Archive for the 'Child Development' Category

Pediatric speech and language: Frequently asked questions

baby boy reaching for man's face

Cropped image. Harsha K R, Flickr. CC license.

Pediatric speech-language pathologists get asked a lot of questions about childhood development. After all, we work with children every day! Below are a few of the most commonly asked questions about speech and language development.

Q: What are important early speech and language milestones for young children?

A: Children are developing skills constantly, and at different rates, but here are a few basics to look for at various ages.

  • 0 to 3 months: Cooing, smiling at familiar faces, crying differently for different needs, calming or smiling when spoken to, and recognition of your voice.
  • 4 to 6 months: Babbling with different consonant sounds (e.g., /p/, /b/, /m/), laughing, vocalizing excitement and displeasure, moving eyes in the direction of sounds, paying attention to music, and responding to changes in the tone of your voice.
  • 7 months to 1 year: Babbling long and short groups of sounds, using speech to get and keep your attention, using gestures to communicate (e.g., waving, holding arms to be picked up), imitating different speech sounds, using one or two words around first birthday, enjoying simple games like peek-a-boo, turning and looking in the direction of sounds, listening when spoken to, recognizing some common words, and beginning to respond to requests.
  • 1 year to 18 months: Shaking head “no;” may use between 5 and 25 words; begin making animal sounds; communicating needs by using single words, pointing, grunting, gesturing, facial expressions, or eye contact; imitating common actions (e.g., brushing hair, feeding, talking on phone); pointing to objects when named; and following simple one- and two-step commands.
  • 18 to 24 months: Using 50 to 200 words, responding to “yes/no” questions, attending to books, following multiple step directions, pointing to pictures, and attending to activities for 10 to 15 minute stretches.

Q: What are the best ways to stimulate my young child’s speech and language skills?

A: For children from the age of 0 to 1 year old, the best ways to stimulate their language include:

  • Responding to your child’s coos, gurgles, and babbling
  • Staying simple and consistent with your vocabulary and using the words repetitively
  • Matching language with your activities (e.g., “Shoes on,” “Mommy driving”)
  • Looking at simple picture books. Label the pictures, take your child’s hand and point to the objects.
  • Telling nursery rhymes, singing songs, and playing simple games together such as peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake
  • Encouraging simple directions (e.g., “Give me the cup,” “Kiss the baby,” etc.)
  • Teaching your child the names of everyday items and familiar people
  • Taking your child with you to new places and situations

For children from the age of 1 to 2 years old, the best ways to stimulate their language include:

  • Rewarding and encouraging early efforts at saying new words. Asking your child to “show me” if something is unclear.
  • Talking to your baby about everything you’re doing while you’re with them
  • Having your child imitate new words and ideas
  • Talking simply, clearly and slowly to your child
  • Describing what your child is doing, feeling, and hearing
  • Going on trips and adventures (e.g., visit the zoo, plant flowers)

Q: What are the best toys for young children working on improving their speech and language skills?

A: As a speech-language pathologist, one of the questions I’m asked most often is, “What toys should I buy to help my child talk?” The toys listed below include those that I often use with children working on increasing their speech and language skills, as well as those that I would generally recommend to parents of young children. The best toys to promote speech and language development for your child are the simplest toys. Items that allow children to get creative with play and allow them to use the toy in a variety of ways are great for promoting language development. These toys include:

  • Blocks
  • Cars/trucks/trains
  • Play kitchen and food
  • Farm set
  • Baby doll and accessories
  • Doll house
  • Dress up clothes
  • Tool set
  • Tea set
  • Mr. Potato Head

Q: What is the best way to introduce a second language? Is there a “window” of time that is best?

A: It’s never too early or too late to introduce a second language, but research shows that for the most part, earlier is better. Children learn language by listening to people who speak that language, whether it is their parents, family members, teachers, friends or others. The best models for language are native speakers, but when that’s not available, there are classes, apps, games and high-quality television programming that teach other languages to children.

Children who are bilingual experience benefits that reach into adulthood, including higher academic achievement, better problem solving, increased executive control, and overall better communication skills!

Q: What should I do if I think my child is falling behind in his speech and language development?

A: If you suspect any kind of difficulty or delay in development, talk to your pediatrician. She may recommend a speech and language evaluation by a certified, licensed speech and language pathologist, who can help determine if intervention is needed.

– Erin Reaume, M.A., CCC-SLP, Speech and Language Pathologist, Children’s Speech and Language Pathology Department, Beaumont Health

Share your expertise with new parents as a Parenting Program group speaker

woman interacting with babies and toys

Every year, more than 55 parent groups begin their six-month journey of support and education. The topics presented help new parents gain confidence, in turn building a strong family foundation.

The Parenting Program is always seeking qualified individuals who can give a few hours a month to provide the quality education that our families have come to expect. Please take a minute to consider this opportunity to volunteer.

