Academic journal article Communication Disorders Quarterly

A Case Study of a Collaborative Speech-Language Pathologist

Academic journal article Communication Disorders Quarterly

A Case Study of a Collaborative Speech-Language Pathologist

Article excerpt

This study explored how a school-based speech--language pathologist implemented a classroom-based service delivery model that focused on collaborative practices in classroom settings. The study used ethnographic observations and interviews with 1 speech--language pathologist to provide insights into how she implemented collaborative consultation and classroom-based intervention service delivery models. Five themes emerged: service delivery, curriculum-based intervention, scheduling, collaboration, and advocacy. Though the participant implemented a full range of service delivery models, findings provide helpful ideas for others implementing inclusive and collaborative practices in classroom settings.

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Students with speech and language problems often struggle to participate in classroom discourse during literacy activities. In addition, they often have problems with reading and writing, including problems with phonological awareness (Catts & Kamhi, 1999), word finding (Messer & Dockrell, 2006), reading comprehension (Nation, Clarke, & Marshall, 2004), and expressive language (Carts & Kamhi, 1999). As Wallach and Ehren (2004) pointed out, the school environment is "discourse-dense, and informationally loaded" (p. 245), which presents a challenge to students and professionals working to help students succeed in school.

The flow of classroom discourse revolves around shared knowledge and contingent participation in classroom routines. In general, the ability to participate in the classroom requires students to master the necessary linguistic routines in which the teacher presents the material (Wilkinson & Silliman, 2000). In many classrooms, this routine has the familiar pattern of teacher initiation (I), student response (R), and teacher evaluation/feedback (E), referred to as an IRE or IRF pattern (Cazden, 1988). A large percentage of these routines are questions, in which the teacher determines the amount, content, and form of the target response. Students with language difficulties may not interpret these implicit rules for formal classroom discourse accurately. As a result, a teacher may attribute the problem to other academic or developmental problems or to behavioral concerns rather than language difficulties (Sturm & Nelson, 1997). Students with language problems may need to be explicitly taught the strategies necessary to navigate these routines. Conversely, teachers may need to gain an understanding of the effect this pattern has on students and how they can modify their instructional discourse style to promote students' participation. Coufal (1990) provided evidence that, through collaborative consultation, kindergarten teachers modified their instructional discourse patterns, resulting in concomitant improvement in the language performance of children with language disorders.

In the classroom setting, the performance of typically developing peers can support students with language disorders. However, additional support is necessary for students with language disorders to be successful in this environment. Classroom teachers and speech--language pathologists (SLPs) each have expertise that can assist and support these students. To accommodate these needs, educators can modify the classroom environment through collaborative teaming or the use of cooperative teaching approaches (Coufal, 1993; Friend & Bursuck, 2002; Friend & Cook, 2003; Idol, 2006; Salend, 2005). Coufal (2002) provided a review of those instructional discourse features that might facilitate child language learning and noted the need for further investigation to document the most effective patterns. She suggested there was a "need for an ecological approach to intervention, which would reflect the individual differences of both participants in the communicative dyad, as well as the influences of the multiple contextual variables of a classroom" (p. 25). The present ethnographic examination of one SLP provides the type of investigation that lends insight into the variables affecting one clinician in her approach to assessment and treatment in an inclusive environment. …

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