Communication Repair Strategies for Students w/HL, CAPD, or Receptive Language Disorder

When a student fails to understand oral communication, often times he/she does not acknowledge there has been a breakdown.  Consequently, the teacher is unaware that information is not being conveyed.  Students with receptive language disorders, CAPD, or hearing loss, as well as teachers benefit from being taught specific strategies to repair communication.  

Student Strategies:

  • Non-specific strategies (e.g. what?, hmm?, huh?) - these tend to be the most commonly used but in most cases elicit a mere repetition of the information.  Students should be taught that this is the least effective strategy.
  • Confirmation - when the student repeats what he/she understood, also known as reauditorization.  This strategy is most effective when the student has understood at least part or most of the message.
  • Request for rephrasal - student is taught to ask “can you say that a different way?”
  • Request for information - when a student asks a specific question about the missing information (e.g. “what is the name of that animal?”, “what is the third step in the process?”, “what operation do i use?”)
  • Request additional time - students with auditory processing disorder often get more confused by rephrasals or additional information.  Instead, they benefit from requesting extra time (e.g. “give me a minute to get this down.”)

Teacher Strategies

  • Repeat - students with CAPD often benefit from a verbatim repetition of the original message to allow for additional processing time without the cognitive load of additional information.  
  • Feedback - if a student is off track be sure to let him/her know by using nonverbal signals or verbal comments (“that’s only part of it” or “hmmm let’s review this again because it’s an important point for you to understand”).  If the student is on track but appears insecure, provide positive feedback and encouragement.
  • Elaborate - provide a definition for a keyword or concept, provide a synonym or more commonly used term, provide examples which can be connected to life experiences.  
  • Reduce/restructure original message - simplify your explanation, avoid using passive language structures, emphasize keywords and concepts.  Talk less to say more.    
  • Provide additional information - offer visual supports, manipulatives, request a peer explanation, provide a model, etc.  

This summer I will be presenting three workshops for the Collaborative for Educational Services in Northampton, MA.  The Summer Learning Academy Catalogue can be accessed at  I will be teaching the iPads in the Classroom, Language-Based Learning Disabilities, and Pragmatics workshops.  It’s been a busy summer for me!  I am also working at the summer school programs with my LD and DD middle-high school students, a local school district, and my usual per diem hospital gigs!  I was looking forward to summer for some reason!  IDK what it was…  I certainly haven’t enjoyed 100F temps, dying lawn, and infinite plant waterings!  LOL! 

On a more upbeat note, I have developed a rubric for students to use when evaluating apps.  Please feel free to use or edit as you see fit.   Feedback is always appreciated!  

Find this google doc at

More to come after Monday’s workshop where participants teach as much as they learn!  

This week, I can officially begin to call myself an adjunct professor!  It’s a very exciting time particularly because it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long since I was sitting in the very seats my students will occupy Thursday night.  This is going to be a great way to ”go back to school”!  

I am teaching a class which I have authored entitled the 21st Century SLP.  It seemed that there was an emerging need for more specific training at the graduate level on the use of technology in the field of speech-language pathology.  I remember using Google groups, a few web sites, and some software when I was in graduate school.  During my clinical fellowship, I attended the New Orleans ASHA Convention to do a poster presentation on my research.  I attended endless lectures over the course of that weekend, but one in particular literally made me “oooh” and “ahhh”.  That lecture was given my Samuel Sennott who is co-creator of the original Proloquo2Go, an augmentative communication app for the iPhone/iPad/iPodTouch.  You can find out more about Sam at  

There was only standing room left in this lecture hall which held nearly 500 people. Everyone was gasping as he verbally flowed on from one app to another, demonstrating how this new technology was able to either replace an antiquated tool or fill an existing gap.  People learned that they no longer needed separate devices for so many tools that speech-language pathology uses including delayed auditory feedback devices, digital recorders, data collection tools, flashcards, and more.  

Previous to this time, I had always had a “stupid” phone.  I never really saw the need to have or pay for much more.  Then again, I had been a single mom and full time graduate student.  I chose food over phone.  But there was this pearl of wisdom lodged in the back of my mind that said “if I get one of those, I wont need to carry tubs and bags of crap!”  Yayyah!!!  AND, they’re freaking cool!  

