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High School Students Struggling with Language Difficulties

High School Students Struggling with Language Difficulties

high school language difficulties help

Is it too late to help struggling students with receptive language difficulties in the High School Years?

There is always a lot of emphasis placed on early intervention. However, this can lead to the widely accepted misperception that the benefits of support are less important in high school than in the early years. The concept of a “critical Language Period” indicates that language learning is potentially easier in preschool years, however it in not impossible in the high school years.

Academic success in the High School years is largely dependent on language ability and with the right learning supports students with receptive language difficulties can meet their full potential. The interaction between talking skills and written language becomes even further apparent in the high school years.

Many students do well in the primary school years, however find the escalating social and academic demands in Grades 8 and above are especially trying for students with language-based learning problems. Many have in fact undetected language problems that do not present themselves until the early adolescence period (e.g., when simple social scripts are not enough and students are expected to read, research and write assignments with less support than early schooling years required.)

high school language difficulties help
​There are general good teaching strategies that can be implemented within a classroom as well as when interaction or explaining things to a high school student with receptive language difficulties.

Contact SpeechNet for assessments and screens for high school students that can help tailor suggestions to your student specifically. General ideas include:

Ask students if they are really following the content and the speed with which instructions and new material is being presented. Remember high school students with receptive language difficulties might be embarrassed that they need help. It is important to frequently ask in a non-judgemental way.

​Remind students that everyone has things they do not understand. Ask them to write down one thing they do not understand each week.

​Ask them:

  • What was easy about a subject before asking what was hard?
  • ​To tell you in one or two sentences what was the main idea learnt in the lesson/ subject/ day.

​Repeat all instructions and say the same thing in more than one way. This will assist with understanding skills

​Encourage memory skills such as getting them to repeat back key steps or items 2-3 times to lay it down into their memories.

Reward those that seek appropriate help or ask appropriate clarification questions.

Recognise that inattention or avoidance may be masking reduced comprehension of what is expected of them.

Provide steps or information in chunks and feed the next step as one is completed rather than giving lengthy and complex instructions.

If new vocabulary is given ensure written definitions are provided and the words are overtly discussed.

Use visual as much as possible – diagrams, lists, picture prompts, dot points on white board, flow charts, screen shot steps,

​Be aware that abstract ideas and language may be difficult. Link the ideas where possible to ideas they students may already know or that are concrete links /examples of the abstract ideas.

Use direct rather than indirect instructions and avoid inferencing e.g. Stop talking rather than I didn't hear Johnny because everyone one is chatting!

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Signs of Language Difficulties in High School

Signs of Language Difficulties in High School

signs of language difficulties high school

Signs of Receptive Language Difficulties or Higher-Level Understanding Problems in High School Students

Language difficulties in high school are often masked or interpreted as other social, emotional or adolescent behavioural problems. It can be difficult to tease out an adolescent can’t complete tasks or are choosing not to complete tasks. This can be hard to distinguish as many high school students either overtly or unintendedly avoid language based tasks as they know they are going to find it difficult to listen and understand what is expected of them. They need help to correct, develop or manage language based difficulties so that they can learn and socialise sufficiently to participate in their community.

signs of language difficulties high school

The first step to assist high school students with receptive language difficulties is by being aware of the signs of receptive language

Receptive language delays and disorders in High School Students will generally have a few of the following signs if they present with Receptive Language Difficulties in High School:

  • Problems listening
  • Problems correctly following spoken instructions
  • They talk however what they are saying contains little real substance
  • Might be OK with concrete ideas that they can see and participate in, however, abstract language and ideas are very difficult for them
  • Taking a long time to respond
  • Problems processing or thinking about the given information
  • Doesn't follow jokes, sarcasm, metaphors.
  • Takes ambiguous language seriously
  • Can't follow conversation particularly in groups
  • Doesn't pick up non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions or gestures - doesn't know when people want to end a conversation or doesn't recognise the emotional content of people's talk.
You may also find:
  • Problems with school work
  • Can't complete homework
  • Participation in class discussion is badly handled or non-existent
  • Has trouble gaining information from class teachers and from books
  • Finds it hard to understand inferences
  • Following the rules of the classroom is inconsistent or does not understand them or the need to follow them
  • Poor at tests
  • Has trouble with the school routines - can't remember the timetable, loses the rooms, can't use a diary well.
  • Poor at working independently
  • Concentration and attention appear poor Behavioural Problems
  • Poor self-esteem
Or you may see:
  • Problems making and maintaining friendships
  • Lost motivation, cumulative sense of failure
  • Depression, anger, frustration, withdrawal, aggression
  • Reluctance to participate, including in remedial work
  • Inappropriate coping mechanisms, e.g. bullying, clowning, copying (cheating), delinquency and truancy

See Expressive language difficulties in High School students for further expressive language signs of Language difficulties.

