What skills do you assess and how do you choose who attends The Reading Language Gym?
As Speech and Language Therapists, we use age-appropriate standardised and non-standardised tests to assess speech production, phonological awareness, receptive and expressive oral language, reading accuracy, reading fluency, reading comprehension, spelling and written expression. We use the “reason for referral” and the case history information to guide our assessments. We integrate our assessment results with previous assessment from colleagues (Educational Psychologists, Learning Support Therapists, Teachers, Occupational Therapists, Child Psychiatrists etc). Based on this information and discussion with the school and parents, we determine whether it is in the child’s best interest to be invited to train at The Reading Language Gym, or if referral elsewhere is more appropriate.
Based on the pattern of results from the assessment we plan specific targeted intervention for the assessed child.
What skills do you train?
- Phonological awareness and symbol imagery to help children hear sounds in words for reading and spelling and to learn to image the letters in words for correct spelling
- Letter knowledge and knowledge of phonic patterns for reading and spelling
- Word patterning and syllable work for reading and spelling
- Morphological work for reading accuracy: prefixes suffixes, derived forms
- Words are always learned in connection to the sound patterns, letter sequences and meaning (phonological, orthographic and semantic patterns)
- Reading and re-reading for fluency and comprehension: The aim is always to get the main idea of the text in order to answer inference questions
- Syntax: expansion of expressive syntax to aid verbal and written expression and reading comprehension
- Verbal expression and the use of oral academic language as a model for written language
- Spelling and dictation
- Children from Grades 6 to 12 work more closely with school-based texts to work on literacy and language skills. Academic language is the target for the older learners.
Do you treat all speech and language disorders? What don’t you do?
We do not do traditional articulation therapy, stuttering therapy or voice therapy. We work on the discrimination and articulation of speech sounds that are related to spelling. We work on segmentation of syllables in reading and often articulation of longer words improves, but we do not work directly on speech. We work on verbal expression, but not directly on fluency or fluency techniques for stuttering.
What is the difference between Learning Support therapy, Language therapy and what you do at The Reading Language Gym?
The Reading Language Gym is run by Speech and Language Therapists. It is an integration of traditional language therapy and learning support therapy. Although learning support therapy skills such as reading accuracy, fluency, comprehension, spelling and written language are targeted; these are treated within a paradigm of language development. Auditory processing / comprehension and expression of language both verbally and in text form, and academic language are strong underpinnings of all the work we do.
Do the children work in groups?
The philosophy of training is one of “teach the underlying skill- apply the skill – check the results- re-teach or add a new target”. The children work for half an hour on specific targets with a therapist. They then generalize and use these skills in the second half of the session. Each child works on their own target skill, in a small group mediated by a therapist (e.g. spelling/written expression/comprehension answers).
Do older children get embarrassed by having younger children training next to them?
We aim to demystify and take the shame out of language and literacy barriers. It sometimes takes time for children to feel comfortable with other children around, but soon we find that most children become proud to help each other and talk about their difficulties. The older children are often asked to “listen to an oral” given by a shy younger child or to encourage a child who is having a bad day. We ask children to write a letter to other Gym Kids when they leave. See some of these letters from children.
How do you measure progress and when is a child ‘finished’ at The Reading Language Gym?
A re-assessment is usually carried out after about 40 to 48 sessions, depending on the frequency of attendance. Liaison with teachers and parents; discussion with the child and the re-assessment results, is how we measure progress. This allows us to see if the objective test results are consistent with functional improvements in class or at home. Often children reduce the intensity of training from twice to once a week after 48 sessions. Other children take a break from training and return later. Still others are discharged because they are now coping at school. Sometimes these children return a year or two later as the language load of the syllabus increases and they again begin to struggle.
Which children should be referred to The Reading Language Gym?
The typical referral is a child who:
- has difficulties reading
- hates reading
- has poor reading comprehension
- can learn for their spelling tests by cannot spell when they write stories or news
- cannot get their thoughts onto paper.
- may or may not be good at mathematics
- is often very creative and a good problem solver
- struggles to follow verbal instructions
Does every child who gets assessed come to The Reading Language Gym?
We try to book assessments only for children who are suited to our program. However, occasionally we assess a child and decide that an alternative intervention is more suited to their needs. The Reading Gym serves a number of functions:
- To train children in the main stream school system, in an intensive way, after school hours
- To act as a bridging intervention for children who need to go into special schools
- To give extra support to children who have been mainstreamed from special schools
- To give extra support to some children who are in special schools.
The children who are ideally suited:
- Can sustain the intensity of twice weekly training.
- They are able to shift between tasks relatively easily
- They need to move a lot
- Children with poor self esteem around reading and learning
- Children who are afraid to risk
- Children who are struggling to admit that they have difficulties
- Quirky kids
- “Bright” children (often cognitively gifted) who are underachieving at school due to reading difficulties
- Children who are motivated to improve their skills
- Children whose parents believe in and support the intervention process
- Children who have attended other approaches with little success.
Although we do work with children who present with some of the following, sometimes they struggle to cope in our environment:
- Children who fatigue very easily
- Children who are extremely noise sensitive
- Children who are in emotional crisis and require intensive emotional support in addition to remedial intervention
- Globally delayed children who cannot shift between tasks without significant help
- Financial constraints: twice a week intervention, for hour long sessions is often not affordable for parents
What are the Costs?
- An assessment is between 1 ½ to 3 hours including a feedback session with the parents, a phone call if necessary, to the teacher and a full written report.
- The fees are in keeping with speech language therapy hourly rates
- The fees can be claimed back from medical aid.
How do you charge?
An account is sent on the last session of the month and accounts need to be settled before the beginning of the next month. Standard cancellation policy applies.
Do all the children follow the same programme?
An individualised treatment profile is created for every child, following the initial assessment. A language therapist prepares each child’s session before every session. Targets are checked, and adjusted accordingly as the child progresses. High school children work on academic language and the language syllabus.
Who are the trainers and does each child have one designated trainer?
Each child has a specific case manager who is a qualified Speech and Language Therapist. All intervention targets and re-assessments are done by the case manager. Language therapists are trained to work with the children and the children see most of the therapists as they progress through the program. The therapists have a weekly case conference to discuss any issues.
Do Children need to stop other therapies while they are attending The Reading Language Gym?
If a child attends other therapies, we usually advise a team meeting with all the relevant professionals. At this meeting, intervention in prioritised. We feel strongly that children should not be loaded with too many interventions at the same time.