Language, Communication, and Literacy: What’s the Connection?

The relationship between language, literacy, and communication is powerful. Speaking, listening, reading, and writing develop together; therefore, meaningful language, literacy, and communication opportunities should be embedded into every part of a student’s day. Research tells us that when adults create rich language and literacy environments and respond to a child’s communication in specific ways, they can boost that child’s emergent language and literacy development and increase the likelihood of future academic success. (

The acquisition of language and literacy skills is social. It happens because young children want to interact and communicate with others. Literacy occurs during meaningful interactions, experiences, and activities; however, children differ in how and how fast they learn. Some language and literacy learning happens naturally during play and everyday experiences, and some depends on explicit instruction from observant and sensitive adults. Differences in children’s home language and culture can affect literacy development. Classroom literacy experiences should allow for and value these differences. Language and literacy are connected from infancy onward. Speaking, listening, reading and writing develop concurrently rather than sequentially. (

The American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) states in its position statement that the connections between spoken and written language are well established in that (a) spoken language provides the foundation for the development of reading and writing; (b) spoken and written language have a reciprocal relationship, such that each builds on the other to result in general language and literacy competence, starting early and continuing through childhood into adulthood; (c) children with spoken language problems frequently have difficulty learning to read and write, and children with reading and writing problems frequently have difficulty with spoken language [3] ; and (d) instruction in spoken language can result in growth in written language, and instruction in written language can result in growth in spoken language.

As with difficulty in learning to listen and speak, difficulty in learning to read and write can involve any of the components of language—phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. Problems can occur in the production, comprehension, and awareness of language at the sound, syllable, word, sentence, and discourse levels. Individuals with reading and writing problems also may experience difficulties in using language strategically to communicate, think, and learn. These fundamental connections necessitate that intervention for language disorders target written as well as spoken language needs.

Additional resources from ASHA:
ASHA’s Position Statement on Literacy:
ASHA’s Literacy Gateway:
Building Literacy Skills K-2:
Building Literacy Skills 3-5:

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MDR Training for Campus Personnel

MDR Training for Campus Personnel 8-29-14

155 special education personnel from all levels attended the MDR training presented by Dr. Shuk Wa Wong, Manager of School Psychology, on August 29, 2014. Participants can review the training powerpoint via the link above. Participants are also encouraged to share the message with their campus administrators and colleagues. MDR online training will be available on eLearn in early September.

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Kurzweil Implentation Begins at Westside High School

Beth Goodrich, Senior Manager – Office of Special Education Services and friends began implementation of Kurzweil software at Westside High School this afternoon. Kurzweil was introduced to the English Language Arts Team as the first step to campus wide use. In the classroom Kurzweil is used for all students as tool to enhance the learning experience and for student with disabilities to overcome curriclulm barriers. Kurzweil nicely compliments the PowerUp and personalized learning initiatives also beginning at Westside. During the training teachers used Kurzweil to adapt digital text into text to speech, diagrams, picture prompts and outlines. Participants engaged in discussion on how features of Kurzweil can also be implemented on state wide assessments (i.e. STAAR).

Does your campus “Kurzweil?”

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HISD Speech Therapy Kickoff to New School Year

The HISD Speech Therapy team kicked off the new school year by connecting speech therapists (SLPs) to many of the district’s initiatives. Literacy by 3 was introduced by Cheval Bryant, HISD Speech Manager as she posed the following questions to SLPs in small group sessions.

1. Why Should SLPs be concerned about Literacy? How do we fit in?
2. What unique contributions can SLPs make to literacy instruction?
3. What is the relationship between language and literacy?
4. What is the SLP’s role in literacy?

Discussion on the Literacy by 3 district initiative concluded with a review of the American Speech and Hearing Assocition (ASHA) postion statment on literacy found here..

District SLPs engaged in understanding the importance of classroom based speech therapy as the default service delivery model. “All students should be served in the classroom, unless there are skills that the SLP is working on that cannot be supported in a classroom setting… Classroom based therapy is the default option.” At the end of the 2013-2014 data indicates 58% of speech services were delivered in the classroom. The goal for this year is 80% classroom based therapy for all HISD SLPs and the students they serve!

Monday SLP Kick off events concluded with SLP links to Universal Design, and iStation for SLPs.

