Posts Tagged 'language'

Myth busting: Speech delay in siblings

Brothers

Myth: Younger siblings can have a speech and language delay because the older sibling(s) will interpret or speak for the younger child, possibly resulting in a need for speech-language therapy.

Truth: Parents often attribute a speech and language delay to a child being a younger sibling. However research shows that birth order isn’t a risk factor for speech and language delays; having an older sibling who speaks for a younger sibling doesn’t cause a delay in speech and language skills. Although if a child has a delay, it is more likely others will talk for him/her.

While being a second (or third, fourth, etc.) sibling does not cause a speech and language delay, it can impact early language skills. Several research studies found:

  • First-born children reach the 50-word milestone earlier than later-born children. Later-born children quickly catch up, so there are no lasting differences in vocabulary.
  • First-born children have more advanced vocabulary and grammar skills, while later-born children have more advanced conversational skills.
  • Second-born children are more advanced with use of personal pronouns (e.g., he, she, them, they).

Birth order contributes to different language learning environments. First-born children may benefit from more one-one-one attention, while later-born children may benefit from hearing and participating in conversations between parents and other siblings. Neither of these environments are detrimental to speech and language development and there are no lasting developmental differences between first-born and later-born siblings.

Rather than compare first- and later-born children, it is important to focus on whether an individual child’s speech and language milestones are being met. Important milestones can be found here:

Ideas for stimulating speech and language skills can be found here.

If you have questions about your child’s language development, talk to your pediatrician or contact a speech-language pathologist.

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

 References:

  • Berglund, E., Eriksson, M., Westerlund, M. (2005). Communicative skills in relation to gender, birth order, childcare and socioeconomic status in 18-month-old children. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 46, 6, 485–491.
  • Reilly, S. (2007). Predicting language at 2 years of age: a prospective community study. Pediatrics, 120, 6, e1441-9.

 

How can I tell if my child is really talking?

Two baby girls "talking" on a bench

Unaltered image. Dean Wissing, Flickr. CC license.

Communication begins at birth, but talking is harder to define.

A newborn initially communicates primarily by crying, then soon after, eye contact, smiling, laughing and vocal play emerge. A child of 6 months is generally babbling, using sounds in repetitive sequences (e.g., “bababa,” “dadada”), including intonation, to communicate mood. Before any real words emerge, babies should be making a lot of sounds, both independently and in imitation.

Children are expected to use their first real word around the age of 1 year, with the most common words being “dada” or “mama.” (Sorry Mom, the /d/ sound is easier than /m/, so many babies say “dada” first!) Sometimes the first word is “hi.” Sometimes it’s “no.”

So how can you tell if something your baby says is really a word?

Since babbling can sound similar to real words, it might be difficult to know whether a vocalization can be considered a true word. It really comes down to consistency and intent. A word, no matter how clear, is a true word if it is used consistently for the same specific purpose.

For example, a child who always says “mama” when looking for his mother and interacting with her is likely to be using it as a real word.

However, a child who says “mama” all the time, while interacting with his mother, but also while playing with his toys, looking out the window, sharing a snack with dad, and waking up from a nap might not be using it as a real word. The word isn’t being used specifically for his mother.

Another potentially confusing element of learning to speak is jargon. Jargon is characterized by long strings of unintelligible sounds that include adult-like stress and intonation. Quite simply, it sounds like your child is speaking a language you don’t understand. Is this talking? Kind of. While jargon is not made up of real words, it is part of the process of children learning to converse like adults. Further, real words may be mixed in with long strings of jargon. It is a good idea to respond to jargon, and the intermittent real words within it, as if your child is talking with you. Jargon should peak around 18 months, and then decline as children’s expressive vocabulary and utterance length increase. You can read more about expressive language skills here.

If you have questions about your child’s language development, talk to your pediatrician, or contact a speech-language pathologist.

– Kellie Bouren, M.A., CCC-SLP, Speech and Language Pathologist, Children’s Speech Pathology Department, Beaumont Children’s

Creative ways to celebrate literacy during National Reading Month

A photo sample of creative ways to celebrate literacy

National Reading Month takes place in March every year. Here are 10 creative ways to bring literacy to life within the walls of your home! Not only will you have fun as a family, but you will be increasing your children’s interest in literature and adding to their developing reading and writing skills.

