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Friendly Resources for Playful Speech Therapy
Start date: Oct 1, 2009,

1. RATIONALE AND BACKGROUND. Low literacy and educational achievement represent problems for many European countries, which further causes numerous social problems such as poor social adaptation and integration, behavioral problems, poor academic achievements and career possibilities (such problems are a significant burden on European education systems and cause high annual societal costs). Language impairments thus have a significant impact on children‘s success in all social and academic daily activities. For instance, the educational success of children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) depends solely on their language impairment since their non-verbal intelligence is unaffected. Such children, who make up approximately 7% of the population, can be helped by effective speech treatment. In general, to increase the success of LI children, they should receive adequate help at the earliest possible stage from professionals and non-professionals in teaching and home environments. This can be accomplished by using adequate remediation resources. Sufficient data have been collected and described that shows which areas are typically problematic for impaired children cross-linguistically and cross-culturally. These areas will receive our primary focus. The experience of speech therapists in many European countries shows that education systems in them do not adequately serve the needs of language impaired (LI) children. For example, speech therapists in Lithuania lack adequate resources necessary for successful therapy as the Lithuanian Ministry of Education does not provide educational institutions with sufficient teaching materials for children with special needs. Since the resources that exist are often of poor quality and low efficacy, therapists use their own unpublished materials. Those materials can be developed into a systematic, comprehensive, maximally universal and efficient package.2. OUTPUTS, RESULTS, PRODUCTS. The main output and result of this project will be interactive and multi-functional intervention resources for speech therapy in 4 languages, i.e. German and 3 lesser-used languages: Lithuanian, Estonian and Slovenian. Some of the resources will be published, others will be available on the internet so that teachers and children‘s parents/caretakers could easily access and use them. The resources will serve multiple purposes as they can be applied to develop different language skills at different ages of the child (from 5 to 8 years of age). The resources will include games, puzzles, picture stories, tales, songs, etc. They will be with invented animated creatures that will encourage children with speech impairments to overcome their communication barriers, which may arise due to their linguistic incompetence. The materials can be used for an intervention programme that targets comprehension and production of different language skills: grammar, syntax, vocabulary, phonology, pragmatics and narration. Targeted forms are not taught in isolation since they are best acquired when taught in specific pragmatically felicitous contexts and in combination with various other linguistic aspects (Fey et al 2003). The resources will be equally suitable for individual and group work. They will include short tests for self-assessment to increase children’s motivation by evaluating their progress and to help diagnose the areas that still have to be worked on.3. IMPACT. The project can facilitate children’s comprehension and production of the target language thus leading the way to literacy. The products help LI children to acquire not only language skills, but also language learning skills; they also enhance the learning motivation of such children. The project contributes to teacher training by producing methodological guidelines and by providing the possibility to share the best practices. It can increase public awareness of language impairments and will apply the most recent research results in practice.
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