9. New School Phonology: Cognitive Processing

Our position here is that learning disability when properly assessed is a genetic cognitive-linguistic processing disorder limiting language development, phonological learning and literacy acquisition.  Intervention stimulates and supports development “across the board” by way of generalization of learning.

Preschool school children with “delayed speech and articulation” are showing early symptoms of  cognitive processing deficits.  With “articulation therapy” sound errors disappear but processing problems remains at “higher levels” of language organization and in literacy development. 

SLPs should be able to make learning disability placement recommendations at the preschool level, thereby reducing the “wait to fail” problem.

School SLPs can prevent learning disability through early language intervention anticipating growth in associated literacy domains.  For example, young children with “artic problems” manifest problems of language morphology and morphology problems limit writing development.  A child who uses final consonant deletion and weak syllable deletion in speech will drop “endings” in his or her writing.

One logical view is that reading and speech are roughly the same thing, and both are enhanced when phonological development are stimulated.

Current school programs in Response To Intervention, where reading is the focus, are programs where school speech therapists can help a lot.

Key is early intervention from a language basis and not treatment of isolated articulation problems.  Articulation is a part of phonology, phonology a part of language, and language a part of cognition.

Speech therapists need to reform their thinking about teaching sounds to children without reference to other cognitive domains of learning.

The “diagnostic prescriptive” model is highly suspect except where it helps organize practical information about the distribution of linguistic symptoms.  What is needed is a cognitive-linguistic viewpoint but we are far from it:

“The presence of a processing disorder, while prominent in the federal definition of SLD, was relatively absent from most states’ classification criteria. Only 13 states required determination of a processing disorder” (Greatschools).

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