​If you feel a high school student you know or work with may be presenting with some of these concerns, contact a speech pathologist, talk to a teacher or a special education guidance officer.

SpeechNet Speech Pathologist have experience working in high schools. We get that they are adolescents and all what this means. Our approach and supports will assist the with the underlying language difficulties.

It is never too late to seek help for a high school student struggling at school.

Contact Us Today - We're Here To Help!​

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signs of language difficulties high school

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Red Flags for Receptive Language difficulties in Preschool

Red Flags for Receptive Language difficulties in Preschool

receptive language difficulties preschool

Receptive language skills in preschool is the basis of all learning in these critical years. Receptive language refers to understanding skills. Parents, carers and early childhood staff need to be aware of red flags or warning signs that receptive language difficulties may be present.

Some of the key Red Flags include:

  • Have difficulty processing information presented verbally without visuals.
  • They may only attend to part of the instruction
  • Be inattentive
  • Display poor concentration
  • Follow what others are doing and appear ‘lost’
  • Have difficulty answering questions
  • Not follow the content of a conversation accurately, and as a result, talk ‘off topic’
  • Be impulsive and act before a direction is completed
  • Have difficulty discriminating between words and interpreting everyday speech
  • Have poor reading comprehension
  • Be slower to learn new concept
receptive language difficulties preschool
By 3-4 years children should be understanding a range of “complex” questions. A warning sign can be when a preschool child finds answering simple "Who?", "What?" and "Where?" questions. They may respond by:
  • Just repeating the question back (echolalia). This generally means they are not understanding what is being asked but know they need to say something.
  • They may give the wrong kind of answer for the specific question type e.g., they might give a “what” answer to a “when” question.

Adult: “when did you go?” (when question)

​Child: “to the park” (what answer)

  • Do not actually know the expected response for the wh- question]

What - a thing answer

​When - a time answer (in the morning, at 6pm, last summer)

​Where - a place answer (in the middle, next to the box, in the city)

​Why - a reason answer (because ___; So_____)

By 4-5 children should be attending to, understanding and enjoy listening to stories with and without pictures to help them to attend.

They should be able to remember the story long enough to be able to answer simple questions about the story. They should be able to recall the main sequences of event and some of the details (e.g., the character’s name).

​If there are red flags about a preschool child’s understanding then a referral to a medical officer and / or a speech pathologist would be warranted. Hearing should always be considered and eliminated as a factor for a child presenting with receptive language delays or language disorders. 

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Preschool Comprehension Activities & Ideas to Boost Receptive Language Skills

Preschool Comprehension Activities & Ideas to Boost Receptive Language Skills

comprehension activities preschool receptive language

Boosting Receptive Language Skills in Preschool provides an excellent foundation for life-long learning. Delays in comprehension skills in Preschool can results in a child struggling to follow what is happening in the class activities. They can lose the thread of a group’s conversation (e.g., story time), they end up not carrying out requests or instructions or them may simply look blank when asked a question! These difficulties can lead to social, self-esteem and learning problems.

The following provides some general suggestions to help develop receptive language skills in preschool:

Ask questions and give instructions at their level of understanding.

This might mean you need to deliberately make you sentences shorter e.g. break a 2-step command into two single step commands. You may need to ask a speech pathologist to complete a formal language assessment in the preschool years in order to really determine what level of receptive language you should use.

comprehension activities preschool receptive language

Understand what clues they are using to help with understanding.

Some Preschoolers’ may be waiting for someone else to have a turn to work out what the instruction actually meant. These clues can help scaffold or build their understanding. The clues can be weaned off once the child’s understanding skills strengthen. You can set up picture charts or clues for children so they have visual prompts if their comprehensions are weak. The receptive language skills in preschool classrooms can be supported as a whole with visual prompts.

Provide good language input during everyday activities to boost receptive language in preschool

Talk about what the pre-schooler is doing and discuss new words relating to what they are currently doing. This can help expand word level comprehension.

comprehension activities preschool receptive language

Repeat and Paraphrase:

Ask the question or an instruction more than once. The child can then “comprehend” different parts of the question each time. By encourage memory skills (e.g., rehearsing or saying back themselves the instruction) receptive language in preschool can be supported. Say the same thing using a different word can assist in building receptive vocabulary development (e.g., it was a big dinosaur… It was SO big, it was ENORMOUS).

