As Speech and Language Pathologists, and very importantly, as Early Intervention specialists, we require the help of preschool teachers on a very urgent basis. However, there is lack of awareness of the possible disorders in children and these are missed out in the early and golden period. Speech and Language pathologist means that we treat problems in speech, language and communication. We manage children who are not talking by 15 months, or did not walk by 12 months or could not swallow food by themselves or even does not seem to recognize their own name around the same time. And by early intervention, it means that we do not wait, AT ALL! As soon the parent reports the problem or importantly the preschool teachers observe differences, we start investigating.
Many parents, sometimes due to family pressure, keep waiting inspite of problems and expect that once school starts everything will work out properly. So, preschool teachers become our strengths and allies. They work with children in peer group setting, and across various developmental domains. They work by using toys, matching shapes and colours (thereby working on space schema, memory, associative memory), on circle time games and rhymes (gross motor imitation and learning new words), physical exercises, and art and craft among other skills as well. Thereby teachers get a lot of time and activities to observe the children. They also witness children managing their school bags, tiffin boxes and water bottles, as a result teachers also understand the independence skills like the ability to recognize own bag, open the tiffin box and eat simple finger food. Further skills like wiping mouth with napkin, sharing food, or attending a cake cutting ceremony are trained and aided by teachers. Hence they can understand and differentiate the kids who learn these easily and those who find it difficult to cope even with repeated training.
The scope of the course is designed such that preschool teachers are made aware of different speech, language, and communication disorders to increase their ability to observe behaviours and skills. It will also enable and empower preschool teachers to include the kids who are not able to cope that well in regular classroom activities. This prepares the child for bigger classroom setups with more academic demands (like sitting at one place, paying attention, writing continuously). Also if identified and treated earlier, many issues like reading and writing problems, social adjusting problems, and other learning problems can be managed and the severity can be reduced.