I’m going to divide this blog into two different sections; my perspective on kindergarten as a speech-language pathologist and my experience as a mom whose daughter JUST started Pre-K last week 😭.
I’m going to make the answer to this question short and sweet and it’s the same answer from a professional AND a mom perspective.
The answer … it’s a resounding YES! School does help with speech development and here’s why!
Speech Pathologist Perspective on Kindergarten
Going to school exposes the child to unfamiliar listeners
As parents/guardians/caregivers we anticipate what our children need, read between the lines, let them pull us to what they need, and let them use more gestures than words. In a school setting, this will not happen. They will need to learn to communicate their needs and wants to both other children and adults in the facility.
It encourages auditory processing development
Auditory processing is when you hear information, understand it and then are able to respond verbally or in written format. At home, children usually don’t have to multi-task, but in the school setting, children are asked to follow multi-step directions and sequence. This is directly related to receptive (what is being understood) AND expressive (what is being produced) language – both key for speech and language skills.
Social communication is a daily occurance
Some children with a language disorder struggle with social pragmatics, or the social rules of language. There is no place more challenging for these students than the playground, the lunch room, and certain settings in the classroom or hallway. During the summer, the child more often has choices about who to socialize with and for how long, but at school the peer group and schedule is fairly fixed. Students must navigate the complex world of body language, facial expressions, emotions, and social language. This is an all-day demand that begins when the student gets on the bus and lasts until s/he returns home.
Verbal expression typically increases in the school setting
Being in school exposes a child to other children who are not like them. They may speak different languages, have a dialect, or know different vocabulary words. Not only does it teach them about acceptance (before they even realize what that term means), but these are all key components to enhancing speech and language skills.
The Mom Perspective on Pre-K
My daughter just started Pre-K last week and it has been an amazing experience for her, so far. I mean, she caught a cold/virus the first week and then passed it on to her little brother, but hey…you win some, you lose some, right?
The first thing I noticed was her vocabulary
Nora has always been a talkative kid and her speech has always been “advanced,” BUT the FIRST day she came home she was talking about jumping rope and making strawberry smoothies. She was exposed to new words instantly, whether it was from the teachers OR the kids.
The second thing I noticed was her sentence structure
Her sentences were becoming longer and more complex. She was adding things like “it,” “finally,” “never” into her speech more consistently and was beginning to use conjunctions to make longer sentences.
Thirdly, her ability and willingness to answer “wh” questions is growing
Typically, we’d ask her questions and if she felt like answering, she would. Now, as soon as she gets into the car, we ask her WHAT she did, WHO did she play with and WHEN something occurred. She actually wanted to tell us about her day and was excited to see our reactions.
So, when your child starts school is up to you, but I would highly suggest that you try and get them into Pre-K before entering kindergarten.
Pre-K programs work on many foundation skills needed for kindergarten and it also works on important speech and language skills that are, often times, overlooked or underestimated.
If you can’t do Pre-K (goodness knows it is sooooo expensive), I encourage you to look for social groups, mommy and me classes, and download Speech Blubs to increase those necessary language skills!
The more language your child is exposed to, the better their learning experience will be!
Stacie Bennett has been practicing as a Speech-Language Pathologist for the past ten years. Currently, she works full-time at a vocational high school in New Jersey and have her own private practice. Feel free to contact Stacie if you have any questions!