Speech and Language Specialist
Speech and Language Specialist Anna Taylor, based in MultiLit’s WA office, is the project lead on our forthcoming LanguageLift program. Learn more about her role with MultiLit.
How long have you worked for MultiLit?
I recently celebrated my three-year anniversary.
What inspired you to get into education?
My mum was a primary school teacher and school librarian, so I think a career working with children and books was something I was naturally drawn towards. I spent my first few years as a speech pathologist working clinically in a community health centre. I was frustrated by long waiting times and limited services for school-age children. I thought that working in a school would enable me to provide support that was more regular and educationally relevant. So, when a job with the Department of Education became available, I seized the opportunity.
Tell us a bit about your background and experience.
I’ve been working as a speech pathologist for about 17 years. Prior to joining MultiLit, I spent 13 years leading a speech pathology team in a Language Development Centre (LDC), which is a school for young children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD). Most of my LDC days were spent developing oral language intervention programs and delivering them in classrooms with teachers. I also spent a lot of time analysing oral language data, reading research, upskilling teachers, supporting families, and mentoring other speech pathologists.
In my last few years at the LDC, I started to think a lot about what we could do to improve the early literacy skills of students. This steered the LDC to introduce InitiaLit in 2018 and, not long after, I coordinated a research project investigating its impact. We found that children who received InitiaLit developed significantly stronger decoding skills than those who received the school-designed literacy program. We went on to publish the results of our study, and for my work I received the Lee Mills Award from the Australian Association of Special Education in 2021.
When not at MultiLit, I am studying a Master of Philosophy (Speech Pathology) by research at Curtin University. I am investigating school-entry oral language skills, and how they influence early academic achievement and social success. I continue my connection with the Department of Education as a Community Representative on a School Board.
What are some of the key responsibilities of your role?
As MultiLit’s Speech and Language Specialist, I provide a unique contribution to the development of intervention programs and resources. I am the project manager of LanguageLift and have been responsible for all aspects of its development — from initial conceptualisation of the program to the development of its scope and sequence, lesson development and coordination of field trials.
What can you tell us about the forthcoming LanguageLift program?
I have lived and breathed LanguageLift for the last three years. I hope when it lands in people’s hands they get a sense of the extraordinary amount of effort, expertise and hard work that has gone into its development.
LanguageLift addresses one of the biggest challenges faced by early childhood teachers today, which is how to support the large number of children who start school with oral language difficulties. LanguageLift integrates high-quality research from speech pathology and education to explicitly teach oral language skills to small groups of children in pre-primary, and Years 1 and 2. The intervention is primarily delivered through storybooks and games. These are inherently enjoyable for children, so it is a lot of fun to teach!
Importantly, results from trials conducted in 2021 indicate that children make significantly larger than expected gains in vocabulary, grammar and storytelling skills when they participate in LanguageLift.
What’s one thing you wish more people knew about literacy?
Decades of research has told us that oral language is the foundation for literacy, and that children who start school with lower levels of oral language proficiency are at a distinct disadvantage when learning to read. To raise literacy and related academic achievement, we therefore need to start by accelerating the oral language development of at-risk children in their first year of full-time school.