What we look for in a speaker

You must have knowledge or experience in the topic that you’re presenting. Here are a list of suggested presenter backgrounds and recommended topics:

  • Pediatrician, physician assistant, nurse, nurse practitioner
    • Topics:
      • Common Childhood Illnesses
      • Feeding
      • Sleep
      • Development and Temperament
  • Nutritionist
    • Topic:
      • Feeding
  • Teacher, occupational and/or speech therapist
    • Topics:
      • Play and Reading
      • Development and Temperament
      • Speech and Language Development
  • Counselor, therapist, social worker
    • Topics:
      • Adjustments to Parenthood
      • Our Past and Parenting
  • Massage therapist or someone with certification or appropriate training and experience
    • Topic:
      • Infant Massage
  • Experienced dads
    • Topic:
      • Focus on Fathers (Our “dads only” topic)
  • Experienced parents
    • Topics:
      • Child Safety
      • Travel
      • Baby Sign Language
      • Play and Reading
      • Photography
      • Exercise

Note: Retired individuals are especially welcome to share their expertise in any of these topics.

What being a speaker involves

  • We recommend that a new speaker observe an experienced speaker to get a feel for the group dynamic.
  • Each presentation is between 45 minutes and an hour.
  • Speaker outlines are provided, as are topic handouts for parents.
  • We educate in a very informal way.
    • We meet in living rooms or classrooms, and typically sit in a circle with babies on a blanket on the floor.
    • Parents are relaxed and open to discussion.

One of the greatest benefits to being a group speaker is seeing the response of parents and babies. The experience is energizing and very rewarding!

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a volunteer group speaker, please call our group coordinators at 248-898-3233 or email them directly.

  • Betsy Clancy: Elizabeth.Clancy@Beaumont.org
  • Nichole Enerson: Nichole.Enerson@Beaumont.org

Five tips for raising emotionally secure children

little girl hugging her dad and a teddy bear

If you read my post on Tuesday, you know I believe that a strong emotional security is one of the most important qualities you can instill in your child. Here are five tips to help you along your journey of bolstering that emotional security.

  1. Consistency. I can’t stress this one enough! Children thrive on routine and consistency because it makes them feel safe and secure in knowing what to expect. This starts in early infancy and carries through into adolescence.

    Consistency on the part of adults is of prime importance. When you act consistently, children know where they and their surroundings stand. Otherwise, children can feel confused and become unpredictable. Always do as you say. Be consistent in your actions and follow through with promises or consequences.

    Children sense chaos, so when things are getting chaotic, I often ask myself, “Am I staying consistent?” If not, I try to regroup and create a sense of routine in any way possible, this helps create a safer, more predictable environment, which in turn helps children feel more secure in the happenings of their lives.

  1. Encouragement. This is simple but very important! Try to let your children know that they are good at things, that they are nice people, and that you like them. It’s important that they know that we don’t just love them, but that we like them. We like being with them, we like spending time with them.

    We generally tell our children when they fail, when they annoy us, or when we feel let down by them, but we may forget to mention the good things. Thus, many children get the impression that they aren’t “getting it right” and can easily feel emotionally insecure and develop a poor self-concept. Remember, success breeds success. Children need to have successful experiences and have their achievements recognized to develop self-esteem and emotional security.

  1. Listen and explore their feelings. Try to accept your child’s reality. If a child is upset or scared about something (regardless of how irrelevant or trivial it may seem to you), accept that this is the real feeling of the child.

    Rather than brushing over the issue/feeling or trying to fix the problem (as we tend to do as parents), dig deeper. In other words, ask what the child is feeling and then help to go through these feelings to either accept or work around the worrying feeling. This can lead to your child’s better understanding of his feelings and teaches good coping techniques. The result: Your child feels more emotionally secure.

  1. Realistic expectations. Keep your level of expectation within the realms of the child’s ability. It is great to challenge our kids to be the best that they can, but keep it realistic. We shouldn’t expect kids to do more than they are capable of achieving. Success is a progression of small steps, not one giant leap.
  1. Lead by example. This is one of my favorites! Children are always watching and listening. It is extremely important to lead by example, in our daily interactions with our partners, our loved ones, our friends, our community. Be aware of how you interact with your children. Be aware of how you interact with others. Listen to yourself. Stay aware that children emulate us and use us as role models.

    Hey, I get it. We are all human and we lose it sometimes. But if you start focusing on what your children are doing or how they are feeling, you may start to see a mirror image of yourself in your children (like a *gasp* “I’ve become my mother” moment). Stay cognizant that we lead by example in our everyday interactions. When our children see us as confident, responsible, loving, mature, and secure parents, they will emulate the way we interact and sense the way we feel. Strive for your own emotional security and chances are your children will sense it and feel more secure themselves.

