The speech-language pathologists at Children’s Speech and Language Services are trained to address the needs of children who display difficulties with their skills of phonological awareness. Phonological awareness refers to awareness of the sound structure of spoken words. It is a very important predictor of a child’s development of literacy skills, including reading and spelling. A child with strong phonological awareness skills should be able to recognize and use rhyme, break words into syllables, blend phonemes into syllables and words, identify the beginning and ending sounds in a syllable and see smaller words within larger words (i.e. “cat” in “catalog”). Phonological awareness skills form the base for phonics skills. Following an assessment of the child’s phonological awareness skills, therapy may target these areas:
The ability to listen to and distinguish speech sounds from other environmental sounds.
The ability to hear, identify and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. (Phonemes are the smallest parts of sound in a spoken word that make a difference in a word’s meaning.) Phonemic awareness is critical for learning to spell and with developing strong reading and comprehension. Children can demonstrate their knowledge of sounds by grouping words together that begin with the same sound, or by generating another word that begins with /b/ when presented with baby, ball, bug. It also involves the ability to segment the smallest units of sound (called phonemes) in words. For example, the word hot can be segmented into the initial phoneme /h/, medial (middle) phoneme “a,” and the final phoneme /t/. Other tasks of phonemic awareness include manipulating the sounds in words, such as this task: When given a word can, (c-a, n) and told to change the /k/ to /m/, the child can identify the new word as man.
This includes the ability to identify and manipulate the syllables in a word. Activities include counting the number of syllable segments (for example by clapping out), auditory closure/blending of syllables to make a word, and completing syllables in a word (as when one syllable at the end of a word is omitted).
Closure of word parts, syllable parts and phoneme segments into whole words are critical for listening and reading success. It involves being able to recognize that when word parts of a compound word are separated into cup and cake, that when we push the word parts together it makes the single word cupcake! Or that the individual syllables pu and pee can be pushed together to make puppy. Or that the individual phonemes /k/ + /o/ + /t/ can be pushed together to make the word coat! This may also involve the ability to fill in part of a missing word. The missing part may be a single phoneme or a larger unit (e.g. Fill in the missing word. For breakfast, I ate a muff__).
This includes identifying words that do and do not rhyme, as well as generating rhyming words. The underlying skill for rhyming is awareness and manipulation of the phonetic alphabet.
For information on the age of acquisition of phonological awareness skills and more, follow this link: http://phonologicalawareness.org/