Speech and Hearing Center holds ‘Tiny Talkers’ programs for children with speech disorders

Four-year-old Gavien Webb was born with a phonological processing disorder, which denied him the ability to be understood by those around him. Gavien’s grandmother, Sandy Webb, said her grandson’s condition makes it difficult for him to communicate his ideas about what he reads.

When Webb heard about the Tiny Talkers Book Club held at the Marshall University Speech and Hearing Center (MUSHC), she thought the program sounded perfect for her grandson.cohp

"As his grandmother, I hope Gavien continues to improve in his speech and communication skills and continues to love books," Webb said. "You can’t imagine how he has changed. When he was two and not talking at all, we were excited when he would sign a few words. Now he tries to communicate so fast, we can barely keep up with him. His little mind is constantly working and he is all about telling us what he is observing and discovering."

In order to help more children like Gavien, the Speech and Hearing Center created two programs to facilitate speech therapy through the use of books and other activities. The Tiny Talkers Book Club was established in 2013 and focuses on emergent literacy for 4-5 year olds.

A new class also was established this summer at St. John’s House through a literacy grant from Phi Kappa Phi to focus on the needs of children who come from low-socioeconomic backgrounds. Jen Baker, speech language pathologist in the MUSHC, said programs like these provide a solid foundation for youth in regard to language and literacy.

"Children with speech and language disorders are at-risk for having difficulty learning to read. Our goal is to help strengthen their language foundation and provide exposure to emergent literacy activities," Baker said. "When we begin teaching pre-literacy skills early in a child’s life, we are able to minimize the risk of future reading challenges.  We want these kids to have the best possible start when they go to kindergarten."

Baker said the program holds parent seminars once a month to provide strategies for families to continue teaching their children at home.

"We want to build a solid foundation for our clients," Baker said. "While working with these children, we are also able to provide great training opportunities for our graduate students within Marshall’s College of Health Professions."

The graduation ceremony for the Tiny Talkers Book Club program will be 1 p.m., Wednesday, July 29, at St. John’s House at 1100 Marcum Terrace. For more information about the program, please contact Jen Baker at jen.baker@marshall.edu. For more information on the services provided by the MUSHC, visit www.marshall.edu/cohp online.