Language is made up of socially shared rules that include the following:
- What words mean (e.g., "star" can refer to a bright object in the night sky or a celebrity)
- How to make new words (e.g., friend, friendly, unfriendly)
- How to put words together (e.g., "Peg walked to the new store" rather than "Peg walk store new")
- What word combinations are best in what situations ("Would you mind moving your foot?" could quickly change to "Get off my foot, please!" if the first request did not produce results)
Websites for more information:
Speech is the verbal means of communicating. Speech consists of the following:
Articulation: How speech sounds are made (e.g., children must learn how to produce the "r" sound in order to say "rabbit" instead of "wabbit").
Voice: Use of the vocal folds and breathing to produce sound (e.g., the voice can be abused from overuse or misuse and can lead to hoarseness or loss of voice).
Fluency: The rhythm of speech (e.g., hesitations or stuttering can affect fluency).
Websites for more information:
Talking to Young Children Makes a Big Difference!
By Lauren Lowry,
Hanen Certified SLP and Clinical Staff Writer
If you search the internet for information about ways to promote your young child’s development, you’ll find many websites that suggest that you “talk to your child.” Many studies have shown that the amount and quality of language that children are exposed to has a huge impact on their communication development and success at school.
A recent study by researchers at Stanford University uncovered one of the reasons that parents’ conversations with their children make such a difference. These researchers studied 29 children when they were 19 months old, and then again when they were 24 months old. The children wore special clothing with a digital recorder in the pocket that recorded approximately 10 hours of:
- the child’s speech
- speech that adults directed towards the child
- overheard speech (speech directed to adults or other children in the household, but not directed to the child in the study)
They also measured:
- the children’s ability to process speech – they showed the children pairs of pictures (e.g. dog/baby) and then said a sentence which named one of the pictures. They watched to see where and how quickly the children looked when they heard the word that named one of the pictures. This allowed them to determine how efficiently the children processed the speech they heard.
- the children’s vocabulary – they determined how many words the children knew at age 24 months.
The researchers noticed some interesting patterns:
- The amount of speech directed to the child varied a lot – One family said more than 12,000 words to their child, while another family said only 670 words to their child over the course of the day. Researcher Fernald stated, “that’s just 67 words per hour, less speech than you’d hear in a 30-second commercial” .
- Children who heard more speech directed to them had better speech-processing skills – These children learned to pay better attention to words and respond quickly when hearing speech.
- Children who heard more speech directed to them at 19 months knew more words at 24 months – This was due to their improved ability to process speech. Therefore, talking to children promotes their word learning by sharpening their ability to pay attention to and process new words quickly.
Talking to children promotes their word learning by sharpening their ability to pay attention and process new words quickly.
- Overheard speech did not affect children’s vocabulary size – Just being exposed to speech that is spoken to others in the environment or on TV is not enough to improve early vocabulary development. Toddlers learn language when they engage in enjoyable interactions with those around them .
How to Talk to Your Young Child
From the moment they are born, parents begin talking to their babies. The suggestion to “talk to your baby” seems almost unnecessary as parents seem programmed to do this right from the start! But how often you interact with your child and the way you interact with your child can make a huge difference. By following these five simple guidelines, you will set your young child on the path towards language learning:
- Be face-to-face – one of the best ways to let your child know that you want to talk to him is to be face-to-face. This means joining your child at his physical level, whether that’s on the floor together, facing him in his high chair, or sitting together at the table. Make eye contact with your child and let him know that you are listening and interested.
By following your child’s lead, you let him know that you are interested in what he has to say, which will make him want to have longer conversations with you.
- It takes TWO to talk – Talking with your child doesn’t mean that you should do all of the talking! Pause and wait for your child to send you messages. And when it’s your turn to talk, talk about what interests your child. By following your child’s lead, you let him know that you are interested in what he has to say, which will make him want to have longer conversations with you.
