Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Encouraging Language in Toddlers: Part Four

Encouraging Language: Give your Child an Opportunity to Use Words

As parents, sometimes we have to be mind-readers.  Our newborn is crying, and we have to figure out why. Do they want changed?  Are they hungry?  Are they bored?  Eventually we start to learn that different cries mean different things.  We know just what they need, and we want to satisfy that need as soon as possible.  It's part of being a good mom, right?  Right.  Well, there comes a point where you need to stop being such a great mind-reader...or at least your child needs to think that your ability to read minds has suddenly disappeared.  Even though you secretly still know what they need.  What I'm trying to say is, 
Give your child an opportunity to use words.  

Here's an example: Your 14 month old is whining, and you know for a fact that he is hungry and wants a bottle of milk.  Before you just give him the bottle, take a few minutes and give him the chance to actually request it.  Take him into the kitchen and say "What do you want?"  Maybe he will point to the cupboard where you keep the bottles, or maybe to the fridge where the milk is.  Pointing is a good first step!  Encourage a word too.  "You want some milk?  A bottle?"  Pick a key word to use consistently and model it each time your child wants some milk in a bottle.  Or whatever the situation may be.  After you have given him the chance to respond and you have encouraged some communication on his part, then go ahead and give him the bottle.  Don't take so long that he gets really mad or really hungry.  The main point here is to give your child a chance to talk.  They might surprise you!

Monday, November 26, 2012

How to Encourage Language in Toddlers: Part Three

Encouraging Language: Talk to Your Child

Now that you've determined that your child has good hearing, you can rest assured that the language input that you work so hard to give them will be heard.  Now we can focus on the language input itself.  So here is my next tip.  Are you ready?

 Talk to your child.  
Talk about everything you see.  Talk about everything you are doing.  Talk about everything you are eating.  It's never too soon to start introducing your baby to language.  I think most parents are pretty natural at this.  But maybe there are times in which you find yourself  thinking about other things such as errands, what to cook for dinner, what to buy at the store, etc, and so your mind is preoccupied.  Well that's going to happen to an extent, and that's fine.  When you're at the store, be one of those moms who looks like she is talking to herself.  "I'm looking for the ketchup!  Oh here it is! I found the ketchup.  Do you want to hold the ketchup?  Now we need some milk.  Let's go this way.  Over here!  Down this way.  Stop!  There it is!  There's the milk.  Do you see it?"  And so on.  I'm not saying you need to be constantly jabbering away and driving your child (and everyone around you) to craziness.  Certainly the child will need some time to think, process, and absorb.  Try to find a good balance.  Make sure it works for you and you are comfortable with it.  The main point here is that your child learns so much from YOU.  So make sure you are giving them plenty to learn from.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

How to Encourage Language in Toddlers: Part Two

Encouraging Language: Rule out a Hearing Loss
If you are worried about your child's speech and/or language development, here's the first thing you should do: Rule out a hearing loss.  This does NOT mean standing behind your child and clapping your hands or jiggling some keys around to see if they notice.  A hearing loss can be very mild or very severe.  Each and every type of hearing loss can go undetected for one reason or another.

(This is my little guy after he passed his newborn hearing screening - yay!)

Most every newborn nowadays gets their hearing checked at birth - which is a great thing - but sometimes a hearing loss develops as the child grows.  In addition, newborn hearing screenings are conducted at slightly louder levels, which means that they could pass the test but still have a very mild hearing loss.  What all that means is, even if your child passed a newborn screening, they could still have a hearing loss.  I'm not trying to scare you here.  There's a very good chance that your child doesn't have a hearing loss.  But you'll never know unless you get them tested.  Find a local pediatric audiologist who can give your child a quick test.  I always say that nothing is worse than not knowing.  Do you agree?  The key here is to recognize that even a mild hearing loss can cause significant delays in speech and language development.  Once you have a hearing loss ruled out then you can rest easy knowing that your child will have no problems hearing all the language that you model for them.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How to Encourage Language in Toddlers: Part One

Encouraging Language in Toddlers: Introduction and Disclaimer

Lately I've had a few parents of one and two year olds ask me: "My child isn't really talking yet..should I be worried?" followed by "What should I do?"  In moments like this, my role as an SLP requires me to not only give a correct answer, but also make it somewhat short, without using a whole bunch of acronyms or strange vocabulary, give good resources and advice, and also assure Mom that she is doing a good job.  So I told myself, "It's time for Speaking of Kids to do a series on this subject!"

Let me start off with a little disclaimer: This series is not meant to replace a thorough speech/language evaluation.  If you have concerns about your child, you really ought to find a local friendly Speech-Language Pathologist who can evaluate your child's own specific strengths and weaknesses to determine a) what the problem is, b) what to do about it, and c) if there are any other underlying factors to take into account (such as apraxia, autism, syndromes, etc.)  The tips I will share are the tips another SLP would probably give you, so why not start now??

