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Empowering Teachers of Children from Low-Income Homes

Empowering Teachers of Children from Low-Income Homes
Sandra Combs, Lesley Raisor, Nancy Creaghead, Sandra L. Schneider, PhD, CCC-SLP
April 7, 2008



Because of our knowledge about spoken language and language disorders, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) have a responsibility to play a significant role in ensuring that all children gain access to instruction in reading and writing and the school curriculum (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association [ASHA], 2000). SLPs can make an important contribution, not only in regard to intervention for children with speech and language challenges, but also to the education of all children in the classroom and to the literacy efforts of a school district or community. Successful implementation of our role in supporting the literacy needs of children demands collaboration with teachers, families, and other professionals who have expertise in the development of reading and writing. The specific role that the SLP plays will vary across work settings, grade levels, and the experience and expertise of the other team members. The critical contribution of literacy competence to children's academic and social success and their lifetime opportunities make it essential that SLPs assume these roles and responsibilities.

There is strong evidence that poverty is one risk factor for development of literacy skills and subsequent school success (Burns & Griffin, 1998; Hart & Risley, 1995; Landry, 2001; Neuman & Celano, 2001; Snow, Washington & Craig, 1998). One factor that may differentiate between communities of different socio-economic levels is the access to print in the community. Neuman and Celano examined the access to print in four urban neighborhoods in Philadelphia. The data were collected by students in urban anthropology. The neighborhoods included two middle class communities and two low-income communities. The percent of the populations below poverty was 0 in the middle-class neighborhoods while it was 46% and 90% in the two low-income neighborhoods. The researchers examined: (1) the opportunities to find books and the variety of selection in each community, and (2) the ambient signs of literacy in the environment.

In one middle-class neighborhood with a primary population of blue collar, immigrant families, there were:

  • 13 places to buy books, and
  • 2,157 different book titles, averaging one title for every three children.

In the other middle-class neighborhood, which was characterized by some "old money" and a population of 33% African American, 50% Caucasian, and other international families, there were:

  • 11 places to buy books, and
  • 16,453 different book titles, averaging 13 different titles per child.

In contrast, the data from one of the two low-income neighborhoods, which had a population of 33% Caucasian, 33% African American, and 33% Hispanic, showed that there were only:

  • 4 places to buy books, and
  • 358 different book titles, which averaged one per 20 children.

In the second low-income neighborhood, there were:

  • 4 places to buy books, and
  • 55 different book titles, most of which were coloring books, which averaged only one per 300 children.

In addition to the greater likelihood of lower family literacy in low-income families, these data suggest that families do not have the same access to print resources in the low-income neighborhoods even if they do wish to introduce their children to books. Neuman and Celano (2001) found yet another limitation in the opportunities to access print in these low-income neighborhoods. There were fewer business signs and logos in the low-income communities, and these were more likely to be in poor condition or be covered with graffiti, blurring the distinction between meaningful print and nonmeaningful markings. This research is one indication of the differential opportunities for literacy development in middle class and low-income communities, thus demonstrating the need for enhancing the literacy opportunities of young children in order to prepare them for school success. Limited access to books is likely to result in more limited vocabulary and limited information on the part of the parents as well as the children in the family.

sandra combs

Sandra Combs

Lesley Raisor

nancy creaghead

Nancy Creaghead

Sandra L. Schneider, PhD, CCC-SLP

Sandra L. Schneider, Ph.D. CCC-SLP, BC-NCD is currently an assistant professor at the Ohio State University in Columbus, OH. She does research in the area of acquired adult neurogenic communication disorders including: aphasia, motor speech disorders, dementia, normal aging, and other neurodegenerative disease processes. This research has led to many national and international publications and presentations.


Related Courses

Supporting Children of Poverty: Special Considerations for the School-Based SLP
Presented by Angie Neal, MS, CCC-SLP
Course: #8735Level: Introductory1 Hour
This course will provide SLPs with a critically important view of how and why poverty has a tremendous impact on both language learning and academic success. Key strategies for working with school teams and conducting therapy will also be shared.

Developing Authors: Designing Opportunities in AAC Using the Science of Writing
Presented by Janet Sturm, PhD, CCC-SLP, BCS-CL
Course: #9787Level: Advanced1 Hour
This is Part 1 of the 5-part series, Applying the Science of Reading, Writing, and Oral Language for Students Who Use AAC. The ability to write has enormous power, especially for a student who uses augmentative/alternative communication (AAC). This course describes how students who use AAC can become authors when systematic, sequential and explicit instruction is anchored in the science of writing, and discusses the components and benefits of this type of reading/writing curriculum.

“Spelling” It Out for Students Who Use AAC: Applying Evidence-Based Practices
Presented by Jillian McCarthy, PhD, CCC-SLP
Course: #9788Level: Advanced1 Hour
This is Part 3 of the 5-part series, Applying the Science of Reading, Writing, and Oral Language for Students Who Use AAC. The ability to spell opens academic, social, and employment doors for children with complex communication needs (CCN) who use or benefit from augmentative-alternative communication (AAC). This course discusses evidence-based assessment and intervention ideas to help students with CCN who use AAC become “spellers,” and broaden their overall communication skills.

Supporting Literacy Development through Robust Language Intervention for Students who Use AAC
Presented by Carole Zangari, PhD, CCC-SLP, BCS-CL
Course: #97891 Hour
This is Part 4 of the 5-part series, Applying the Science of Reading, Writing, and Oral Language for Students Who Use AAC. Improving the linguistic foundation of students who use AAC supports the development of strong literacy skills. Key intervention strategies and guidelines for robust language intervention for AAC users are discussed along with examples demonstrating their application to various language skills.

Language Literacy Learning for Diverse Students
Presented by Carol Westby, PhD, CCC-SLP, Elizabeth Biersgreen, MS, CCC-SLP
Course: #8767Level: Advanced1 Hour
This course will (1) describe the nature of a "multiliteracies" approach to language literacy learning and development of self-identity, and (2) demonstrate how this methodology has been implemented with elementary school-age refugee children, English Learners, and children with complex language impairments. This course is presented in joint partnership with the American Board of Child Language and Language Disorders (ABCLLD).