SLPs can enhance learning and access to the curriculum for all students! View the entire Speech Therapy Job-a-like presentation here.

-Michael Webb

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The SLP’s Role in Dyslexia Identification

Since the core difficulty in dyslexia stems from deficits in phonological awareness skills, phonological memory, and rapid automatic naming abilities, dyslexia is clearly a disability stemming from a core deficit in language.

We as Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) can, and should be, the first responders for young students as risk for dyslexia.

By identifying students with poor phonological awareness skills, or phonological awareness skills that do not match up with other language skills or cognitive abilities, we can make a difference in helping students at-risk for dyslexia before they begin to fail at reading.

The earlier remediation begins, the less severe the impact of the disability will have on the student’s life.

The SLP’s role in identifying students at risk for dyslexia include:

1-Understand Dyslexia

  • Dyslexia is a specific disability that is neurological in origin.

It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.

—These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction.

Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

(Adopted by the International Dyslexia Association Board of Directors, November 2002)

2- Know the Signs of Dyslexia

  • May have difficulty with rhyming
  • May have poor auditory memory for nursery rhymes and chants
  • May have difficulty learning and remembering the names of letters in the alphabet
  • May have difficulty recognizing letters in his/her own name
  • May mispronounce familiar words
  • May be unable to recall the right word
  • May have trouble learning numbers, days of the week, colors, and shapes
  • Fails to understand that words come apart (i.e. snowman can be pulled apart into snow and man, man can be broken down as /m/ /a/ /n/)
  • Complains about how hard reading is, or “disappearing” when it is time to read
  • Cannot sound out simple words like cat, map, nap- lacks a strategy to decode single words
  • Relies on context clues to recognize a word

3- Use A Language Assessment to Identify Students Who Need Further Testing for Dyslexia

When completing a language assessment on students in pre-K through second grade, include the CTOPP-2 in your assessments. If the student scores low on the CTOPP-2, CONNECT WITH THE CAMPUS EVALUATION SPECIALIST AND CONSIDER A DYSLEXIA REFERRAL.

If the student scores average to high-average on the receptive language portion of the language test you administer, but the teachers tell you he/she is lagging behind in his/her reading skills, CONNECT WITH THE CAMPUS EVALUATION SPECIALIST AND CONSIDER A DYSLEXIA REFERRAL.

If the student demonstrates good listening comprehension skills, but poor decoding skills or reading passage comprehension skills, CONNECT WITH THE CAMPUS EVALUATION SPECIALIST AND CONSIDER A DYSLEXIA REFERRAL.

If the student demonstrates poor decoding skills, difficulty decoding nonsense words, poor spelling skills, strength in listening comprehension but weakness in reading comprehension, and poor response to intervention to remediate these skills, CONNECT WITH THE CAMPUS EVALUATION SPECIALIST AND CONSIDER A DYSLEXIA REFERRAL.

If you feel that a student is exhibiting characteristics listed in “Recognizing Signs of Dyslexia”, CONNECT WITH THE CAMPUS EVALUATION SPECIALIST AND CONSIDER A DYSLEXIA REFERRAL.

*If a student demonstrates poor reading comprehension skills ALONG WITH poor listening comprehension skills, the student may have a global language disorder co-occurring with dyslexia.

 As SLPs, we hold a valuable key! Let’s use it to make a difference in children’s lives.

By:  Cheval Bryant

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Child Study Material Center Update

New Product Announcements

The Woodcock-Johnson IV will be available in HISD early fall 2014. The Fourth Edition will provide three independent and co-normed batteries: WJ IVTests of Cognitive Abilities, WJ IV Oral Language Battery, and WJ IV Tests of Achievement. See more at:

Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement—Third Edition, available in HISD late fall 2014, offers a comprehensive assessment of key academic skills, maintains all the important features of the KTEA–II and offers updates for targeted interventions. See more at:


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Istation and Special Education Services

How can we improve results for students with disabilities while improving the productivity and accuracy of professionals who evaluate them?  How can we provide data and information to those who provide support to special education programs throughout Houston ISD?  How?  Istation!