- Use simple, grammatical sentences – Young children benefit from hearing proper sentences (like “give it to Mommy” or “do you want a cookie?”), as opposed to sentences that have missing words (like “ta ta Mommy” or “baby want cookie?”). The grammar in sentences helps young children figure out what the words mean and how they are used together.
- Use your voice, face, and hands – Gesturing with your hands and face (such as pointing, shrugging your shoulders, or frowning) helps young children understand the meaning of your words. And your voice can also help with word meanings – such as making your voice rise upwards as you say the word “up”.
- Any time is conversation time! – You don’t need special toys or activities to encourage your child’s language. You can have conversations at the grocery store about what you need to buy and pick out food together. You can talk about what you see as you go for a walk around the neighborhood. And bath time is a great time for conversation! Spending time talking about your child’s interests throughout the day is what makes a difference.
By allowing your child to lead and talking about his interests, you will have many opportunities to provide your child with good language models. And your child will get the message that you are an interested conversation partner. These interactions will help your child tune-in to words and promote his vocabulary and overall language development.
- Weisleder, A. & Fernald, A. (2013). Talking to Children Matters: Early Language Experience Strengthens Processing and Builds Vocabulary. Psychological Science, 24(11), 2143–2152.
- Carey, B. (October 15, 2013). Talking directly to toddlers strengthens their language skills, Stanford research shows. Stanford News. Retrieved from http://news.stanford.edu/news/2013/october/fernald-vocab-development-101513.html.
Frustration Factor: Help Your Toddler Express Emotions
"Bawaaaa," my 16-month-old son, Eli, screamed for the third time, his anger mounting. I looked around frantically, trying to guess what he wanted. No clue. But later, when I grabbed a banana for his snack, he said it again. Aha! I made sure I registered "Bawaaaa" as a part of his rapidly forming (but mostly incomprehensible) vocabulary.
Eli had entered a stage all kids go through starting around age 1 in which they can become frustrated seemingly out of nowhere. By toddlerhood, a baby's brain has evolved from a virtual blank slate to being chock full of information, according to John Medina, Ph.D., author of Brain Rules for Baby. But despite their improved understanding, young kids still lack the language skills to communicate all the things they want -- or the motor skills to fulfill their wishes themselves.
For increasingly independent-minded toddlers, this is a massive source of aggravation. Fortunately, there's plenty you can do to reduce your child's dismay, starting with these fixes.
Put Your Kid in Charge
Parents control almost every aspect of their children's lives, from the foods they eat to the clothing they wear. In toddlerhood, kids start wanting to have more of a say. "When young kids aren't allowed to have the power they crave, it's a major cause of frustration for them," explains Linda Acredolo, Ph.D., coauthor of Baby Minds. Letting them take charge -- even for just a few minutes -- can make an enormous difference.
Whenever possible, try to give your child two choices, Dr. Acredolo suggests. For example, in the morning, ask her if she'd prefer to wear a red shirt or the yellow one. At lunchtime, let her choose between string beans and peas. These might seem like minor decisions to you, but they'll quench her thirst for power -- and reduce the likelihood she'll tantrum about other things.
It might seem like your toddler erupts into tears over the tiniest things, but the anger young kids feel when they are denied is big. This powerful new emotion can be confusing and scary, Dr. Medina notes. You can help alleviate his frustration -- and remove that element of fear -- by empathizing with your child when he's upset. Articulate how he must be feeling in language that he can easily understand: "You're mad because you want to hold Bunny, but she's not here. I also get so mad when I can't have the things I love." It will make him feel understood -- and make the emotions feel less foreign to him the next time. As he gets older, this can turn into a conversation. "Teach your child how to verbalize his feelings," says Dr. Medina. "Having children describe their emotions, especially intense ones, with words has been shown to greatly help them understand and manage their feelings."
