A little girl and her teacher working with manipulatives.

6 reasons why immersive speech-language classrooms work

Creating an environment of support is the key to unlocking speech challenges. And it’s not hard to do

There’s a classroom in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Penn., where the kids play and sing with the friends they have made. Laughter echoes off the walls adorned with artwork. They read stories aloud, have table time, engage in the latest STEAM activities, and follow the general curriculum.

It all sounds so familiar, doesn’t it? Well, this classroom is unlike any other. It’s a place where students enter the program unable to communicate and leave as little chatterboxes.

While immersive learning spaces are becoming a must-have for school districts, the Allegheny Intermediate Unit’s (AIU) Speech-Language program has been doing it for two decades. The Primary Expressions classroom is an intensive K-1 program in a very small class-size setting. The all-day endeavor is guided by a speech-language pathologist and follows the standard curriculum across all subjects with the added dimension of persistent speech treatment therapy. After they complete the program, students ideally transition back to their class in second grade to be with their peers. It’s a turnkey solution to unlocking the speech challenges of young students.

We believe an immersive speech-language environment is the best way to treat students with moderate-to-severe speech issues. Here are our top six reasons why:

1. All-day communication support.
The biggest difference between an immersive environment and traditional pull-out sessions is the time spent treating the students. Having a nationally certified, highly-qualified speech language pathologist leading the intimate class ensures that no matter what course is being taught, speech-language is always a priority. There’s no rush, either. A half-hour session twice a week is not a lot of time and things can fall by the wayside. An immersive environment enhances students’ opportunities to blossom by learning and practicing techniques at an accelerated rate under the guidance of a professional.

“We often see students whose communication has limited their interaction join a community where that difference is understood,” says Eileen Cirelli, AIU speech-language supervisor. “Within weeks, those who stood shyly in the corner are front-and-center at morning group, talking up a storm.”

2. Students are not isolated from their classmates.
Social interaction among young students is still imperative. In fact, peer interaction in real-world settings can be the best way to work on those communication skills. You can create a balanced educational and social environment by integrating students into art, library, gym, lunch, recess, and school-wide events. This also allows them to lay the foundation for lasting friendships once they integrate back into their class.

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