So I started saving, and now I have a full collection of idevices, and I am so in love!  But it hasn’t ended there.  The more I learned about apps in therapy, the more I came across a bunch of other elements of technology that should not have to be stumbled upon, or tumblred over or whatever…  So here I am learning and I get this idea in my head, “I wonder how the graduate education has changed since I was there?  Are they teaching this stuff, or using it at all?”  So I emailed my department chair at Worcester State University to ask these questions.  And her response was quite simple “I think you should teach the class.”  

I was like, “OK.  Wait!  What?”  I don’t think I knew what I was signing up for at that time. People say, “oh well it’s only a one credit course right?”  But if you think about it, one is a third of three, and three credits was a LOT of work!  So one credit is still pretty intense.  This Thursday night is our first class meeting.  We are covering technology for professional development, collaboration, and consultation.  It should be fun!  Watch for our class tweets with hashtag #21CSLP!  

W. Mass vicinity ed tech opportunity!  I’ll be presenting on Glogster Edu.  Please come and join us!  

Tech Petting Zoo

TECHNOLOGY CALENDAR The Technology Petting Zoo will give educators and staff hands-on experience with technology tools. Experts with experience using the tools (and think leather gloves) will be available to provide tips and suggestions for safe, effective handling of these high-tech creatures. In addition, you can bring your own devices to the Digital Den for expert “training” advice. All participants will walk away from the event with new strategies, tools and resources (though you must provide your own food, water bowls and litter boxes). Zookeepers especially hope to generate excitement about using technology in the classroom to further student learning. Contact Person: Suzanne Judson-Whitehouse 413.586.4900 x162. Presenter: Various. Delivery Medium: Face-to-face. Cost: Free.Audience: Educators. Friday, December 9, 2011, 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM. Collaborative for Educational Services 97 Hawley Street (Main Office) Northampton, MA 01060.

This month, a colleague and I attended the montly meeting of the Cambridge Parent Advisory Council (C-PAC).  It was a great excuse to head to Bean Town, grab some good eats (ever heard of shabu shabu?), shop a little, and get some free PD!  

We had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Nadine Gaab from the Children’s Hospital of Boston discuss The READ study – Researching Early Attributes of Dyslexia.  This new protocol is attempting to make earlier identification of dyslexia possible. Participants are currently being interviewed if you live in the greater Boston area and are interested in this study.


According to Dr. Gaab’s data, dyslexia affects 5-17% of children.  As a result of the fact that diagnosis is not typically made until third grade, many children who have the disorder are labeled as being unmotivated, unintelligent, or behavioral.  These labels, combined with repeated academic failure can engender negative self-image, depression, and anti-social behavior.  In addition, untreated dyslexia often prevents children from earning a high school diploma or higher education.  A genetic link appears to be significant, as a child with a direct parent having dyslexia also has a 50% chance of having the disorder. 


Dr Gaab’s study shows that intervention is effective at changing the makeup of the brain, even into adulthood.  Currently, children are not being diagnosed until after reading abilities typically develop. With a history of genetic predisposition, a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation can be conducted with those at the highest risk.  The process, which includes the use of MRI, would allow identification and intervention to take place as early as kindergarten.  This may help to prevent some of the associated symptoms a child can experience as a result of repeated failure and allow them to access the academic curriculum in the least restrictive setting.  


For more detailed information regarding Dr. Gaab’s presentation, please view her PowerPoint slides at the linked URL.  A big thanks to C-PAC for bringing this presentation to the community!  

My talented intern Chelsey and I put together this livebinder for a workshop I will be conducting in Franklin and Hampshire Counties of Western MA.  I will be sharing information with area speech-language pathologists regarding the use of technology in researching EBP, tracking data, and integrating mobile apps.  It’s all good!  