Try Sign Language
As young toddlers, kids can generally understand language and even form sentences in their brain, but they don't yet possess the motor skills necessary for forming words. "Imagine knowing exactly what you want to say but not being able to say it," says Monta Zelinsky Briant, author of Baby Sign Language Basics. "It would drive you crazy!" Teaching your child sign language can help. Ideally, parents should begin signing words as they say them when their baby is around 6 or 7 months old, but if you haven't already done this, it's worth making the effort now. Just teaching your child a few signs -- such as the ones for the words milk, more, eat, bed, hot, cold, hungry, finished -- can significantly improve your understanding of what's going on in her head. (Visit parents.com/sign for a hands-on vocabulary lesson.)
Distraction is an age-old parenting technique, and for good reason. When your toddler is getting bent out of shape about something he can't have, or you don't understand, redirect him, suggests Dr. Acredolo (Maybe do a silly dance or point out something interesting, like a bird in the sky.) You can also give your kid a job. "Toddlers love to feel helpful," says Michelle Anthony, Ph.D., coauthor of Signing Smart With Babies and Toddlers. "It gives them a sense of importance, which can reduce their frustration." You might say, "I'm sorry I don't understand you. Mommy's really trying, but right now I need your help." Then, immediately give him a task -- pushing a mini shopping cart at the grocery store or bringing something to the other room, like a book. He'll probably be so proud he completed a big-boy task that he'll forget what was making him frustrated in the first place.
Originally published in the July 2012 issue of Parents magazine.
I read an article today that made me really think about "gestures" children use to help develop their expressive language. As the mother of a 17 month-old...this article, from Linda Hodgdon's Newsletter, Another View: Effective Solutions for Autism, Asperger's & More, opened my eyes to the importance of gesturing.
Don't be afraid of gestures
This occasion was a perfect opportunity to “remember” what happens in typical communication development at the point where skills are just emerging. It’s so easy to forget about the subtle things that occur as communication and social interaction develop.
Gestures were critically important
On this particular day, it was all about gestures. David pointed to a ceiling fan he was particularly fond of. Pointing and showing and pushing away were just a few of the gestures he used to let me know what he wanted and especially what he didn’t want. The foundation of his social connection with me was in the form of gestures.
That made me remember
Here’s what research tells us about gestures *
- Gestures are a significant part of communication development, creating a bridge between pre-verbal communication and speech.
- Gestures enhance the child’s communication ability. They create communication before the child can speak.
- There is a positive correlation between parent gesture and child gesture. Parents who use more gestures tend to have children who use more gestures.
- When children use more gestures they tend to get more verbal feedback from their parents (which stimulates their verbal development).
- Early child gesture predicts later child vocabulary. Those who use more gestures at about 14 months demonstrate larger vocabularies at 54 months.
- Children spontaneously produce gestures along with their speech, just like adults do.
- Parents are often reluctant to encourage gesturing in their children with communication delays because they fear the child will not put forth the effort to verbalize.
- Encouraging the use of gestures will not hinder the development of verbalization. Rather, using gestures can facilitate and encourage speech development.
- There is quite a bit of research describing the relationship between gestures and language development of typically developing children. Less is known about development of the gesture-language system of children who experience language delay or communication disorders.
- The use of gestures to support communication continues even after children develop verbal language. Gestures are an important part of the communication system even for adults.
When we are referring to gestures, here are some examples. We are including things like this:
- Nodding “yes” or shaking “no”
- Reaching, touching
- Sharing attention with objects
- Giving objects
- Directing another person’s attention
- Imitating life actions such as putting a hand to mouth for eating
- Waving goodbye
- Reach up for “pick me up”
- Blow kisses
- Hand something for “help” or “open”
- “All done”
- “Where did it go”
- “Patty Cake” and “Peek-a-Boo”
Do not fear
Encouraging gestures provides positive results for young children who are learning to communicate. Speech Therapists and educators can encourage all communication partners to make sure to model gestures for students and respond to their gesture attempts.
It is the policy of the State of Missouri that all children with disabilities, residing in the state are identified, located, and evaluated. School districts and other public agencies responsible for providing special education must offer a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to children who have been identified as eligible under the eligibility criteria outlined in the Missouri State Plan for Special Education as early as a child's third birthdate. Special Education and related services for pre-school age are referred to as early childhood special education.
