • Help a person to say sounds precisely so people understand them
  • Treat voice problems
  • Assist with memory
  • Improve problem solving
  • Provide therapy for social problems
  • Help manage diet changes so the person is safe to eat a drink
  • Train others in how to support successful communication
  • Educate family, medical staff, workplaces
  • Provide compensatory strategies

If there are swallowing and communication concerns it is important to start therapy as soon as possible. Intervention applied within the first 12 months is often when the quickest and concentrated gains are made.

How can I help someone who has had a stroke communicate?

There are many strategies to assist someone to communicate. It is best to first chat with your speech pathologist to determine the most effective strategies to apply.

The following are some common recommendations:

  • Speak in short sentences
  • Write words down, or encourage them to write
  • Pause between sentences/ideas so they have time to think about what you have said
  • Give them time to think of what they want to say and for them to communicate their message
  • Make sure you have their attention before you begin talking to them
  • If they have neglect of one side of their body, stand on the side that they can recognize
  • Talk about here and now topics
  • Monitor fatigue and talk about important topics when they are well rested
  • Stick to routines
  • Reduce distractions such as radio or tv noise in the background
  • If in a group setting limit it to just a few other people and make them aware of how they can help the person
  • Let the person know when you have understood them
  • Do not assume the person does not understand you
  • Talk to the person, even if they cannot talk back to you
  • Include the person in conversations
  • Respect the person’s wishes

If you or a loved one has experienced a stroke and would like assistance in managing the changes that have occurred, please do not hesitate to call Harrison Speech Pathology and speak directly to one of our experienced therapists.

In most jobs, communication is used constantly throughout the day. This may include greeting a customer, sending an email, answering the phone, speaking with management, providing and understanding instructions for a task, or writing a report. 

Successful communication generates idea sharing, increased productivity and straightforward conflict resolution. Miscommunication in the workplace frequently causes business shortfalls in addition to breakdowns of working relationships.

Before a person even gets a job, they often rely on their communication skills to demonstrate their skill sets. Resumes, phone calls, and interviews are all based on the skill of communication and are integral in the good seeking process. 

It is clear to see how some people with communication difficulties can struggle to achieve employment or perform to an optimum level in the workplace.

Can a speech pathologist help me in preparing for job seeking?

If you have a communication difficulty a speech pathologist can assist you in the goal of seeking employment. They will first help you to determine specific areas that you are having difficulty in, and then provide individualised therapy to target these. 

They can assist you to improve your communication in all stages of job seeking including:

  • Asking establishments for job application processes
  • Navigating websites and understanding the business you are applying for
  • Understanding job descriptions
  • Making and answering phone calls with potential employers
  • Creating an effective resume to communicate individualized skill set
  • Conducting yourself in a way which matches the job you are applying for
  • Understanding interview questions
  • Effectively answering interview questions
  • Managing and troubleshooting common communication problems which occur in interviews and application processes
  • Advocating for your needs and goals in the job role
  • Accepting an employment offer and understanding the information that follows

Can I get support if I already have a job but want to communicate better?

As communication does not stop after you have obtained a job, a speech pathologist can assist job holders. This includes verbal, written and social communication. Additionally, speech pathologists can assist people to access and use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) in the workplace. 

Areas which a speech pathologist can help you in include:

  • Writing emails, reports etc.
  • Literacy skills
  • Understanding instructions and following procedures
  • Making sentences which effectively convey your message
  • Understanding other people’s language
  • Improving memory of spoken information
  • Understanding a range of workplace vocabulary
  • Saying sounds clearly
  • Managing and problem-solving issues with voice volume
  • Practicing safe voice use to avoid voice injury
  • Making appropriate conversation with others
  • Answering the phone in a confident and expected social manner
  • Determining how to vary interaction styles based on your communication partner
  • Problem solving and conflict resolution using communication
  • Choosing the right AAC option for your workplace
  • Setting up or adding to and AAC system to suit your needs
  • Providing strategies of how to include people who use AAC
  • Assisting you to advocate for your needs

What should I expect during appointments?

Your first appointment will be dedicated to finding out about factors which influence your communication, including your areas of strengths and weaknesses.

From here your therapist may conduct formal and informal assessment to determine how therapy can be tailored to your specific needs and personal goals.

The frequency of ongoing appointments depends on your lifestyle, presenting issue, and therapist recommendations. 

Your speech pathologist will work with you to determine the best approach. Newly learnt skills will be applied in a manner which mimics natural workplace environments to assist generalisation of these skills to all contexts.

This may include mock scenarios such as responding to an interview, phoning the therapist to discuss a business proposal, using technology to create emails and search information, and managing social conversations with the therapist.

For young learners, motivation may be facilitated through the use of games and apps. 

After your appointment your therapist will typically provide you with easily achieved home tasks between sessions.

This will continue your learning outside of appointments, in addition to assist you to transfer your new skills to all environments. 

The therapists at Harrison Speech Pathology are experienced in working with all ages and therefore are able to assist people with their communication during any stage of their working life. Get in touch to find out more.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) includes any method of communication that is used to enhance or replace verbal speech. There are two different types of AAC – aided and unaided systems.

Unaided AAC is where you don’t use anything else but your body. These include:

  • Sign language
  • Gestures
  • Facial expressions
  • Body language

Aided AAC is where you use an added support to assist with communication. Such as:

  • Writing
  • Pictures
  • Communication books or boards
  • Speech generating devices
  • Communication apps

Many people use a combination of AAC to communicate.

When can you use augmentative and alternative communication strategies?

AAC can replace speech, supplement speech or it can give someone who is unable to speak a voice. We all use forms of AAC every day. We use AAC when we use hand gestures and facial expression. For example, if you are in a noisy environment, you may use things like hand gestures to help get your message across. People may use pictures to help them express words and sentences or people may use a speech generating device to speak for them when they are unable to communicate verbally.

AAC can be used in any environment for a number purposes including greeting people, requesting items, asking questions, telling stories, sharing feelings and more.

What are the benefits of using AAC?

Communication is a basic human need and AAC gives everyone a way to communicate.

There are many benefits of using AAC such as:

  • Developing understanding and use of language
  • Adding extra support for speech
  • Developing and utilising a range of literacy skills
  • Assisting people to express their needs, wants and feelings
  • Helping communication partners understand the message of the AAC user
  • Taking the pressure off verbal communication
  • Increasing participation in public and group situations

What’s involved with augmentative and alternative communication?

People with severe speech and language difficulties will benefit from AAC. Selection of an AAC system should be done specifically to the needs and skills of the individual.

Selecting the right type of AAC will depend on a number of different factors:

  • Level of difficulty with communication
  • Preference for which type of AAC they would like to use
  • Communication needs
  • Motivation to use AAC

Give Harrison Speech Pathology a call to make an appointment to further discuss augmentative and alternative communication options.

Image source: Pixabay

We are COVID safe We're doing our part to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep our clients safe