Ever test a behavioral teen?  Landing on your face from jump street really sucks!  You rarely get to start over.  Here’s how to perfect your game…  Evaluating students occurs every three years once on an IEP or when any significant change indicates the need.  In my experience, this process is quite different with adolescents than with younger students.  When I started a new job in an alternative school for behaviorally challenged ados, I quickly learned that “speech”, “testing”, and “evaluations” were wicked evil words.   Several students had even signed themselves out of services, either on their own at age 18 or through persevering insistence that their parents sign out for them.  Such a shame…  I asked one student why he refused to work with the SLP who preceded me and he replied “because she was a bitch!”  Mind you, this woman now teaches yoga to toddlers…  she may have had anxiety, but she wasn’t a bitch.  

So here’s the recipe for success:

  1. Never use the word “speech” (e.g. speech therapy, speech pathologist, speech lady, speech time, speech teacher, you get the point…).
  2. Never use the words “test”, “evaluation”, or “assessment”.
  3. If at all possible, never pull out!  LOL  
  4. Never show up unannounced!  

OK so that’s enough negatives right?  Here is what I do to increase participation, motivation, compliance, etc.  

  1. I call myself a “teacher specialist in communication”.  I briefly explain that communication entails just about everything, including interpreting visuals, reading, listening, speaking, writing, body language, and more.  
  2. If it’s a new eval, I tell students that his/her teacher has requested that I gather some information to help the teachers do the best job they can at teaching.  I advise him/her that while I do work with students, a bigger part of my job is to help the teachers to be successful with all kinds of learners.  I tell them that it helps me to know what their strengths and challenges are so that I can train the teachers accordingly.  Even if you don’t do consult, your report will contain recommendations for instruction, right?  
  3. If it’s a three-year eval, I tell the students that every three years the district is required by the state to collect information about the student’s progress.  I help with that process by gathering information and to do that I will need to sit with them for a couple class periods.  
  4. I allow the students to choose when they work with me, particularly if they have a class that they don’t want to miss, or a class they can’t stand sitting through… 
  5. I let students know when I will be there and I try to sit with them in their natural habitat.  I work in an alternative school with very small class sizes so this works.  I just ask the other students to go somewhere else.  In a more traditional setting, I would try to find a comfortable spot, rather than the nurses exam room which has been offered to me in some places…
  6. I review my findings with students before the team meeting so that they are not surprised to hear me say that their vocabulary needs development.  
  7. I provide a lot of positive feedback and tangible rewards (we have a token system with “bonus bucks”) for participation, but free time works nearly as well. 
  8. I keep it light; smile, laugh, and generally act in a way that is not at all like a teacher! 

This approach takes practice.  I always want to say “let’s move on the the next subtest”.  But that would be violating the rule of NEVER say “test”.  Rather, I will tell the student “we only have one more section to complete”.  I work with a population that tends to be keenly aware of their deficits.  This makes evaluating a very sensitive topic.  My duty is to get representative data however.  And to do this, I have refined my approach.  I hope these suggestions work for you as well!  

Cheers from the “teacher specialist”!  

This clear concise article demonstrates how digital images can be used to scaffold literacy activities including visualizing text, digital story telling, effective communicating, and connecting new information with previous knowledge.  Great ideas for all levels of students!  

I went to a seminar yesterday hosted by UMASS Amherst and the Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton, MA.  The first talk was about telepractice in speech-language pathology.  It appears that an SLP who has tech knowledge and skills would be able to work from a home office conducting this model of service delivery.  Not for everyone but worth a look!  

The other day I was working with a high school senior on expressive and receptive language skills.  Many students in this age group with whom I work have better expressive skills than receptive.  They have become well adept at taking over the conversation and convincing others they are “in control”.  This turns out to be a common way adolescents with LLD or hearing impairment cover up their receptive deficits.  

On this day I use an infographic entitled “Salary Science” from the site.  He reads it over and I ask him a few questions.  There are lots of statistics included in infographics.  His reply to one of my questions on interpretation of a statistic is “hey wait!  That’s math!  This is not math class!”  I quickly seize the opportunity to explain to him, that this is “communication class” and that these figures are attempting to communicate information to him.   He is a very bright student and def knows when I am making a salient point!  

The referenced article demonstrates how this type of instructional design can be implemented beginning at a young age to increase incidental learning and rationale for those subjects that may at times feel distant from “real life”.  Both lessons show how critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity can not be separated from any subject if we expect our children to learn to think vs. learn to repeat.