Parents of children who are three-to-five years old or approaching age three who suspect their child may have a developmental delay or handicapping condition that may affect them educationally may contact their local school district to make a referral for evaluation to determine eligibility for special education services.
ECSE services are provided through Federal Funding under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as well as state general revenue funds.
Early Childhood Belief Statements
Young children with disabilities should successfully participate with non-disabled peers in a variety of community and school settings.
All preschool children should have the opportunity to develop relationships and friendships with their peers.
Early childhood special education and related services should be individualized and provided in a flexible manner that addresses the unique strengths and needs of the child.
Families are an essential part of teams that design and provide services to support young children with disabilities. Mutual respect and cultural responsiveness are reflected in these collaborative partnerships.
All eligible young children should have equal access to quality early childhood special education and related services that are adequately funded and provided by competent, well-trained staff.
providing services to young children with and without special needs.
Individuals and agencies providing services for young children with disabilities should be accountable for effective outcomes and the provision of services in a cost-effective manner.
Young children with disabilities and their families should experience smooth transitions into new environments within the community and school.
With speech and language disorders ranking among the most common disabilities in children, parents and caregivers are encouraged to learn the signs—and seek an evaluation—if they have concerns about their child’s ability to communicate. Ashley Gardner, speech-language pathologist and Arieal Wilkerson, speech-language pathology assistant, offers timely guidance for families because May is recognized nationally as Better Hearing & Speech Month.
Development of strong communication skills is extremely important—and parents anxiously await their child’s first words, yet common misconceptions remain. One is that children generally ‘grow out’ of speech or language difficulties. Unfortunately, this mistaken impression too often delays treatment. Of course, some children are indeed ‘late bloomers,’ yet treatment is frequently necessary, too. Good communication skills are critical, helping with behavior, learning, reading, social skills, and friendships. It is much easier, more effective, and less costly to treat speech and language disorders early—and May is a great time to educate parents on this important point.
Speech and language disorders are evaluated and treated by speech-language pathologists. Speech is the ability to produce speech sounds using the mouth, lips, and tongue. A child may say sounds the wrong way, repeat sounds and words, or be otherwise difficult to understand. Language is the ability to use and put words together—and to understand others’ words. A child may have trouble understanding questions, following directions, or naming objects. Early speech and language treatment set a child up for future school and social success.
Some of the following warning signs for parents to watch for in young children:
-Does not babble (4–7 months)
-Makes only a few sounds or gestures, like pointing (7–12 months)
-Does not understand what others say (7 months–2 years)
-Says only a few words (12–18 months)
-Says p, b, m, h, and w incorrectly in words (1–2 years)
-Words are not easily understood (18 months–2 years)
-Does not put words together to make sentences (1.5–3 years)
-Says k, g, f, t, d, and n incorrectly in words (2–3 years)
-Produces speech that is unclear, even to familiar people (2–3 years)
-Repeating the first sounds of words, like “b-b-b-ball” for “ball” (any age)
-Stretching sounds out, like “fffffarm” for “farm” (any age)
For school-age children, warning signs may include the following:
-Has trouble following directions
-Has problems reading and writing
-Does not always understand what others say
-Is not understood by others
-Has trouble talking about thoughts or feelings
Parent tips to encourage a child’s communication development:
For young children:
-Talk, read, and play with your child.
-Listen and respond to what your child says.
-Talk with your child in the language that you are most comfortable using.
-Teach your child to speak another language if you speak one.
-Talk about what you do and what your child does during the day.
-Use a lot of different words with your child.
-Use longer sentences as your child gets older.
-Have your child play with other children.
For elementary-age children:
-Have your child retell stories and talk about their day.
-Talk with your child about what you do during the day. Give them directions to follow.
-Talk about how things are the same and how things are different.
-Give your child chances to write.
-Read every day. Find books or magazines that interest your child.
Although treatment ideally begins early—in the toddler years—it is never too late to get treatment. The large majority of parents report significant improvement after treatment. Families can learn more and find help at Identify the Signs and American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).