Originally written by Paula Hufnagel
Twenty-six children are participating in the North Spencer Summer Speech and Language Program at the Santa Claus United Methodist Church. The children are from Mariah Hill, Dale, Gentryville, Chrisney, Santa Claus, St. Meinrad, Newtonville, Lamar, Lincoln City, Rockport and Grandview.
The purpose of this program is or children to improve their oral communication skills. Participant receive twenty minutes of articulation therapy and thirty-five minutes of language stimulation four days a week for six weeks.
Lois Vogel, a primary teacher at David Turnham Educational Center, meets with small groups of children to foster language development. The goals are to encourage children to use oral language to communicate and feel comfortable and enjoy using language.
Puppets, flannelboard stories and pictures, telephones, riddles, fairy tales, story-starters, language games and picture are used to stimulate conversation and to develop vocabulary concepts. “Fun” rhyming phrases; songs; and puppets quickly get the children involved, enabling them to learn but have a good time doing it. “These classes teach the children to enjoy language. It gives them experiences to talk about when they get home which is also good practice. We try to use a quantity of language, ” Ms. Vogel said. She also believes that oral language, which includes speaking and listening skills, is so important because it is the foundation for reading and writing.
During articulation therapy, Becky Haaff, a speech, language and hearing therapist with North Spencer School Corporation, teaches the children how to produce sounds correctly. Mrs. Haaff uses a mirror in which children look to learn proper tongue placement.
Mrs. Haaff believes speech problems are common among many children and should not be viewed in a negative manner. “These children simply need to be taught proper placement, such as where their tongue should be placed to make a specific sound,” Mrs. Haaff stated. The r, th and s sounds are probably the most common placement problems, she added. By working with a mirror it helps the children to see just where their tongue should be.
First she begins with syllables, then to words, phrases, sentences and finally conversational speech. Mrs. Haaff also uses what she calls “silly sounds”, such as th tha, the, thi, tho, the; and the children practice these enjoying the funny sounds, but learn in the process.
This is the first year Spencer County has had this program. A similar program had been offered in Jasper for the past eight years. In the past families from Spencer County had to make the drive to Jasper daily to receive speech therapy and language stimulation. However this summer a group of interested community members felt there was need for a program in the local area and formed the North Spencer Summer Speech and Language Committee to raise necessary funds for the summer program. People in Spencer County responded with much interest and enthusiasm and many generous donations. The committee consisting of Linda Winkler, Pat Koch, Ann Kaiser, Becky Haaff and Lois Vogel, in cooperation with the Dubois-Spencer-Perry Exceptional Children’s Co-op organized the summer program.
This year’s program was funded by contributions from the following group of individuals. Wayne Place, Energy Supply, Kimballs, Dale Jaycees, Chrisney Jaycees, Chrisney Lions Club, Dale Fall Festival Committee, Kiwanis Club of Dale, Spencer County Bank, Dale Presbyterian Church, Optimist Club of Santa Claus, Santa Claus Senior Citizens, Deanna Davey, Mulzer Crushed Stone, Christmas Lake Village Garden Club, Clara Kress and Sharmon Jarboe.
The need for such a program in Spencer County is obvious and those above are to be commended for their involvement. And watching Mrs. Haaff and Ms. Vogel as they teach the children you can see a clear dedication and enjoyment in wha they are trying to accomplish.