Some of the best speech therapy comes from a session that doesn't quite go as planned. When a child asserts his or her own thoughts and ideas about a toy or a game or activity, I see it more as an opportunity to teach them the power of language than as an act of defiance or noncompliance. In this first example, I worked with a child on following directions to place the different parts on the snowman. I love the end result of her creativity! While she chose to put some of the pieces in unique places of her own choosing, I was able to elicit some new descriptive vocabulary and word combinations as we labeled his "snowflake eyes" and "big button cheeks" and laughed about the scarf blowing in his face!
And when we worked on placing snowman figures "in," "on," and "under" various locations, she had strong opinions that the figures each be assigned "in" a different location and were not to come "out" again! Some snowman stickers quickly came to my rescue as she happily followed my directions to place them in some of the other target positions. And when she wanted to drive the vehicles around, we had the perfect opportunity to drive them under and around the large snowman we made! Following the child's lead in this way can often lead to the best communication with your child! Remember that communication is a two-way street and to go with the flow as they say!
If your child is receiving speech therapy, take note of the toys and activities used by the therapist. Peruse the storage units of a speech therapist and you likely will find very few, if any, electronic toys with batteries. The reason why is clearly outlined in the article linked below. “The best toys are those that support parents and children playing, pretending, and interacting together,” stated Alan Mendelsohn, MD, FAAP, in the AAP’s press release. Although the department stores will line their shelves this holiday season with flashy, digital, and electronic games, I challenge you to look instead for the simple toys that the speech therapist is using . . . My favorites are play-doh, Potato Heads, toy food and dishes, toy animals, blocks, musical instruments, puzzles, puppets, and balls! Realize that the less a toy does, the more the child can do with it, sparking endless imagination and creativity and more importantly, interaction and communication! While electronic gadgets and apps promise to teach your child ABCs, numbers, shapes, ask yourself how these concepts help your child to express what he wants, what he needs, or what he thinks. I would argue that many of these electronic toys that appear to have the benefit of "teaching" language, may in fact be preventing the child's engagement with others and teaching him to be passive and quiet. When you offer toys that do "nothing," your child learns many more "somethings" about play, communication, and social interaction. 😃
Speech therapy may look a lot like we are just playing . . . but here is an insider’s guide about what is really happening during all that “play!”
Every speech therapist who works with a child on developing and expanding his speech and language skills and communication has been challenged with questions about why it looks like “you’re just playing with my child.” What looks like the therapist sitting on the floor and simply talking to and playing with your child is actually based upon a lot of knowledge and expertise and includes many subtle prompts or cues which the therapist is skillfully using to facilitate the child’s language and communication. Keep reading for some inside tips and insight . . .
Happy New Year!
I have several resolutions that I want to implement in 2019 . . . I want to be more organized, more health-conscious, more productive! And I want to help you implement some simple strategies that can help your child build his or her speech and language skills! Let's talk about those challenges that I am asked about most frequently . . .
1) Is too much screen time hurting my child's speech and language development?
Research has proven that screen time does not promote your child’s language development. The American Academy of Pediatrics points out that most apps that are considered to be "educational" are targeting rote skills such as the alphabet or shapes. However, the skills young children need to learn to be successful in school include more social pragmatic skills such as impulse control, managing emotions, and creative problem solving. The best way to promote these skills is through unstructured and social play. Have fun and be silly during everyday interactions, such as bath time, meal time or take a walk to the park! That’s where the best language learning takes place. Strike a balance and facilitate screen time to embed yourself into the interaction . . . if your child has a favorite song they enjoy listening to, sing that song as you get your child dressed or are driving in the car. Exposing your child to screen time is not so bad if you also expose him or her to legos, and farm animals, and making cookies, and splashing in a mud puddle . . . . you get the idea!
2) Should I correct my child if he pronounces a word incorrectly?
Errors are an essential part of the learning process as children develop their speech and language skills. It is common for children to make speech errors, but as they grow older, their articulation continues to develop and their pronunciation generally becomes much more clear. A good guideline to follow is that by 2 years old, a child should be understood 50% of the time by an unfamiliar listener. By 3 years old, they should be understood 75% of the time, and by 4-5 years old, they should be close to 100% intelligible even if a few articulation errors are still present in their speech.
You want to offer a positive and supportive model for your child. It is the message that your child is attempting to relate that is most important and you want to praise and reinforce that message. *Repeat what your child has said, but use the correct pronunciation. *You may want to give the sound a little extra emphasis.
*Use reading as a way to surround your child with the targeted sound.
*Slowly tapping and clapping out each syllable can be a fun way to help with clarity.
*If you don't understand what your child has said, ask more questions, encourage your child to show you a reference if they can and obtain more information.
3) Is my child stuttering?