Focus on their focus

Show interest in what they are interested in. We all comprehend new things faster if we are interested in and want to know the new information. The Focus on Toddler Talk Online Program would be very useful for parents of Preschool children that have major receptive language delays. (e.g., children with autism)

comprehension activities preschool receptive language

Check they understand before they fail

After you give an instruction ask what they are going to do first? (e.g., get your shoes then your coat?... What are you getting first?). This is better than getting cross they didn’t follow your request!

READ BOOKS:

Don’t just read the word in a book and move on. Ask them to find some of the pictures. This can start off by its name (Where is the train) but then you could boost comprehension of concepts by asking if they can “find the toy under the toy box”, or ask for actions or parts of the pictures (e.g., find one that has spokes).

comprehension activities preschool receptive language

Encourage then to try to understand and not to avoid what they do not easily comprehend.

Expect then to follow an instruction or answer a question if asked. This should be established from 18 months. Give an instruction just before a child does the action (e.g., “cuddle teddy” just as they go to cuddle teddy. THEN praise that “you listened to what I asked! Well done! Cuddle teddy!). If a preschool is finding instruction difficult or is showing refusal behaviour, then ask questions you can help them do. (e.g., put the block in the box). If they don’t do it, gentle “hand over their hand” and help the to do it. If this cause them to get upset or frustrated make the task really quick or only do one or two turns. Praise them following the instruction like they did it themselves!

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Red Flags for Receptive Language Delays in Toddlers

Red Flags for Receptive Language Delays in Toddlers

receptive language delays toddlers

As we noted receptive language delays in toddlers are often missed until they start more formal schooling. To really know if a toddler is understanding spoken words, it is important to recognise when they are being good “guesses” rather than showing that they truly understand a word.

Receptive language delays in toddlers can be masked by their clever “detective skills” of reading the clues around them. Toddlers can guess the understanding of words from clues such as:

The situation

(e.g., “come up” as you pick up the keys and get up to move)

Hand Gestures

(e.g., “get the ball” as you point to the object you were playing with; “give it to me” when you have your hand out stretch to receive the object).

Your eye pointing

(e.g., you may glance at the thing you want them to show you)

Body gestures

(e.g., You may give clues by shaking your head “no” as you ask “Is it a dog?)

Obvious next steps in a routine

(e.g., “Shoes off” when you are getting ready for a bath. Are they following the spoken words in the direction or just “understand” what is expected in that situation)?

receptive language delays toddlers

Because of their clever ability to read clues, many parents, without realising, attribute higher understanding skills then they really have.

Looking at the developmental milestones for your child’s age will assist in thinking about whether there are receptive language delays in toddlers. Remember the ages listed below are estimates and also very generous.

These are RED FLAGS meaning the child should have had the skills at earlier ages than listed below.
Flag: Not doing what you ask a lot of the time/ Not Following Directions

1 year old

Not Following 1 step Directions

e.g., Give me the spoon

2-3 year olds

Not Following 2 step Directions

e.g., Find your shoes and give me the bag

Flag: Understanding of words is poor or not progressing (poor Receptive Vocabulary)

1 year old

Doesn’t correctly point or look at named everyday objects, toys or pictures

e.g., I see a bird

2-3 year olds

Doesn’t point or look at less common items

e.g., Find the elephant

Flag: Understanding of Concepts is poor or not progressing

1 year old

Doesn’t complete instructions with early concepts

e.g., Put it in vs on

Flag: Ignores or Poor at Answering Questions

1 year old

Not answering simple Yes/No Questions with head shakes

e.g., More cheese?

2-3 year olds

Ignores or makes errors that involve later concepts

e.g., Put it next to vs under the toy car

receptive language delays toddlers

Receptive language skills are essential for communication because they are foundation skills for learning in all areas of development. Children will present with expressive language difficulties if receptive language delays are not address early.

How to help with Receptive Language Delays in Toddlers

Monitor understanding stills and not just the toddler’s “talking” skills. Keep the “learning” fun and part or your everyday moments. As Toddlers are learning from all their interactions with you grab, some ideas from our “language Moments” video tips for parents, apps and free downloadable ideas.

receptive language delays toddlers

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receptive language delays toddlers

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Early Intervention Activities, Resources & Ideas for home. 

when do children start to talk

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Developmental Milestones & Online Checklists 

receptive language delays toddlers

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