Friday, March 29, 2013

FAQ Friday: Off-topic Answers

It's FAQ Friday time!  Don't forget to send me your questions!  I'd love to be able to help you dig a little and find some good answers.  :)

Today's question is brought to you by a couple of teachers that I work with.  I love it when they ask me how they can help the students with language disorders.  It shows that they really care about the student's learning and they value my opinions as an SLP.  Here's what they asked me recently:

Our conversations usually go something like this:
-Teacher:  Many of your students give "off the wall" responses to the questions that I ask them, what do you do with that?  Are there any strategies or things that I can do while teaching that would help them?
-Me:  Can you give me an example?
-Teacher:  Sure.  I asked, "How long did the king reign over his kingdom?"  And the student responded, "Sometimes thunder is loud, and you can't play outside when it's raining."

I procede to explain to the teachers that off-topic responses are usually an indication of a receptive language disorder, meaning they aren't correctly processing the information being asked of them.  The students I work with also often have a very limited vocabulary.  In the example, this student had never heard the word "reign" and related it back to the only word he knew "rain."  On top of that, his language is still very ego-centric, and it is very difficult for him to think outside of his own experiences.

I attempt to give teachers a few strategies to try out in the classrooms with my language-disordered students, along with the disclaimer that every child is different, and what works with one may not work with another.

Here are a few:

  • Anticipate that the child may not process the question correctly.  Rephrase the question using simpler vocabulary.
  • Give the student time to process the question and encourage him to think about what is being asked before immediately responding.
  • Give the child a choice between 2 possible answers.
  • Give visual cues by pointing, highlighting key words, drawing a picture, etc.
  • Try not to just move on to the next student when they respond incorrectly.  Scaffold down or break down the question until they can come up with the answer.
  • Explain words with multiple or hidden meanings.
  • Make the question a yes/no question if necessary.
  • If nothing seems to be working, encourage him to ask a friend for help.  Let him practice asking the question to someone else in his own words.  Sometimes just this act will help him internalize the question.
What other tips do you have?  I'd love to hear how some of you respond to questions like this from teachers.  

I previously did a post on tips for teachers that included a freebie handout.  You can refer to that post if you need something tangible to give to teachers.


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