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The Impact of Poverty and Homelessness on Children’s Oral and Literate Language

The Impact of Poverty and Homelessness on Children’s Oral and Literate Language: Practical Implications for

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from a presentation at ASHA Schools Conference Milwaukee, Wisconsin

July 28, 2012

By Celeste Roseberry-McKibbin, PhD

California State University, Sacramento

San Juan Unified School District

I. Key Points

● Statistics regarding poverty in the U.S. ● Factors that impact low-SES students’ linguistic and academic achievement ● Effects of poverty on oral and literate language development ● Suggestions for supporting low-SES parents in increasing their children’s language skills ● Strategies for professionals for increasing the oral and written language skills of low-SES students ● Executive functioning deficits in students and summary of remediation strategies

II. Understanding Variables Affecting Low-SES Students’ Performance

Background ● Never equate poverty with dysfunction. ● The term, poverty, often brings to mind the cultural differences that arise from race, ethnicity,

religion, country of origin, and ability or disability. However, in many countries, substantial cultural differences exist between people who are economically disadvantaged and those who are advantaged (Turnbull & Justice, 2012).

Variables • The standard of living for those in the bottom 10% is lower in the United States than in any other

developed nation, except the United Kingdom. • Poor families with three or more people spend about one third of their income on food. • Last year, 7.7% of African American women and 8.5% of Hispanic women worked in jobs that paid

at or below minimum wage, as compared to 4.3% of White men (, 2011). • African American and Hispanic women are more likely than white women to be heads of

households. • Married households’ median annual 2011 income was $71,830, while female-headed households

earned $32,597.

Effects of Homelessness • Homeless children and youth lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. • These children often live in cars, parks, public places, abandoned buildings, or bus or train

stations. • The cause is the inability of people to pay for housing; thus, homelessness is impacted by both

income and the affordability of available housing (National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2012). Potential Psychological and Physical Effects • Malnutrition • Illness • Hearing and vision problems • Housing problems (e.g., lead poisoning, homelessness, frequent moving, crowded conditions, no

place to play outside) • Neighborhood problems (e.g., violence) • Family stress • Fewer learning resources • Lack of cognitive and linguistic stimulation Observations ● When financial resources are stressed, there are higher rates of maternal depression. ● Compared with higher-income mothers, who tend to be more warm and verbal with their children,

low-income mothers often show lower levels of warmth, responsiveness, and sensitivity when interacting with young children. (Barrett & Turner, 2005; La Paro, Justice, Skibbe, & Plante, 2004; Neuman, 2009)

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