Category: <span>Speech Therapy</span>

Executive Functions – Part 1

Rachel’s Resources
“Executive Functions and Speech-Language Therapy” – Part 1

By Rachel Betzen, M.A., CCC/SLP

R head shot

Many of our students come to us with a list of executive functions challenges that are secondary to their speech-language delays/disorders. As defined by the Online Medical Dictionary, executive functions refer to “the cognitive process that regulates an individual’s ability to organize thoughts and activities, prioritize tasks, manage time efficiently, and make decisions. Impairment of executive function is seen in a range of disorders and learning disabilities.”

Whether these challenges present themselves as poor working memory, planning, organization, response inhibition or emotional control, each of these can have a big impact on our students’ lives – in the short term and in the long term. Language delays or disorders are closely related to their ability to be successful in school, and long term experiences of failure put these kids at high risk for getting in trouble. They are also at a higher risk of dropping out of school and having limited choices for job opportunities that may follow them throughout their lives.

So what can speech-language pathologists such as ours do to better support our students when executive function weaknesses affect their ability to keep up with their academic responsibilities? Everyone has natural strengths and weaknesses as related to executive functions. We make sure our students know and understand this. It becomes easier for them to tolerate their own challenges when students know there are other who struggle in the same way they do.

First, we learn about the child’s executive function strengths and weaknesses and how the child’s weaknesses may influence his or her behavior, as well as the child’s thoughts and beliefs about him or herself and others. Here’s a basic rundown of what the pros look at for executive functions:

Task Initiation Flexibility Planning/Prioritizing
Organization Working Memory Time Management
Response Inhibition Goal Directedness Metacognition
Emotional Control Persistence Sustained Attention

Next, we assess what weaknesses our students have and how these weaknesses are negatively affecting them in school or at home. The questionnaires we use in therapy are perfect for identifying where the child is struggling most and how that relates to his or her language weaknesses.

When further action is needed, we bring a team effort and create a seamless plan for the child’s home and school environments.

Note: Proceed to the “Executive Function – Part 2

Following Your Child’s Lead

Following Your Child’s Lead 

By McKenna Jackson, M.S., CCC/SLP


When we witness a child struggling with learning of any kind, our first inclination, as adults, is to step in and teach the child the correct way of doing things. We lead the child through instructing them in the proper way as we see it. When the task at hand is learning to talk, parents may talk for the child, finish the words for them, or use controlling language, like commands and questions, while correcting their speech.

However, it is essential that the child develop the confidence to take an active role and an eagerness to express themselves independently. Follow the child’s lead in observing their interests and level of communication. When your response is appropriate for these levels, learning to talk will come more naturally and comfortably for the child.

Steps to Take:

  • Wait, Observe, and Listen – In this way, the child’s communication methods may be observed. These may include pointing, eye gazing, gestures, grunts and crying.
  • Give Your Child a Chance – Instead of anticipating the child’s every need, allow them to have the time to express themselves. For instance, wait to serve juice until the child makes a request for it. When the doorbell rings, wait for the child to respond before answering the door.
  • Know What to Expect – After observing the child’s interests and desires along with their methods for expressing them, communication is achieved whether it be verbal, pointing, nodding, or using signs or picture boards. This is the starting level for communication — do not expect more or less. If you expect too much, you may never recognize the child’s current method of communication. If you expect too little, for instance a grunt instead of using a word the child has used before, the quality of the initiations will not improve.
  • Be at the Same Physical Level – Sit together on the sofa or on the floor where eye contact can be reached with no distractions. Verbal and non-verbal methods will be more recognizable. Your responses and facial expressions will work to encourage your child’s communication skills.

Prioritizing Goals

Rachel’s Reflections

Prioritizing Goals for Speech-Language Therapy         

By Rachel Betzen, M.A., CCC/SLP

goalsMany students with speech-language delays/disorders come to Dallas Reading and Language Services with a list of challenges that serve as barriers. These barriers may limit their ability to be successful across all areas of their lives.

As speech therapists, we know that communication and learning challenges often come with a host of negative experiences and feelings that may fuel the child’s frustration and anger.

Across all ages, this might look to parents and educators like temper tantrums, shutting down, giving up, behavior problems at home or school, or just stinking thinking that reinforces false beliefs about how children are not smart enough or good enough to succeed.

It is important for us as therapists that we help families and educators understand that communication delays/disorders may be the direct underlying cause for these problems the child is experiencing.

When writing new and ongoing goals for therapy, our therapists take into account the challenges that are showing up in the child’s life, and how they may be related to their delay or disorder.

Questions Our Therapists Ask as Part of Our “Whole Child Intervention” System 

  • What are the family’s main concerns?
  • What concerns have the child’s teachers expressed (both older and newer teachers)?
  • How much failure has the child experienced, especially academic failure and repeated grades?
  • What grade is the child in now, and how far behind is the child in school?
  • What behavior challenges does the child have? How could these be related to speech and language development?
  • What social and emotional issues exist as barriers?
  • How sensitive is the child and how easily is his or her feelings hurt?
  • How easy or difficult is it for the child to make friends? Does he or she have good relationships with friends, or have friends at all?
  • Has the child experienced trauma from family, community, peers, bullies, etc.?
  • How well does the child participate in family and group activities?
  • How well can the child introduce him or herself (with clear speech and cohesive sentences) and join in unstructured play or conversation with new people?
  • How well does the child relate to and engage with peers the child already knows?
  • How common are communication breakdowns for the child?
  • What beliefs do the child or family have that may be getting in the way of progress?

Considering what is expected of children at home and school is helpful. The further behind a child is academically, the more important it becomes to address goals within the context of literacy.

Rachel Betzen, M.A., CCC/SLP, is a licensed speech-language therapist and is the founder and owner of Dallas Reading and Language Services.

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