Marshall Speech and Hearing Center holds 'Tiny Talkers' programs for children with speech disorders

Updated 3 years ago Special to HNN Provided by Marshall University
Marshall Speech and Hearing Center holds 'Tiny Talkers' programs for children with speech disorders
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Four-year-old Harry Shivel was born with hyperlexia, which gave him the ability to read words far above what would be expected of a child his age. But although he can read the words, he experiences difficulty with understanding what the words mean.

According to researchers, children with hyperlexia have a significantly higher word decoding ability than their reading comprehension levels and some have trouble understanding speech.

Harry's mother, Holly Shivel, said her son's condition made it difficult for him to communicate his ideas about what he reads. When Shivel heard about the Tiny Talkers Book Club held at the Marshall University Speech and Hearing Center (MUSHC), she hoped they could help.

"I wanted him to get socialized and this seemed like a perfect opportunity during the summer months to improve his social skills," Shivel said. "We wanted to have Harry come last year, but the Book Club filled up so quickly. I made a point to get him enrolled this year because I want him to make new friends and communicate his ideas about the books he reads with ease."

In order to help children like Harry, 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- to 5-year-olds. The Tiny Talkers Language Class was created this summer for 2-to-3-year-olds and their parents to improve their communication skills through activities like reading, singing, playing and art. Jen Baker, speech language pathologist in the MUSHC, said programs like these provide a solid foundation for youth in regard to language and literacy.

"Harry's hyperlexia is so amazing because while we are trying to teach the other kids how to identify and blend sounds, he already knows how to do that. It's his story comprehension and communicating his ideas that need improvement," Baker said. "Kids with speech and language delays are at risk for having challenges with literacy. We saw a great need for a program like this, which would help strengthen a child's language skills in a group setting to decrease the chances of literacy problems in the future."

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 final session of the Tiny Talkers Book Club will be held from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 29, and the final session of the Tiny Talkers Language Class will take place from 9:45 to 11 a.m. Thursday, July 31, in the MUSHC located on Marshall's Huntington campus in Smith Hall. For more information about this program, please contact Jen Baker at For more information on the services provided by the MUSHC, visit online.

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