Literacy and Speech Sound Disorders

A child typically has an adult-like sound inventory by age eight. Eight is sort of a magical age; it's also where a child transitions from learning to read to reading to learn. When you're learning to read, you are taught to sound out words to try to understand the meaning. If your sound inventory isn't fully developed it makes it pretty hard to accurately sound out the word

Because of this close connection, SLPs and reading specialists typically work together to help a child with their reading and sound acquisition. We've put together a few FAQ's to help you understand literacy and the role an SLP can play in helping your child with literacy.


What is literacy? 

Literacy is a child's ability to read and write to use language to understand the world. 


My child has a SSD, does that mean they have a literacy disorder as well?

The reality for many children (but not all) diagnosed with a speech sound disorder is that literacy will also bring challenges and can lead to a child being below grade level in reading.

I thought the speech therapist only worked on how they talked, so why are they also working on literacy?  

Since many children with speech sound disorders have trouble organizing the sounds, mapping them to the right letters, then blending the letters and sounds together to make words, some of the activities and targets a speech therapist works on can also build those skills and cross over in helping them in reading and writing tasks. 

So what does an SLP do to help with literacy?

SLPs can use materials from a child's classroom, like books they are reading or passages they read in class to practice sound targets and also gives the child more exposure to those materials to give them that extra boost. SLPs working with children with speech sound Disorders target phonological awareness which has been linked to literacy in the research.


Rewind, what is Phonological Awareness?  

The American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) defines phonological awareness as "the explicit understanding of a word's sound structure." In layman's terms this means a child's ability to understand and manipulate the sounds in a word and then in turn be able to map them to written letters or combinations of letters. Disconnects in phonological awareness can lead to a child's inability to rhyme, manipulate words, spell words, and a whole host of other problems associated with literacy, speech, and language. 


What are some other benefits of having a Speech-Language Pathologist work on Literacy?

Often times a child with a speech sound disorder is flagged pretty early on in school, like in preschool, early intervention, or kindergarten. In those years literacy is emerging for kids and literacy issues may not be as pronounced. However, if your child is receiving treatment for a speech sound issue, there is a good chance the SLP will pick on literacy issues and direct resources and attention to their literacy deficits at an early age. You can think of it like, sometimes the SLP might be the "first on the scene" to an issue but can then coordinate a team effort to support the child before too much time passes without sufficient literacy supports. 

What can a parent do to support literacy and speech sound issues? 

Read to your child, read with your child! Incorporating literacy into whatever aspects of their day that you can will only have a positive impact across the board! When reading with your child, you can use exaggerated voices or intonation to emphasize key speech sound targets. You can select books that explore the sounds of the English language, we've listed a few in our store that meet this criteria.


What's the difference between a Speech Teacher, a Speech Therapist and a Speech-Language Pathologist?

There is no difference. :)

They are just different names for a person with the same qualifications. Sometimes speech teacher is used in the school setting to help kids.


As an SLP, what can I do to support literacy in my sessions with kids with SSD? 

Work on phonological awareness! Always bring a book to therapy from the child's class or from your own stash! Work on rhyming, elision, and blending. 

How can a teacher best communicate with an SLP about literacy issues?

A classroom teacher spends the most time with a child at school. They need to ensure they are communicating with the SLP about the literacy issues they are seeing in the classroom, strategies they are using, and areas they think an SLP's support would be most beneficial. It's important for teachers and SLPs to overlap on the right things, but also divide and conquer to best support a child presenting with literacy and speech sound issues. 


Where can I get more information on the intersection of speech sound disorders and literacy

The American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) website has a plethora of resources. Many of the blogs we have linked on this website will have additional information or ideas of activities that target speech sound and literacy.



We've put together a list of a handful of books we use in therapy