“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” Ludwig Wittgenstein
Devany Browning and Jenna Haynie are helping individuals and families break through language limits in relation to speech and literacy. These two talented women recently joined forces; opening the doors to their joint office space. Jenna’s Literacy Utah and Devany’s Pathways Speech and Language Therapy go hand-in-hand, and, while they practice separately, they serve many of the same clients. Devany and Jenna are aware that the services they offer are not a one-size-fits-all program. They work hard to individualize what they do for each child.
The mission of Pathways Speech and Language Therapy is: “To help children increase their ability to effectively communicate by providing powerful therapy that is uniquely adapted to each child and family, based on proven clinical techniques.”
Devany works with children ages 2-18, but she emphasizes the importance of early intervention. Often parents think their kids will grow out of speech delays or impediments, but working on these struggles early on can be really beneficial. For Devany, it’s all about creating solid relationships and growing from there. “Really, it’s about first building that relationship with the child so they trust you enough to work on things that are hard for them,” she shares.
For many parents, it’s difficult to know when help is needed. Devany shares a few warning signs to look for at different ages and stages of development:
- Not able to communicate their needs at age 2 and 3
- Can’t say all the letter sounds clearly by kindergarten
- Still struggling with reading by 1st grade
- Issues with R sounds or S lisps by age 7
- Unable to write clearly and put together complex sentences by 2nd grade
While this list shares a few red flags, it is not comprehensive. If your child is struggling, reach out for a free 15-minute consultation. In that short amount of time, Devany can let you know if your child is on track, and if his/her speech and writing is age appropriate. Many people worry about financial constraints, but Devany is able to accept most insurance plans, and also works to help qualified candidates take advantage of a grant through United Health Care to relieve the financial burden. There are also many resources offered through the county and the school district. Devany works with and supports school SLPs and county intervention teams to make sure that children reach their goals.
Devany’s unique background helps her serve her clientele with creativity and understanding. While working as a paraprofessional in a school setting, she saw the speech pathologists come into classrooms and work with kids one-on-one. Devany says, “I enjoyed working with kids with disabilities, but was overwhelmed by the classroom setting.” Devany decided to return to school and earn her master’s in Speech and Language Pathology.
Vocabulary, reading comprehension, articulation, language delays, literacy, and spelling, all fall under the umbrella of speech and language. Devany shares, “The ability to process words and then hear individual sounds and manipulate them can be hard for kids. I focus on phonological awareness, which is the basis for being able to process sounds. Jenna’s team focuses on teaching explicit reading and spelling skills.” Together they do a combined dyslexia screening that looks at a myriad of factors that play a role in reading: reading fluency, writing fluency, vocabulary, and cognitive skills. They work with local psychologist, Ben Belnap, to do a full diagnosis. Aside from dyslexia, Devany also diagnoses articulation disorders and language disorders. Devany also has all the credentials and training to diagnose autism. This can be especially helpful to people on a long waiting list who want a diagnosis right away.
Jenna is highly trained in providing kids with the building blocks to not only be successful readers but to enjoy reading. According to her website, 1 in 5 students has dyslexia. That’s 20% of the population, and of that, only 1 in 20 are identified. Contrary to popular belief, dyslexia isn’t just having letters appear in a different order or backwards on the page. Dyslexia is an umbrella term for what Jenna defines as “an unexplained reason why they [children] can’t learn how to read.” It has nothing to do with vision or with intelligence. Jenna explains, “It has to do with how your eyes are seeing the information, but the most important step is what your brain is translating it into.” She notes, “For someone with dyslexia, it’s hard to retain all the information those little symbols (the alphabet) hold, and all the ways they can stretch.” As a certified dyslexia practitioner, Jenna can help students gain and retain that information. It just requires her teaching it in non-traditional ways.
After Jenna earned her bachelor’s degree in Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education, she began work as a speech assistant at a middle school. During this time, she witnessed a lot of students struggling with reading who weren’t getting what they needed. Jenna wanted to offer more help to those students; so she went back to school and earned a Master’s of Education in Curriculum and Instruction.
Jenna says, “I want everything we do to be impactful.” Literacy Utah’s goal is to build the neural pathways that children need to be fluent readers.
Jenna compares building these pathways to the connection between a big screen TV and a DVD player. She explains, “You can have a massive big screen TV and a brand new DVD, but if the cord is broken, the communication between the two machines won’t work.” When the neural pathways are supported and strengthened, the brain can allow a reader to thrive. These neural pathways are strengthened as students are taught all the sounds a letter can make. They learn phonics in a different order than is traditionally taught in schools. Practitioners follow the student’s lead helping each child to master concepts at their own pace.
There are several key indicators that may point to a struggle with dyslexia. Here are a few to look for:
- Mixing up letters or syllables in words
- Can’t come up with words that rhyme
- Can’t remember sight words
- Messy handwriting
- Letter or number reversals beyond 1st grade
- Limited vocabulary
- Poor writing skills
- Family member with dyslexia
For the full comprehensive list and free online screener, head to Jenna’s website.
One of the first places parents should go if they suspect their child is struggling is to their child’s teacher. Teachers can share standardized reading test scores that show if your child is at or below grade level. If your child has completed multiple grades, ask to see the test scores through the years so you can identify any trends. You can also ask for free testing through the school if you’re concerned. Interventions and accommodations are available.
If kids aren’t on grade level with reading, now is the time to remedy that, regardless of age.
Jenna has learned, through trial and error, how to create marked progress with reading struggles. She can even help kids who are pre-readers. Jenna puts together an individualized learning plan for a child using science and data. Jenna says with a smile, “Science and data are my friends.” She tests every six months and pivots based on what that child needs. Jenna moves at the pace of the student recognizing, “If they’re not learning, I need to change what I’m doing. This kid can learn. I need to approach it from a different angle.” She constantly asks herself, “What do I need to do to nurture your growth?” Jenna explains that some kids need 10 repetitions to understand something, while others need 2,000 repetitions. Data is constantly driving the direction of the work Jenna does with individual students.
For the students, it’s not just about getting help. They develop a special relationship. Jenna describes the bond between her and her students, “You know when you’re just with someone and they […] have faith in you? And you just feel that and you know they’re your person on your team?” She says that bond has been an unexpected part of receiving therapy for some students. The faith she has in her students has promoted some incredible growth. Jenna has also helped college students who started their studies and recognized they needed some help in order to thrive. Another client approached her in his later years, just hoping to read his own email and to have the possibility of changing jobs. Jenna shares that for her students, “The world kind of opens in a way.”
The help that Jenna and Devany offer is a team effort. They want parents and families involved. They want school professionals involved. Jenna says, “The more people on these kids’ teams, the better.” Services are also offered in office, and online. If you want to replace frustration with confidence and hope, if your child is needing some extra support in relation to reading, writing, and communicating, this clinic is a place to fill in the gaps and to find success.