This article describes year one of an ongoing project initiated to encourage collaboration among university and public school educators to improve instruction in reading and auditory processing. The Reading and Auditory Processing Project (RAP) focuses on helping general educators, special educators, and speech-language pathologists work together to integrate their separate knowledge bases to benefit all students. Positive outcomes and continuing challenges are discussed.
General education teachers, special education teachers, and speech-language pathologists bring different perspectives to teaching. An important responsibility of K-5 general educators is to plan, implement, and evaluate instruction that will help students grow as readers, writers, and users of language. Reading instruction is a daily activity for these teachers. The goal for students in the elementary grades is to become independent and strategic users of printed language so they will experience success in school and in life. Special educators in public schools modify instruction to address the individual needs of students with disabilities as outlined by their individual education plans (IEPs). Reading instruction may or may not be a daily activity for special education teachers, depending on the individual needs of their students. Speech-language pathologists provide therapy for students who have been identified with hearing or speech problems. They focus on receptive and expressive language to help students articulate clearly and use language to communicate accurately. The focus is on oral language.
All three educators work with some of the same students on auditory skills; however, they teach the skills in isolated settings, from three different perspectives. There is often little communication among the educators about how their goals for learners could be integrated to reinforce the skills they are teaching. For example, the reading teacher works with student A on phonemic awareness. Then the speech-language pathologist works with the same child on articulation. When student A goes to the resource room, the special educator works on listening and following directions. Phonemic awareness, articulation, listening, and following directions are interrelated auditory skills; development in one skill area enhances development in the other areas (Bradham, 2001; Smith, Simmons, & Kameenui, 1995).
In the sample case just described, the teachers may be providing effective instruction, but at the same time, may be confusing the child. The child may not see any connection to what is learned in the reading classroom, the speech classroom, and the special education resource classroom. The child doesn't see the connection because, in many cases, the teachers have not realized fully the kinds of connections that are possible. Also, the educators may be using different language to describe similar auditory skills. Through professional development and collaborative teaching, these educators may be able to integrate their separate knowledge bases to serve the language and literacy needs of their struggling learners. As noted by Ham, Bradshaw, and Ogletree (1999) collaborative service delivery models are replacing 'pull-out' approaches for special education and speech-language pathology. Some of the challenges for educators trying such new approaches include making sure special education and speech-language pathology interventions are tied closely to the general education curriculum. The relationship between reading, language, and central auditory processing is well documented (Bradham, 2001; Chermak & Musiek, 1997; Hull, 2001; Schow & Nerbonne, 2001). Reading is described as a secondary, linguistic function based on auditory-verbal language development (Collins & Cheek, 1999; Flexer, 1999). The National Reading Panel reported that the ability to manipulate the sounds in language is a strong predictor of later reading success (NICHD, 2000). …