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Literacy and Therapy

25 February 2013

At first I was a bit apprehensive about taking a class about literacy for my "W' (Intensive Writing) credits. As with most people, I have my own concept of what literacy is and I just thought we'd be learning about applying literacy to our lives and writing a lot; after all, the class is called "Uses of Literacy." Maybe we'd just learn how it pertains to reading and writing, I thought... but it's turned out to be much more than that, which I think is valuable for those who want to be Speech-Language Pathologist or just want to work with children or community projects.


It is known that there's some amount of literacy building in a SLP's therapy. Some clients has Dyslexia, some are little children still learning how to put the pieces together, some have trouble recognizing the symbols and connecting them with sounds and words. The list can go on. But have you actually thought about the concept of literacy in a broader, more socio-developmental sense? How does the area where one lives affect their literacy and language capabilities? What about identity and literacy. Your literacy can affect who you identify as, and visa versa. There's also different domains of literacy, including technology, which has created a whole literacy type of it's own.


If we can formulate an idea about how our client's culture and identity affect language skills, then that could help us understand what approach to take for therapy. Maybe the client is more literate in one domain, like computers, but not as competent  in social "literacy." Or, perhaps the community and culture surrounding this person and that have cultivated this person into his/her being have given way to a literacy that is different than what you are used to but is the "norm" where that person was brought up. This can be dialect, idioms, how they use language/ use it to express their thoughts, social behavior, etc. You have to be sensitive to all of these things in order to find the perfect piece to complete the therapy jigsaw puzzle. If you don't account for these types of literacies and try to treat each client with similar problems in the same way, it might not always click. You need to customize it to their level and type of literacy.


Maybe you can ask you client some questions, like:

*What are your favorite memories of reading and writing?

*How did you learn to read and write? Did anyone help?

*What are some of your favorite traditions?

*What re some things you like to do in your town/community?

*How do you normally talk to someone (write, talk, sing, ...etc)?

*What confuses you about language, reading, writing and speaking?

*When is it difficult for you to understand others, or for them to understand you?


Basically, just ask them anything to do with literacy. This can expand from just reading and writing; in fact, it includes much more than that. Try to think of  definition of literacy... does yours reference to sign langauges/body language or how culture, society and events maybe shape one's literacy? There's also literacy "events" (like, remembering when you first learned to read a book, or reading/decoding a street sign, eavsdropping and understanding someone's conversation... basically anything can be a literacy event). Another thing is literacy sponsors... who or what has helped lay the foundation of your language and literacy skills? It can be people, places (school, library, home, travel), or things (books, websites, magazines, technology) or even abstract stuff like dreams,languages and age (your literacy changes as you age) .


Hope this helps you customize your therapy plans or understand a new way to tackle some speech and languages issues!