Reading Programs for Apraxia and Dysarthria

By Pam Marshalla

Q: What reading programs do you use with children who have apraxia or dysarthria?

I do not teach reading. It is my opinion that the SLP has no business teaching kids to read. We are speech-language pathologists, not reading specialists. I’m sorry to disappoint. I do not go along with things just because they are popular points of view.

In my opinion it is unethical for SLP’s to be teaching reading.

Therefore I do not keep up with reading programs. I view that to be the responsibility of the reading specialist. We are SPEECH-LANGUAGE specialists who are supposed to be teaching speech and language, not reading.

Please note that I do USE reading in my practice when I feel it will support the speech I am trying to teach. As a simple example, I use three-letter words like “cat” and four-letter words like “book” if I am stimulating final consonants.

In fact I always use reading and spelling activities this way. My clients and I spell out B-words when we are working on /b/. We make S-word lists when we are working on /s/. We write out sentences like, “My mom made mushy marshmallows” when working on /m/, and so forth. We also read dictionaries, textbooks, storybooks, rhymes, jokes, and speeches.

My clients may learn a lot about reading along the way, and I certainly have seen many children flash that facial expression that exclaims, “Hey, I get it!” when the ability to read and sound-out words becomes clear to them during our activities. Just thinking about that moment gives me chills. But I do not teach them to read. I teach them to work on their speech while engaged in reading activities.

8 thoughts on “Reading Programs for Apraxia and Dysarthria”

  1. My son will be 6 in April. He has been in therapy since 18 mths and is practically non-verbal. After reading some of your posts I think he may have Dysarthria as well. It’s has never been mentioned though. He is nasal sounding. He tends to be loud. Mouth movements and slow and hard. He looks like a cow chewing cud when eating. It looks like his mouth parts an hand feel numb. I want to homeschool him because I feel he won’t be given the help in needs in a small town school. I’m a homeschool
    Mom anyway. I understand your point about reading, but what I need to know in selecting a reading program is HOW can I teach him to read when he can’t vocally soundout words? Teach reading by sight only? I’m not sure what to do.

    1. To comment appropriately about your questions, I need to know the following: How old is your child? What is his cognitive status? Does he have a diagnosed neuromuscular disorder. A six-year-old child who is non-verbal usually has a lot more going on that just “speech.” I need to get a better overall picture of him to comment. Thanks-

  2. You are right-it is unethical for SLPs to teach reading, but I would add, without an extensive background in literacy. With it, there is no better person to handle students who do not readily make the connection between the written symbol and the corresponding speech sound. After all, written language originates and is based on oral language. From that viewpoint, written language, including difficulties with decoding, and encoding, rightly falls within our scope of practice.

  3. We, SLPs, overlap with Reading Specialists and classroom teachers in that we must assist with phonological awareness activities….rate and rhyme, number of syllables, etc. A team approach is the best.

    1. My persistent comments about reading are in regard to the thousands of SLPs who now seem to be teaching reading instead of working on expressive speech. Speech and reading are two very different skills. Yes, it is fine to work on “phonological awareness.” But research from long ago (1970s, I have it here somewhere…) demonstrated that when you teach auditory skills, only auditory skills improve. Production skills do not necessarily improve. However, when you teach production skills, you are teaching both auditory skills AND production skills. If we are teaching only phonological awareness (the old-timers called this “auditory training” or “ear training”) who is teaching production? That is my point in all this. DON’T focus just on phonological awareness. That is only half the problem.

      1. Reading teachers often have difficulty distinguishing a reading error from a speech production error/phonological process error. This means the child is not given appropriate feedback, leading to increased confusion and self doubt. Kids with speech issues need time neurologically to plan and execute the rapid coordinated movement required for clear speech. SLP’s step in when traditional methods don’t work, and the staffing is limited or the needs of the child are not being met. IMO.

        I also think reading teachers don’t always recognize when vocabulary deficits are impacting comprehension, rather than a failure in decoding. SLP’s are better at teasing that out.

        Reading teachers have so many great tools and programs and should be the primary reading instructor, but should have a speech pathologist analyze speech related errors versus reading errors and provide strategies for speech related errors. Working together would be best.

  4. I Have an 11 year old son who cannot read. He has diagnosed with Chiari I malformation back in 2007 and had surgery with many complications. ha also has been diagnosed with aproxis. he has been in SDC classes all his life thus far. We have been working on speech so much that now I think he needs so much help just to start reading. Where to start???? I don’t know

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