– Dr. Hannan Alsahlani is a Beaumont pediatrician and proud mother of four girls.

Let’s secure our children’s emotional security

four girls cuddled under blanket

I just kissed my four daughters good night and tucked them into bed. Surrounded by love, cuddles, giggles, and an immense sense of joy, it was a sweet ending to a rough day. I laid down and the first thing that came to mind was emotional security and feeling secure. I’m nowhere close to a perfect mom, I have my ups and downs. Life comes like a tornado at times and then settles down and we see the sun. Today I am seeing the sun and I am grateful for the sunny days.

Then the word security popped up again. I know my children feel secure; I am sure of it. Another thing I am absolutely sure of: As parents we must strive to make our children always feel secure. Not just by telling them they are safe and secure, but by our actions. Regardless of our children’s ages, it’s never too early to implement the sense of emotional security in their lives.

One of the most important qualities you can instill in your children is a deep sense of security in themselves and their world. Secure children grow up to be more confident, resilient, and empathetic, and they persevere in difficult situations.

There are a few things that help nurture my children’s developing sense of emotional security:

  • Security in one’s self. I am capable of taking care of myself. I am in control of who I am and what I want to be.
  • Security in the people around them. There are people in my world who will protect me and be there for me when needed.
  • The way they view the world. My world is a safe place that I can explore with confidence and free from fear.

To feel secure in themselves, children first need to feel secure in their world. If the family feels safe, then the child feels safe and secure. As a child grows up, this sense of security is internalized. We must show our children that unconditional love is unrelated to their actions, appearance, social standing, or achievements. With unconditional love comes emotional security.

I’m not sure I always felt secure growing up. Maybe it is for this reason I’ve been hypervigilant to make sure my daughters felt secure from infancy. I tell them, “You are safe, you are loved, you are special, you are strong, you are fierce, you are unstoppable, and you are capable,” before they sleep at night, when they wake up in the morning, and any chance I get.

I’ll be honest. Today was a rough day for me with lots of stressors and lots of very sick kids at work. When I came home and my daughters hugged me, immediately they could tell it was a rough day. My girls sat me down, asked me to take a deep breath, and together said, “Mommy,  you are safe, you are loved, you are special, you are strong, you are fierce, you are unstoppable, and you are capable,” and then they hugged me.

In that moment I knew I had done something right. Without question, I felt safe, emotionally secure and home again.

As I watch my 6-month-old sleep on her baby monitor, as I peek in on my 2-year-old hugging Mickey Mouse in her crib, and as I kiss my sleeping 8 and 9-year-olds’ sweet sleeping cheeks, I feel relieved knowing they feel secure. And for now, in this moment, I know I am helping them grow into emotionally secure human beings. I truly believe this is one of the greatest gifts I can give them.

You can give your child this amazing gift, too. Check back on Thursday for the second article in this series: Five tips for raising emotionally secure children.

– Dr. Hannan Alsahlani is a Beaumont pediatrician and proud mother of four girls.

 

Singing helps speech and language development

little girl singing at piano

Unaltered image. David Simmonds, Flickr. CC license.

As a speech-language pathologist, I often incorporate singing songs and dancing during my therapy sessions as a fun way to target speech and language goals. It is common for my patients’ parents to ask, “Why songs?”

Children’s songs are very beneficial because they often include simple verbiage and repetitive language, and are commonly motivating to children. Those three key factors are recommended for early language learners in order to encourage engagement, whether vocally, verbally or physically.

Simple verbiage is important to a child who isn’t speaking yet or to a child who is beginning to speak. Why? Simple language increases attention and children are more likely to imitate. The longer and more complex sentences are, the more likely a child will lose attention and interest. Songs made for children are often short and use common vocabulary words that most children are familiar with.

Repetitive language enhances understanding of words or phrases, and increases practice opportunities for children to imitate or attempt to imitate. Typically, the more often children are exposed to an object, activity or place, the more comfortable the children become. This concept also applies to songs. The more repetitive a song is, the more children can anticipate the words and/or actions. This can help elicit more vocalizations and imitation attempts.

Songs are motivating! They capture a child’s attention and motivate them to imitate because they want to join in the fun. Being silly, laughing, and dancing with your child is a great way to bond, but also encourages your child to participate in the activity.

How do songs improve receptive language skills?

Receptive language is your child’s ability to comprehend experiences, words, people, etc. Songs often include concepts such as counting, body part recognition, animals, and more. Children tend to learn these concepts with ease when they relate to something more concrete and when it is fun! Many songs also build your child’s ability to follow directions and improve auditory memory (hearing information, processing, and later recalling).

Recommended songs:

  • Wheels on the Bus
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
  • If You’re Happy and You Know It

If you want to make some of those well-known songs a little more entertaining and challenging, try a few of the five tips toward the end of this related article.

