Posts Tagged 'language'

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

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

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.


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