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What is phonological processing?
Speech sound processing.
Our use of sounds to process and understand spoken and written language. It includes skills such as phonological and phonemic awareness, phonological working memory, and phonological retrieval or rapid naming. Weaknesses in these areas are usually the core weakness in reading and learning disabilities, such as dyslexia.
What is phonological awareness?
The ability to think about sounds in words.
The ability to analyze and manipulate the sound structure of a language. An example is rhyming. By changing the first sound in a word, you create a rhyme… cat, hat, rat, bat. Difficulty in this area will lead to a slow-down in a child’s ability to figure out how sounds work in words. Unfortunately, if they’re struggling with sounds, they will also struggle with letters because letters represent sounds.
What is phonological memory?
The storage of sounds in temporary short-term working memory. We use this skill when remembering how much to pay a cashier, repeating a phone number until we’re able to write it down, and recalling the sounds in a word as we attempt to sound it out or spell it. If a child can’t keep track of the sounds they’re attempting to use, reading and spelling will be very challenging.
What is letter-sound knowledge?
Knowing how sounds and letters go together.
The ability to link the sounds coming out of our mouths and the letters we see, write, and type. This skill is dependent on phonological awareness. Without it, our brains cannot make the necessary connections and create the new neurological networks necessary for reading and spelling. To put this skill in perspective, English has 26 letters, roughly 44 sounds, and literally hundreds of ways to represent those sounds using letters. No wonder so many children struggle!
Struggling with letters? We’ll teach letter-sound knowledge in a way that plays to their strengths. They’ve been listening to speech sounds since birth and began producing them as a baby. So, we’ll start with those very familiar sounds.
Speech-to-print approaches start with the sounds coming out of their mouths. Those sounds are then matched to the various letter combinations that can be used to spell them. This is a natural and easily acquired approach that results in very limited levels of frustration because it capitalizes on the neural networks of language that already exist. It is very different than how schools and tutors typically teach children to read… They start with letters, use more rigid rules, add complex directions, and work backwards to the sounds. For struggling early readers, print-to-speech approaches are usually much more difficult for them.
Speech-to-print approaches reflect the most recent advances in reading research. Skills are more naturally acquired and children begin progressing almost immediately!
But they can read… they just don’t understand what they read.
Reading comprehension problems are language comprehension problems!
Even if a child can sound out or read words, they may still have trouble connecting the dots between the sounds they hear and say, the words they see and write, the meaning of those words, how those words combine to create different types of sentences, how paragraphs relate to each other, etc. If this is the case, they will always struggle to understand what they read.
Sometimes, understanding different sentence structures is at the root of the problem. Sometimes, it’s about how sentences are ordered to create paragraphs and stories. As speech language therapists, we are the best profession for the job. After all, this problem is a language problem & we are language specialists.