Fort Myers speech therapists

Talk to the Hand: Why Our Fort Myers Speech Therapists Use Sign-Supported Speech

You my notice in the FOCUS waiting room that our Fort Myers speech therapists sometimes form some basic signs with our hands while we’re speaking to some of our patients. But it’s not exactly sign language. What we’re doing in those instances is using a speech-language therapy technique known as “sign-supported speech,” sometimes referred to as SSS.

Sign-supported speech is a form of simultaneous communication (SimCom), which was originally formed for the benefit of those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. However, the method has also proven an effective way for our Fort Myers speech therapists to teach speech and language to children with language delays and disorders.

Recent research published in the Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research found that when speech therapists used sign-supported speech for word learning when working with children who have a developmental language disorder, it had a positive impact on the child’s linguistic and cognitive development.

What are Language Disorders? 

A language disorder is a type of communication disorder wherein a person has persistent trouble learning and using various forms of language – written, spoken or signing. Children with language disorders are identified as having language abilities that are far below what is expected of children their age.

Language disorders are typically first diagnosed when a child starts to learn and use language (between the ages of 18 mos. and 5-years-old). Many of us take for granted the various components of using language effectively, but it’s important to understand that language learning relies on both expressive skills (the ability to produce gestural or verbal signals) and receptive skills (the ability to receive and understand language).

Children can have one-or-the-other or sometimes both. They will have trouble understanding and producing words, forming sentences or engaging in conversations. Their speech may be delayed. Their sentences – if they are using them – are often shorter and more complex than what we might expect for their age. They may be unable to tell a coherent beginning-to-end story. And because they have a hard time receiving information, you may notice they are unable or have a rough time with following directions.

The impact of a language disorder is compounding (which is why our FOCUS Fort Myers speech therapists always advocate for the earliest interventions possible). The inability or difficulty with communication effectively limits participation in academic and social environments.

How Fort Myers Speech Therapists Use Sign-Supported Speech

In the recent study, conducted by behavioral, psychiatric and language professionals in the Netherlands, researchers tested children ages 9 to 11 who had been diagnosed with developmental language disorders. They conducted a word-learning experiment, wherein half of the spoken words were taught with a “pseudosign,” a form of sign-supported speech. They measured the children’s vocabulary and attention/memory.

They concluded that children who were taught words with pseudosigns were more likely to retain them – even at the ages of 9 through 11.

Fort Myers speech therapists know these and other tactics are even more effective when used with children even younger – ideally prior to age 5, when neurological pathways have not yet formed. We use these signs not only in the clinic, but teach parents how to use them at home. This consistency allows for greater generalization and ultimately faster language proficiency.

FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Effects of Signs on Word Learning by Children With Developmental Language Disorder, June 9, 2019, Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing

More Blog Entries:

Smartphones & Speech Therapy: A GR8! Combo, May 19, 2019, Fort Myers Speech Therapists Blog

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