Yesterday I shared my concerns about Stacey, a rising 3rd grader who appears to have a language disability. It can be difficult to intervene if parents are unable or unwilling to accept that their children have major challenges; it’s even harder if all of the kids are struggling in some way. Where does that leave us? If I were a regular classroom teacher at Stacey’s school, I might initially attribute her unusual verbal responses as shyness or as a misunderstanding. In a large group setting, it can be harder to evaluate students if they aren’t eager to respond. Hopefully, Stacey’s teacher would spot Stacey’s unusual errors and word finding problems.
As a special educator, I might not notice Stacey’s language struggles, either. If a parent or teacher does not refer a student, I would have limited contact with that child. On the other hand, I have had opportunities to refer kids for speech and language issues when they have been invited to social skills groups called “lunch bunches.” A lunch bunch is when my special needs kiddos could invite one or more friends to a small group lunch. In that setting, I typically found that all of them could use a hand in conversational skills! But seriously, I think the easiest way to get to know kids is in a small group setting.
The best hope for Stacey to receive some language intervention comes from small group interactions with adult supervision. In that setting, it would be much more obvious that Stacey is not functioning at typical levels for her age. Whether an official evaluation process ever gains traction is uncertain in light of the family dynamics.