A student with a Specific Language Impairment (SLI) or Language Learning Impairment (LLI) is 7 times more common than autism. The DFE has recently introduced compulsory training for teachers on autism yet the statistics suggest language difficulties should also be a priority. What is a Language Learning Impairment? A difficulty with oral language. Talking and understanding may be affected. Signs May miss off grammatical endings to words 'I play in the park' rather than 'I played in the park'. May get the order of words jumbled. May not use long and complex sentences (missing out conjunctions). May mix up words e.g. tooken instead of taken. In playground they may not understand rules of the game or struggle in groups. May appear forgetful or a poor listener. May be a child who copies others a lot. May have beautiful handwriting but content bears little resemblance to task. May be quiet in the classroom. Has difficulties explaining what they want to say or struggle to understand. Hidden disability as students with LLI may not respond to conversation and might come across as lazy, rude or unresponsive. Problems with verbal activities e.g. Circle Time Problems getting jokes And accounting for own actions Here are some tips for teaching students with LLI: Time, time and more time – schools go so fast – but allowing the student with LLI just a little more time to answer a question or complete a task will make a lot of difference. Visual visual visual – no, I’m not saying they’re a visual learner but when language is a barrier, using visual prompts can help to signpost activities for a student with LLI and trigger memory. By using images of the subject you’re discussing, this will help the student to link information and categorise for storing. Modify language – for many students it is good to challenge them with extended vocabulary but for the student with LLI, it is the carrier language and phrasing which can confuse them. Try to concentrate on the knowledge you want them to learn and simplify the other bits of language. Keep your sentences short and concise. Use simple language with the key words they need to learn. Students with LLI may also need literal language, struggling to cope with metaphor and idioms. Break down instructions into small steps – you can get your TA to break tasks down with a tick box after each one. Chunk instructions and information. Knowing that just because a student has nodded at you does not necessarily mean he or she has understood is a vital skill for the teacher of a student with LLI. Asking them to repeat back what they have they to do is a useful strategy (but allow them time to do this). Being sympathetic to language overload and spending 5 minutes with them, perhaps explaining with spot images (like bullet points but small pictures) can make a difference. Asking the student to repeat back what they have to do will help them. Further reading Professor Dorothy Bishop researches and champions LLI. She is part of RALLI – raising awareness of language impairments (@RALLIcam). There are many excellent YouTube clips. http://www.youtube.com/RALLIcampaign Professor Bishop is also good to follow on Twitter @deevybee and her blog is one of the best out there. http://deevybee.blogspot.com/ Professor Pamela Snow (@PamelaSnow2) has influenced me and knows much about literacy and language (and phonics). Her blog, The Snow Report is here: http://t.co/sP2ewQ80YB. I think she has persuaded me to change my mind on a number of occasions too. Susan Ebbels, a speech therapist, has created shape coding – it’s a visual strategy for grammar using shape and colour. Stephen Parsons (@WordAware) has been a useful contact and has a great book. http://www.thinkingtalking.co.uk/ I Can Charity has many resources and knowledge on LLI (@iCANcharity). @afasic is also an excellent source of information as is Communication Trust (@comm_ntrust). NAPLIC is the association for language impairment in children. There’s hashtags #LLI_ #SLpeeps and (@WeSpeechies) #WeSpeechies is a collective Twitter account for speech and language professionals. They often have useful chats on Twitter. Caroline Bowen as @speech_woman is another account to follow. Links http://www.councilfordisabledchildren.org.uk/media/547918/sli_handbook_early_support-040413.pdf What tips do you have for students with LLI?