Phonology and Speech Therapy

According to the article, What is Phonology, “Phonology is the study of the sounds of words. Syntax, in the study of linguistics, “…is the study of how words are combined to create phrases and clauses in the sentences of a language.” Every language has different sounds associated with different letters. “Phonology plays a role in both second language and written language development” (Freeman and Freeman, 2014 p 114). When a student’s needs speech therapy or other types of interventions, what language should they receive intervention in? What language should these students receive intervention in? 

“Many students enter preschool or kindergarten having already obtained knowledge of letters and sounds through language play or exposure. However, for those who need these concepts and skills, explicit, systematic institution in phonic awareness will be necessary,” (Essential Strategies for Teaching Phonemic Awareness, 2011). They might speak one language at home and another in school. “Elimination of English was not possible either because it was required for school and social settings… a bilingual approach also can enhance leaning in both languages,” (Essential Strategies for Teaching Phonemic Awareness, 2011). 

“Traditionally, avoidance of bilingualism as routinely recommended for children with development deficit and indication are that this practice is still widespread” (Thordardottir, 2006). This might still be the case in many school districts across the world, but new research suggests this is not the best way. “Evidence suggests that a strong base in the first language promotes learning a second language,” (Essential Strategies for Teaching Phonemic Awareness, 2011). 

With this new research, speech therapist’s now, offering intervention in both languages. Most of the time speech therapist provide instruction in the students first language as the skills they are leaning can transfer to the new language. The speech therapist at Creative Achievement Academy, does this. She uses a blend of English and Spanish with her students.  

Since therapist use both languages, what intervention strategies could be used to help ELLS as well as special needs students? A therapist who does not know the first language of the student, “Can incorporate some use of the children’s home language by asking the child to translate words from that language and by including a parent, relative, or native-speaking assistant within the therapy session,” (Essential Strategies for Teaching Phonemic Awareness, 2011). This is exactly what the speech therapist at Creative Achievement does in her sessions as she does not speak Spanish and all 3 of her ELLS’s first language is Spanish.  

Many speech therapist are now doing the same things as the speech therapist at Creative Achievement. The speech therapist is the video Bilingual Speech Therapy: Choosing the Language of Intervention, does the same thing. She uses both languages in her therapy and focuses on the students first language during sessions. This means that students who have an expressive speech disorder, which means they have a difficult time speaking or expressing themselves through spoken word, can learn how to formulate the sounds of each word by using their first language and this skill will transfer to their second language.  

“We can say with confidence that bilingualism is an attainable goal for all children.  It is up to us to provide the right contexts for successful bilingual development,” (Essential Strategies for Teaching Phonemic Awareness, 2011). Students with special needs have every right to be able to speak both languages.  


  • Bilingual Speech Therapy: Choosing the Language of Intervention (2:20) 
  • Freeman, D. E,. & Freeman, Y. S., (2014). Essential Linguistics: What Teachers Need to Know  to Teach (7th ed.). Heinemann.  

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