  1. Board games. Dust off some of your board games that infuse literacy elements such as Hedbanz, Scrabble or Zingo.
  1. Movie night. Read a chapter book as a family every night, then celebrate the end of the book by watching the accompanying movie. There are a lot of books turned movies; be sure to look into which would be age appropriate for your children. We started off with Disney books and movies like “Cinderella” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. Our local children’s theater is offering the musical Snow White right now and that could be another option.
  1. Read a series. Spend the month reading an exciting series of books. For very young children, you can read Arthur or Biscuit books. “My Father’s Dragon” is a great beginning chapter book series and for preschool and elementary aged children. The Imaginary Veterinary series is a lot of fun! Reading a series of books really gets children excited and engaged. My husband once told my four year old he loved Arthur books, so now each time we go to the library, she gets excited to pick a new Arthur book our for her Papa to read to her.
  1. Start a family journal. Purchase a notebook (one from the dollar store works) and write letters back and forth to your children. We have a rule: When it’s my turn to write in the journal, my daughter leaves the notebook for me on my nightstand. We write about anything and everything. Young children can participate, too, by adding pictures and inventive spelling or even letter strings (when a young child mimics writing with scribbles).
  1. Old-school word games. You can find old-school word games as apps now or find one online to print out and enjoy. Show your children how to do a word search (they make them for all learning levels and you can personalize them, too), hangman, and crossword puzzles. I like to print a special puzzle out for my girls to work on before breakfast in the morning. They are still waking up but enjoy having a special activity to work on while I cook breakfast and make their lunches.
  1. Mad Libs. Complete a Mad Libs story to read aloud as a family this month. It’s sure to bring giggles to all!
  1. YouTube. Did you know there are books available as videos? There are authors and volunteers who read books aloud on YouTube. Search for your favorite stories as a kid and share them on this platform with your children. I used to love “Bedtime for Frances” and can remember my Grandma reading it to me each time we stayed over at her house.
  1. Share your story. Tell stories before bed about memories you had as a child. Use inventive dialogue and be sure to describe the setting. Storytelling is wonderful for children to use their imaginations and sharing stories from your past will help your child make a connection with you.
  1. Audiobooks. You can check out audiobooks at the library or use online platforms such as Audible. Listen to a chapter of a book you are reading together in the car, then read the next chapter aloud that night to your children. It’s a different way for children to hear stories and a great use of your commute time in the car.
  1. Update your family library. Go to the library on the weekend or while your children are at school. Ask them what kind of books they would like you to get them if they are not going with you. Pick out a bunch of books and add them to a basket in your family room. Replenish the books every two or three weeks when they are due. Be sure to add a variety of genres like non-fiction, holiday books, and high interest stories related to what your child is into.

– Maria Dismondy is a mother of three, reading specialist, fitness instructor and bestselling children’s author living in Southeast Michigan.

Do the language dance

Dad reading to a little boy

Unaltered image. Jinglejammer, Flickr. CC license.

Wouldn’t it be reassuring if we could see into our child’s future? To see them as a well-adjusted, content, healthy teenager who is making the most of their academic and social opportunities in high school, could make our parenting job just a little easier.

But there isn’t a crystal ball for that, just some significant research.

Which of these factors contribute most to the future school achievement of our children: income, IQ, school, where we live, genetic code? Actually, none of them. Instead, our children’s achievement in school is determined by the number of words parents say to them between birth and 3 years of age.

Research shows that by the age 3, some children heard a total of 13 million words while others heard a total of 45 million words. (Words from a TV, computer or iPad don’t count.) The more communication our babies have with us, even before they can talk, the better their language development will be. Language development is the beginning of literacy (reading, writing and communicating). A strong literacy foundation is the key to school success.

Children who heard 45 million words didn’t only hear directions such as “Eat your peas,” or “Don’t stand on the furniture.” Their parents also talked to them when they didn’t have to; this is called the language dance.

More talk is good, but not just any talk will make your child smarter. To positively impact our children’s language development, we must engage them in the language dance. One way to do this is with books. Yes, this includes reading them, but it is mostly by talking with our children about the books we are reading.

Language dance tips

Going beyond the text is one of the best ways to engage in the language dance. When reading books with your child, pay attention to what he is pointing to or looking at, then say something about it. Some ideas for comments are:

  • Name a character or item: “The little boy’s name is Jack.”
  • Describe the character: “Jack looks excited,” or “Jack’s mommy is working really hard.”
  • Describe the item: “That ball is round and rolls on the ground,” or “The white clouds in the sky are fluffy.”
  • Connect to your child’s life: “You have a colorful ball too. Look, here’s your ball.”

Remember, the language dance supports language development and, ultimately, literacy. So while we may not actually be able to see into our children’s future, one sure way to create a good one is by building the components of a solid literacy foundation. Your children will thank you.

– Stacey Sharpe Mollison, Simply Smart Kids, Co-Founder

Take the Time to Write a Letter

Little girl writing a letter

April is National Card and Letter Writing Month. It is the perfect reason to get out some old stationary and write someone a letter.

Remember when writing a letter, it is important to discuss the five parts of a letter: date, greeting, body, closing and signature.

April 2015

Dear Grandma,

Thank you for the birthday present.

You are so thoughtful and I love you so much!