Song use also supports understanding reciprocal communication, vocabulary development, rhyming, concentration, spatial reasoning, and fine and gross motor skills. Use songs and enhance speech and language skills!

– Lauren DeClercq, M.A., CCC-SLP, Speech and Language Pathologist, Children’s Speech and Language Pathology Department, Beaumont Health

Making memories through reading

dad reading to boy and girl

Cropped image. Paul Hamilton, Flickr. CC license.

I’ve been speaking about play and reading to parent groups for many years. I’m not a teacher or reading expert by any means, but it’s been very easy and fun to be an advocate for the importance of reading to (and with) children.

Many of us already know the value of reading and I always ask my groups, “Why should we read to our babies?” The answers are plentiful: brain growth, cognitive connections, vocabulary development, language skills, bonding, fun, etc.

Then I ask another question: “Do you remember being read to as a child?”

Not everyone has such a memory, but those who do often remember the books as well, such as Berenstain Bears, Golden Books, Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, etc.

And there is always an obscure title mentioned with a smile and a brief nostalgic nod.

Looking deeper, these memories come from time spent together as child and parent with books at the center. Memories that incorporate books and reading are there for the making! Some fun ideas include:

  • Family trips to the library.
  • Gathering books to donate.
  • Saving an allowance to buy a book.
  • A special book that only grandma reads with them.
  • Planned reading time together, taking turns reading to each other (especially good for older children).
  • Talking about favorite books at dinnertime.
  • A book exchange with neighbors and friends.

It’s hard to predict what memories will linger as we grow into adulthood, but these activities are valuable even if long forgotten.

– Betsy Clancy is a group coordinator for the Beaumont Parenting Program.

Code brown: Adventures in potty training

Little girl potty training her teddy bear

Cropped image. Manish Bansal, Flickr. CC license.

Take 1

At 18 months old, my daughter, we’ll call her C, started to show an interest in the toilet. I thought it was too early, but my mom insisted on getting her a potty. “She’s ready, honey,” Mom would say.

What do you know? On the first day we had the potty, she pooped in it. I squealed with delight. High-fives were flying. I was jumping up and down, yelling to my husband to come and see. All while my inner monologue was running wild: “Could it be?! C is diaper free at a year-and-a-half?! Do I have one of those mythical children who potty train themselves at a super young age?! This. Is. Amazing.”

This enthusiasm, however, was apparently quite terrifying because C wouldn’t even look at the potty, let alone sit on it, for weeks afterwards.

Take 2

We stopped being potty pushers and decided to take a more relaxed approach — we would let C tell us when she’s ready to start. However, around the two-year mark, a group of kids in her daycare class began potty training and we needed to jump on the bandwagon.

“But she’s not ready. Real underwear? She’s too little for that. Can’t we wait a little longer?” I begged her teacher. Nope. We had to reinforce at home what was being taught at daycare. Fine, way to be totally logical. We’ll try again.

Take 3 and 4 and 5…

At daycare, potty training progressed nicely. In the beginning, she often had accidents when they were outside playing (she didn’t want to stop to go to the bathroom) or during naptime. Lately, it’s been very infrequent, maybe once a week if that. Go daycare!

At home, it’s a different story. Rarely will C use the toilet and we never leave the house without a diaper or training pants on. I don’t get it. We’ve tried everything: sticker charts, chocolate chip bribes, positive reinforcement, commando weekends. I don’t know if I can read another “How to Potty Train Your Toddler in Three Days” article.

We’re constantly taking her into the bathroom and sitting her on the toilet with no results. On several occasions just moments after we leaving the bathroom, she had an accident (once hilariously on my husband while they watched TV; it was an especially juicy bowel movement).

Another favorite: going poop in the bathtub. I guess it is relaxing. But seriously C, a “code brown” is never a good way to kick off the bedtime routine.

So here we are nearly year after her toilet interest piqued and still changing diapers. Friends and family say not to worry. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics says, “It’s best to avoid assuming that your child will begin training by a certain age.”

Most of my brain agrees – she’s only two and half. I get it; she has plenty of time. However, a small part of me is confused — why is potty training going so well at daycare and not at home? What’s their secret? Is C is just trying to fit in with the cool kids and go to the bathroom on the toilet? (I guess there’s worse forms of peer pressure.) But seriously, do I need a parade of toddlers to come through my house every hour and use the bathroom so C will too?

Oh, potty training. One of these days, we’ll figure you out. In the meantime, let’s commiserate. Share your potty training adventures in the comments below.

– Anne Hein is a volunteer with the Beaumont Parenting Program and mom of a strong-willed toddler. 


Topics

Enter your email address and you'll receive notifications of new posts in your in-box.

Join 2,732 other followers

Free Developmental Screening

Confidential online developmental screening for children up to age 5

Awards