Saturday, February 18, 2012

MLU: An overview

MLU is a term that is used when referring to a younger child (1-5 years old) and their language abilities. It stands for Mean Length of Utterance. Basically it is referring to the average number of words (or units of meaning) the child puts together during one speaking turn. As a general rule, one-year-olds should be using one word in each utterance or phrase, two year olds should be putting 2 words together, three year olds 3. Four-year-olds are getting real smart and should be putting about 6 words together.
Now, it's a little more complicated than at first glance because the child gets credit for units of meaning. For example, if the child says "balls" and adds an -s to indicate a plural, then that is a unit of meaning so they get two points for that. If they add an -ed and say "I walked there", that is 4 points because they use walk and add -ed to indicate past tense. Very clever, these children are! (see this link for a much more detailed overview).
I think it's GREAT information for parents of young kids so that you are able to listen to your child and evaluate this part of their language abilities. Maybe they'r a language prodigy and you didn't know it! Or maybe they're a little behind and you've been wondering.
My two year old boy happens to be somewhat of a genius child. Not to brag or anything, but his MLU is about 7. Here is a conversation he had (with himself) while playing with his trains:
"Hey look! Stop train! You cannot cross my bridge! Uh oh! Here comes another bridge! You better cross it! (Then his train track broke) Mom, you can help me do this? It's pretty hard to do. You can take me to the hospital? Okay this is the hospital. Thank you! He bonked his head. You help me take him to the doctor? I will. OK! Oh man. This is gonna be sweet!"

Isn't he great? Well some kids are just born with an easier ability to learn language. Some kids might be a little slower in picking up on it. If your child is 3 years old and they are still generally only using 1-2 words in each phrase, you might want to get them evaluated. And next time I'll post some suggestions on what you can do with younger kids to try to help them start expanding their utterances and putting more words together.

Did you like this post? Was it helpful? Do you have more questions? Let me know!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Great Website

I recently discovered this AWESOME website called Reading is Fundamental - Leading to Reading. It's a great resource if you have kids from a newborn up to age 5 or so. They split it up into a section for kids from 0-2 and one for kids from 3-5. The 0-2 one is great because it has links to many nursery rhymes, lullabies, and fingerplays. Don't underestimate their importance! There's a reason they've been around for so long! They help teach turn-taking, proper intonation, rhyming, story-telling, and so many other important foundational skills for communication. Plus they're just fun! Each age also has a reading section where it brings up popular books for you and your child to read along with. The words are highlighted as they go so it helps introduce the concept of reading and early literacy skills such as going from left to right and turning pages. Check it out!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Speech Sounds by Age

Concerned about your child's speech? Do you worry that they can't say their R sound? Their L sound? I'm hoping that this post will help answer some of those common questions. They vary a little bit based on the research studies that have been done, but here are the general guidelines:

Age 3: all vowels, p, m, n, w, h
Age 4: b, d, g, k, ng, f, y
Age 5: (all above sounds)
Age 6: l
Age 7: r, ch, sh, z, th

You can find many different charts around the wonderful world wide web that show you visually the different ages and sounds to look for. Find some here, here, and here. Or just google "sound acquisition charts" and see what comes up.