I am often asked by parents about whether or not they should be concerned about stuttering. Just as articulation errors are a typical part of speech and language learning, so is disfluency. As children learn to speak, they may demonstrate repetition of a sound, syllable or word. Use of fillers such as "uhh," or "umm," is also common. It is common to see these repetitions during a stage of growth when language is rapidly increasing, and these repetitions may come and go throughout different stages or be observed at different times. Disfluencies are likely to increase when children are tired, excited, upset, or being rushed to speak or when they are asking or responding to questions.
*Try talking to your child in a way that is relaxed, fun, and enjoyable.
*Engage your child in conversation without distractions or interruptions.
*Listen attentively to what your child is saying, maintaining normal eye contact without displaying signs of impatience or frustration.
*Avoid reacting negatively when your child stutters, correcting his speech, or completing his sentences.
*Model a slow, relaxed way of speaking to help your child slow down his own speech.
4) How can I help my child learn to read?
Phonological awareness is the area of oral language that relates to the ability to think about the sounds in a word rather than just the meaning of the word. It is an understanding that spoken language is made up of words, and words consist of syllables, rhymes, and sounds. As preschoolers, children start to develop an awareness of individual phonemes and can attend to and manipulate them in a word. By the end of kindergarten, students typically demonstrate the ability to: recognize how many words are in a sentence, segment and blend words of at least three syllables, understand the concept of rhyming, recognize and generate rhyming words, isolate the beginning or ending sounds in words, segment and blend sounds in a word with three sounds, and change a sound in a word to make a new word in familiar games and songs.
*Read aloud to your child frequently. Choose books that rhyme or repeat the same sound. Draw your child’s attention to rhymes.
*Teach your child nursery rhymes and practice saying them together.
*Teach your child about syllables by clapping or jumping to each syllable he hears in a word, pause between each syllable for emphasis.
*Play “I Spy.” You say “I spy with my little eye something that rhymes with … or something that starts with . . . .
*Develop sound/letter correspondence by filling boxes with pictures or objects that start with a given letter.
* Use Lego bricks to break words apart or to blend sounds together. Give your child two attached Lego bricks to represent parts of the word. Then have him physically take the Lego pieces apart as he removes part of the word.
5) Will using sign language or pictures further delay or prevent my child's speech and language skills from developing?
Research has shown that using sign language does not negatively impact a child’s language development, and actually increases a child's verbal skills. Children can be taught to use signs or gestures before they are able to use words to communicate and this can significantly reduce frustration for both you and your child.
*Select a few signs to use when you talk to your child:
Some suggested common first words to sign with your child include:
Nouns: dog, cat, bird, shoe, cookie, cracker, apple, potty, car, truck, cup, spoon, bowl, boy, girl, baby, ball, bubble, block, slide
Social Words: no, stop, all done, all gone, away, more, again, mine
Action Words: go, up, down, eat, open, help
Descriptors: big, little, dirty, clean, wet, dry, on, in
*Ask your child what he wants and pause for a minute to see if he will say or sign it first. If not, show him the sign and say the word out loud. Pause again and see if he imitates you. If not, take his hands and help him make the sign. Then, immediately reward him by giving him the object or action just as if he had said it.
If you have any concerns about these or other aspects of your child's speech and language skills or would like further information or input, please contact Connections Speech Therapy for a free consult.
May is Better Hearing & Speech Month and a great time to highlight some of the lesser known skills and areas of development addressed by Speech Language Pathologists.
Many people have the perception that speech therapy is a therapist and student sitting at a table as the therapist shows her student pictures and demonstrates proper production of the "r" sound. Some people are surprised to hear that we work on much more than a child's mispronunciations. Did you know that Speech Language Pathologists (SLP's) are educated and trained to evaluate, diagnose, and treat challenges in the following areas?
What better way to kick off the much-delayed start to the Spring season and get out to enjoy some sunshine than by resolving to "trade screen time for green time!" I came across this new favorite phrase the other day and I love its call to action!
During my summers off from college, I worked at a summer camp as the "Nature Activities Specialist." I can honestly say that the highlight of my days spent there was "creek stomping" through the water with my eager troops, their eyes filled with wonder and curiosity as we discovered all the unique treasures offered by the environment. From the sounds of the bugs and the birds, the frogs and the ducks, to the feel of the mud squishing under our feet and the water splashing up on our legs, it was the perfect blend of sensory integration and experiential learning!
While "creek stomping" may be a bit ambitious for some folks, there are lots of ways to easily trade your child's screen time for green time:
All of these activities are designed to promote your child's vocabulary and knowledge of concepts, such as description, positions, and categories. The best part, though, is that the activities help you to engage with your child while moving, learning, and having fun! So "spring" into action and start trading that screen time for green time!