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P.A.L.S. – A Promising Practice in Texas

By Jane Kellum, SLP, McKinney ISD

The Preschool Articulation and Language Service (P.A.L.S.) is an innovative program in McKinney Independent School District in McKinney , Texas . This preschool speech therapy service, which has been recognized by the Texas Education Agency for two consecutive years as one of the most promising practices in the state, addresses the needs of pre-school children who display a deficit in the areas of articulation, phonology and/or expressive language.

Students who are eligible for this program are 3-5 years of age and are, therefore, not yet eligible for kindergarten in Texas . The students must meet the eligibility criteria as speech impaired and enter the program through placement in special education and have an Individual Education Plan (IEP). In the five years that P.A.L.S. has been in existence, the program has grown to include 120 students.

Instruction for the P.A.L.S. program occurs in the naturalistic setting of a pre-school classroom with developmentally appropriate play centers. A speech/language pathologist teaches the P.A.L.S. class with the assistance of a paraprofessional. A literacy-based approach to instruction allows global remediation of speech errors in context. The speech remediation instruction includes phonological methodology, sequential targeting of sound patterns (cycles), phonological awareness activities and literacy based curriculum.

Included in the language-rich activities in the P.A.L.S. program are center time, auditory bombardment, circle time, story time, arts/crafts, music/movement, snack time, individual instruction and oral motor awareness. A speech/language pathologist teaches two two-hour sessions daily with the assistance of a paraprofessional. Evaluation data and present levels of performance determine the number of sessions each individual student attends. Students are dismissed from PALS when they have mastered the speech/language goals and objectives that are appropriate to their chronological age.

Parents play an active and integral role in the P.A.L.S. program. “I never thought I would understand my daughter’s speech. Not only has her involvement in the P.A.L.S. classroom improved her speech intelligibility, but it has raised her self-esteem,” said one parent. Home assignments are sent home following each session and the students are proud of their “homework”. Home practice helps the child generalize new speech patterns into the home environment.

The McKinney Independent School District has seen success with the P.A.L.S. program. Data indicates overall improved speech intelligibility, improved phonological awareness abilities, as well as an overall decrease in the amount of time of service in speech therapy. The P.A.L.S. program allows many of these students to enter kindergarten with skills comparable to their peers.

For more information regarding this promising practice, contact Jane Kellum, Speech/Language Coordinator in McKinney ISD at jkellum@mckinneysd.net.