Istation reports provide data-driven results enabling administrators, evaluation specialists, licensed specialists in school psychology (LSSPs), speech/language pathologists (SLPs), and special education program specialists to make better-informed decisions and solid recommendations regarding individual and group progress, the need for intervention, and optimal interventions.  Istation will enable these individuals to:

  •  Review student progress over time in all critical areas being evaluated,
  • Show specific skills in which each student struggles, enabling them to provide targeted recommendations for students in special education programs,
  • Assist school leaders as they continue to improve programs for students with disabilities and
  •  Provide Section 504 Committees, Intervention Assistance Teams, and ARD committees with detailed documentation on students’ response to interventions

Beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, the Student Summary Handout will be required for all initial Section 504 and Special Education referrals of enrolled students in grades K-8.   Additionally, Istation data will be used to:

  • Supplement dyslexia identification,
  • Provide supporting information for Full and Individual Evaluations (FIEs),
  • Measure progress toward IEP goals, and
  • Develop the Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP).

With Istation reports, we will have relevant information that can help us optimize the potential of each individual student in Special Education and Section 504.  Istation data can also be used to

ensure effective RtI interventions, and thereby reduce the number of inappropriate referrals to special education.

By Rebecca Martinez

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Governor declares March 3-7 Educational Diagnosticians’ Week

HISD honors the work of Evaluation Specialists (i.e. Diagnosticians!)

Evaluation Specialists in HISD understands the role of supporting the school wide process of Response to Intervention.   Evaluation Specialists are able to influence others such as principals, programs specialists, teachers, and parents because they are current in the field and work to be a reliable source of information.  Evaluation Specialists build strong relationships with colleagues and are viewed as a campus leader.  Evaluation Specialists understand the importance of response time and working within a controlled sense of urgency.  Evaluation Specialists work to solve problems and engage campuses in a meaningful way to impact outcomes for students with disabilities.

Read more about the great work of Evaluation Specialists in HISD featured on the HISD website.  Click here

Great Job!  Evaluation Specialists!

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Understanding Problem Behaviors

Behavior must be an action that you can observe and measure. That means, you can see, hear, touch or smell the behavior. Also, you are able to indicate how many, how often, and how long the behavior occurs.

 When you describe a problem behavior, you must report what actually occurs when the behavior is observed. For example, when describing a child who daydreams in class, you should say, “John stares off into space and does not attend to the instruction given by the teacher.”  By describing the problem behavior in observable and measurable terms, we are better able to communicate and then monitor the occurrences of the behavior in more accurate and reliable ways.

 Every behavior communicates a message.  Students often engage in a problem behavior and continue doing so if they can obtain or access a desirable outcome or avoid or escape an undesirable outcome. If we are able to find out the purpose why a student engages in a problem behavior, we would be able to create effective and efficient interventions to reduce and even eliminate its future occurrences.

A simple way to find out the purpose of a problem behavior is by collecting information about the antecedent-behavior-consequence (A-B-C) chains.  A behavior is any observable and measurable act. An antecedent is the event that is present before or reliably precedes a behavior. A consequence is the event that occurs after a behavior which in turn affects the likelihood of the reoccurrence of the behavior.

 Problem behaviors occur because they are triggered by antecedent events and reinforced by consequences. You should be able to predict behavior based upon which antecedents and consequences are present and/or available. It takes repeated observations of the A-B-C chains to predict behavior. Understanding why problem behaviors occur is the essential first step in changing problem behaviors effectively and efficiently.

By:  Shuk Wa Wong

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Evaluation specialist savors uniqueness of every child

Post from HISD’s Weekly Employee News. By HISD Communications
Great Job Katherine!

Katherine Bell didn’t set out to work with children. When the licensed psychologist completed her university studies, she initially worked with adults in drug and alcohol addiction programs, and then maintained a private practice for 18 years.

But Bell has been an evaluation specialist in HISD’s Child Study department now for 25 years, and she works with students from Ashburn, Bush, and West University ES schools to identify children with disabilities and test kids for dyslexia. She says it’s the fascinating variety of children she meets every day that keeps her coming back.

“My job has a lot of variety, because every child is so unique,” said Bell. “I really enjoy pinpointing learning differences and communicating those to parents and teachers so that they can understand and embrace those differences.”

Bell officially marked her 25th anniversary with the district on Feb. 1, but several other employees also marked theirs over the last two weeks (Jan. 26–Feb. 8). See if you know anyone on this list:

Read more here:

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