May is customarily associated with Mother's Day and Memorial Day. May is also Better Speech and Hearing Month. Although awareness of speech and hearing problems is a year-round necessity, setting aside the month of May calls special attention to identifying and treating the problems associated with speech and hearing.
Speech Problems to Look For
Teachers can identify children who might have hearing problems, such as not responding to questions. Teachers should recommend that the child have a consultation with an audiologist. Adults should notice if a child frequently asks "what," has the television on too loud or turns an ear toward a sound to hear it better. Speech problems include difficulty with articulating certain words that aren’t pronounced clearly or difficulty pronouncing words with the letters "r" and "l” in them. Vocal quality such as hoarseness or nasality may also be characteristic of speech issues.
To publicize Better Speech and Hearing Month, have students make and distribute posters that deal with problems in speech and hearing and potential treatments for these issues. Distribute or post these in doctors' offices, libraries, schools and community meeting places. A possible activity is to contact the local library or hospital and suggest that it invite an audiologist or speech therapist as a guest speaker during May. Write to the local newspapers about Better Speech and Hearing Month and try to reach local media for help publicizing this activity. Have students take home letters to notify parents of the month's activities. In addition, send emails and newsletters. Post notices in the teachers' room.
Contact the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association for information on contests it holds during May. The association may also have coloring books and other items for children's activities. Consider showing the film "The King's Speech" in the classroom or for an assembly program. Discuss stammering in class. Ask if students know what stammering is or if they know of anybody who has had issues with stammering. Ask that a librarian to prepare a special corner displaying books that deal with speech and hearing issues. These can be highlighted with posters.
The Parents' Role
Arrange a for a professional in-school consultation for a child who may have speech or hearing issues. Practice with the child by using the following activities at home: Ask the child to look for items that start with the same sound. Say these items aloud. Name parts of the face and body. Name an animal for every letter of the alphabet, such as Anteater, Bee, Cat, Dog, Elephant and so on. Read a book together. In addition, sing a rhyme and have the child sing it after you. Intoning or singing helps eliminate stuttering. For hearing problems, play a game by saying a sentence and then step back two steps. Repeat the sentence. For children who consult with a therapist, check with the child after each session and ask him to describe what was accomplished. Try to practice these techniques at home. Consult with the therapist periodically.
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