Love Always,

Maria

Here are some quick and creative ways to get letters in the mail this month:

  • Write a letter then mail it to someone’s work to surprise them and bring a smile to their face!
  • Package up a few preschool or Sunday school crafts and mail them to grandma with a note of thanks.
  • Share the pen with your child. You write a few words and they write a few words.
  • Take out your address book, flip to a random page and write a letter to the first person your finger finds!
  • Cut out a shape of an old cereal box or out of newspaper to be the base of your card. Add a piece of blank paper to write your words on.
  • Recycle old greeting or holiday cards by cutting out the words or the graphics and reusing them.
  • Take a field trip to the post office to purchase the stamps with your child. Let them put the letters in the mail box!

Parenting Tip: Pull together your supplies the night before and leave them out where you can see them. The project is sure to get done this way instead of having the thought in your head “We should do that!”

– Maria Dismondy, mother of three, reading specialist, fitness instructor and bestselling children’s author living in Southeast Michigan.

When is the Best Time to Start Teaching My Child a Second Language?

As our communities become increasingly diverse, more parents are interested in setting their children on the track for bilingualism. Currently in the United States 58 percent of individuals above the age of five in the United States speak a second, non-English language at home and this number is growing as reported by U.S. Census Bureau. Given the advantages, here are some answers to common questions regarding the early acquisition of a second language.

Timing.
It’s never too early or too late to start learning a second language, however research found overriding benefits that shift at different ages. The optimal time to start exposure is between birth and three years of age, while the brain is most receptive to nuances of different speech sounds and is establishing a foundation for literacy. Preschoolers are most likely to develop a native accent along with the appropriate intonation and gestures of the language. Children more easily develop a native accent up to age eight. Beyond puberty it may be more difficult to master a native accent, although grammar is better as the language is learned with proficient literacy skills.

Potential Language Delays.
Despite the complexity, preschoolers are adept at sorting two languages without negatively influencing their language development in either language. Some children exposed to two languages may start talking slightly later when compared to their monolingual peers, however this isn’t a general rule. Research shows that even children with a speech delay shouldn’t be restricted to one language, as the processing of two languages isn’t the culprit for the delay.

Mixing Languages.
Parents may be concerned that their child will mix the words and grammar between two languages; rest assured that it’s a completely normal part of developing bilingualism, especially when one language is more dominant. Mixing will decrease as the child develops a larger vocabulary base in each language, however even fluent speakers will use preferred words in one language or the other.

Resources.
The best way to teach a child a second language is through games, songs, rhymes, and daily activities. Watching television shows or simply hearing the second language isn’t enough since the child needs to interact in the language in meaningful ways in order to assimilate it. As with learning any new skill, practice and consistency are the keys to developing and maintaining new language skills. More ideas are available here.

One of the greatest advantages of exposing your child to another language is that it broadens his perspective of the world, different cultures, and people. Not only does a child build a valuable skill that will serve him into adulthood, it’s shown that children who speak more than one language demonstrate positive spill-over effects in other subject areas that involve logic, concentration, and a more diversified set of mental abilities, enhancing creativity. Take the first steps early and your child may say, “Danke! ¡Gracias! Merci! Shukria! Shukran!” to thank you for your efforts.

– Mehreen Kakwan, M.A., CFY-SLP, a pediatric speech pathologist with Beaumont Health System

Research:

http://www.babycenter.com/0_raising-a-bilingual-child-the-top-five-myths_10340869.bc

http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/child-development-bilingual-vs-monolingual-household-7371.html

http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/education/cb13-143.html

Milne, Rosemary, and Priscilla Clarke. Bilingual Early Childhood Education in Child Care and Preschool Centres. Commonwealth of Australia: FKA Multicultural Resource Centre, 1993.

Don’t Forget About the Lions, Tigers and Bears (Oh My!)

Non-fiction Books

image credit: Becky Bibbs

You go to the library and your children are drawn to Dora the Explorer and Disney classics. But don’t forget about the wonderful world of non-fiction! I encourage my girls to choose non-fiction books each week. I think about animals they love, or activities they enjoy like riding a bike or baking a cake. We find a book to take home that teaches the skill or describes the animal. There are certain features of non-fiction books that even young toddlers and preschoolers can learn; I’ve listed them below. I also created a basic list of some non-fiction books to check out for different age levels. The Scholastic Reading Club is a wonderful place to order high quality non-fiction books at a low cost.

Important features to discuss when you and your child are reading non-fiction text:

  • The Table of Contents
  • Headings
  • Sub-headings
  • Photographs (what’s the difference between photographs and illustrations?)
  • Captions
  • Index
  • Types of print (bold, italic, highlighted)
  • Maps
  • Diagrams
  • Graphs

Non-fiction reading ideas by age range:

Toddlers: The National Geographic Look & Learn Series

Preschoolers: National Geographic Little Kids Magazine

Grades K–2: Books published by Usborne are great for children of this age. They’re also available directly through Amazon.

Grades 3–5: Non-fiction can be broken down into a few different categories for this age level: literary non-fiction, reference and informative fiction. Try the What Was…? series for this grade level.

— Maria Dismondy, mother of two, reading specialist, fitness instructor and bestselling children’s author living in Southeast Michigan


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