Studies indicate that there is a significant gap between the language skills of children from low socioeconomic backgrounds to those of their high socioeconomic peers. Studies find that these socioeconomic status differences begin to emerge early in life: By 18 months of age, toddlers from disadvantaged families are already several months behind more advantaged children in language proficiency. This gap, which widens as children grow, will have a negative effect on their academic abilities and their chances at success as adults.
The program "Ladder of Words" was developed by speech therapist Yael Shotland of Hapaot Center in order to bridge children's language gaps from a low socioeconomic status and improve their chances of success.
In order to do that, Ladder of Words sends a team of speech therapists into daycare centers for a professionally led, year-long, weekly language development program for children ages 6 to 36 months. The team works with all children in small, level based groups and base their curriculum on screenings conducted at the beginning of the year.
The program is conducted in full collaboration with the daycare centers: daycare staff is present at all times, receive bi-weekly training from the Ladder of Words team and utilize the skills modeled by the team on their day to day work with the children.
The program has been successfully operating since 2013 in Tirat Karmel, Pardes Hana and in September 2018 will be expanding to Haifa. Around 200 children participate in the program each year.
What makes the program special?
• It is the only program in Israel that targets children 6-36 month old, when research shows efforts are most affective. By the time children reach kindergarten and other programs are offered the "developmental window" that allows significant change is already missed.
• Ladder of Words is conducted by speech therapists rather than educators. Whereas other programs intend to merely expose children to a richer language, Ladder of Words is designed to be as close to a speech therapy session as possible and is specifically tailored to bring each child to where they need to be developmentally.
• Ladder of Words takes into account the cultural backgrounds of children in choosing the contents taught.
Program Director: Yael Shotland