In Australia we have just started the 2016 school year.  With this in mind I thought it was timely to share some Red Flags for Language Delay.

In no particular order, here are some Red Flags to look out for and discuss with teachers:

  • When a student watches what other students are doing when classroom instructions are given. These students figure out what to do through watching others rather than understanding the instruction. This is sometimes more evident in noisier classrooms (auditory processing?).
  • When a student uses nonspecific language. Words like ‘that’ or ‘thingy’.  This is most prevalent when a student is trying to describe something.  This indicates limited vocabulary.  These students also tend to use their hands (gesture/signs) or make environmental noises for items because they can’t produce the words. (This also occurs with students with significant speech disorders or dyspraxia).
  • When a student starts talking, is hard to understand either through speech difficulties or poorly ordered language, then stops talking.
  • When a student finds it difficult to ask questions on topic. These children have difficulty keeping up with the flow of conversation.  They may ask a question which was pertinent 10 minutes ago.
  • When a student has difficulty answering wh questions about stories read in the classroom.
  • When a student produces grammatical errors in sentences. This could include incorrect tense markers (I dranked the orange juice), pronouns (she and he, her).
  • When a student has difficulty retelling a short story or reporting on weekend events. This can include sequences of events as well as vocabulary choice.  Students can have difficulty talking about events or people that are not in the immediate environment.
  • When a student progresses to Grade three, a previously coping student, starts to not cope. The language level in the classroom has moved from concrete to abstract.  Also around this time maths starts to include word based problems and students with previously strong math skills begin to have difficulty.
  • When a student decodes well but can’t answer comprehension questions.
  • When a student doesn’t ask for help when needed. Either they don’t have the words to ask or don’t know how to ask for help.

I plan to share these points with my teacher colleagues as a basis for our initial discussion when talking about which students we want to screen for assessments.  Have a great school year.