Improving outcomes for students with spoken and written language difficulties

 This will sound like a fmiliar story: three students are struggling to make progress in their mainstream classes. Their teachers are concerned that they are not reaching their potential despite the extra support they are receiving in small groups. The behaviour of two of the students has become challenging.

All three students are referred to Words First, speech and language therapy practice which has recently been bought in one day a week by the school to help meet the needs of children with communication difficulties. The students are seem on the same day as the referral. The speech and language therapist (who has additional training in literacy), adminsters a research-based screener lasting one period, on all students. The resuls are remarkable and enlightening. These three students, although manifesting on the surface with the same needs / difficulties, have very different underlying causes for their academic struggles. 

The first student was found to be able to read single words very well with fluency. Yet, her ability to understand what she reads was limited due to a language disorder and limited vocabulary. In class, it will appear that she does not present with literacy difficulties due to her ability to read fluently but she will struggle to understand the language of the classroom. This is likely to contribute to her deteriorating behaviour.
The second student had good language skills and was able to read and spell words accurately. However, his processing speed was slow meaning that his reading comprehension was poor. This student benefits from hearing language rather than reading it and is becoming frustrated with the heavy load of written language he has to get through.

The third student struggled to read and spell single words but was able to understand spoken language well. His phonologcal awareness was limited meaning that he had difficulty manipulating sounds in words - a prerequisite for reading and spelling. This affects his ability to understand what he reads despite good language skills.

Following the screener, students are placed into groups with students who present with similar needs. Intervention is delierved by the SaLT who targets the specific underlying deficit and the manifestation of the deficit on communication. Intervention is time limited and measured to see whether it is working. 

If you are interested in learning more about the Words First Approach for mainstream primary and secondary schools, please contact Amanda Davis (Director) at or call 02036030734 or visit 


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