The first step is to decide if your child is behind or not.  Sometimes that can be very obvious, other times it's not.  But in this series I will be mostly focusing on Expressive Vocabulary, so here are the facts:

  • At twelve months old, your child should be just starting to use words, maybe using one or two fairly consistently. (Usually "Momma", "Bottle", "Up"....)  (More on that here)
  •  By 18 months, they should be using at least 10 words, and possibly up to 50. (More on that here)
  • At 24 months, a child should be using between 200 and 300 words.  They should be starting to put two words together soon.  
  • By 36 months, they should use about 1000 words.  Wow! (More on that here)
Now you are armed with knowledge!  If you think your child is behind, don't panic.  Find a speech therapist to talk to you specifically about your child.  Nothing is worse than wondering.  Just take action and see where it takes you.  In the meantime, I hope you're excited because the next post will be about the FIRST step to take if you think your child might be a little behind in language development.  See you next time!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Referral Tracking Sheet

Did you know that I recently got a new job?  I work at a fantastic charter school one day a week.  I love the schedule, the environment, and all the people I work with.  I get to work with another SLP there, although we can't work on the same day since we share a small office space.  It works out pretty well but we are getting totally SLAMMED with referrals.  It's great that the teachers are so on top of it, but we found ourselves needing to get really organized.  No sense in having to brief each other on everything on a day when one of us doesn't work.  Thus my referral tracking sheet was born.  I figured if we can use it, maybe somebody else can!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What is a Narrative?

Hey friends! Guess what?  I will be featured in a guest post tomorrow at Playing With Words 365! This is exciting news for a few reasons.  A) Because it has been a LONG time coming.  It's a little humorous how long it's been in the works.  We just ran into all sorts of small glitches that kept putting it off longer. B) It's exciting because that website rocks!!  Seriously I can't say enough good things about Katie - she is so smart and so clever.  C) It's about narratives!  We don't see that much info out there about the importance of narratives and how to teach them.  So check it out tomorrow and learn a thing or two.  Pick up some cute freebies too!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Crafts and Toddlers and Language

Crafting with toddlers is good for so many reasons!  First, it makes you feel like a good mom/speech teacher.  I like it for that reason alone.  Also - it's fun!  But here are some other reasons why it's a good idea:

1) Making a craft is certainly better than drilling a child with flashcards or boring pictures.  Sometimes that works better for older kids but isn't it best to teach language in a natural way?  The child doesn't feel stressed or under pressure. You can incorporate basically any goal into a craft.  Which leads me to number two.

2) Any goal can be targeted while you work on a craft.  Does the child need to work on answering questions?  Just ask them questions related to the craft:  "What do we need to stick the eyes on?"  "Where does the tail go?" Or even just ask them more abstract "wh" questions and hold off on the required material until they complete the task.  Articulation works too.  "Say 'book' five times, then you can have the next popsicle stick."

3) Crafts lend themselves well to teaching basic concepts such as color, size, shapes, and numbers.  "What color is this feather?" "How many feathers are there?" "What shape do you want next?"

4) Theme-related crafts always add an element of fun, and it makes your therapy session easier to plan.  10 seconds on Pinterest and you can find a craft based on any holiday or any season.  Then you can build around that.  Make a snowman and read a book on snowmen, then sing a snowman song.  Make sure you have a clear idea of how you are targeting their goal, and don't just do those things for fun.

5)  These fun holidays and seasons seem to come and go so fast, it's great to take the opportunity to teach the child the related vocabulary.  Valentine, Jack O Lantern, Turkey, Shamrock, (I could go on and on) are all fun words that are important for the child to learn.  One reason for that is it builds their schema, or their background knowledge that will help them in reading later.  For example, next time they read a book about a turkey, they will form an idea in their mind based on what they have experienced with a turkey.  It leads to better comprehension because they already have a foundation knowledge of what it is, what it looks like, what it does, etc.

6) Sitting down and doing a craft is a good way of lengthening a child's attention and gets them prepared for school, where they will be required to sit down and follow directions given by a teacher.

7) Cutting, taping, pasting, and drawing are all great ways to build those fine motor skills.  Practice practice practice!

8) You can indirectly teach sequencing by structuring the craft in the right way.  Use words like "First, Then, Next, and Last" to teach the child that things have to happen in a certain order.

9) Crafting is a great way to focus on following directions - a crucial skill in the classroom environment.  It's easy to adapt the directions to one step or two steps, depending on the child's level.  You could start by simply saying, "Get the gluestick" and then when the child is older and smarter you can say things like, "First hand me the sticker, then you write your name."
10) Take it home and talk about it! Creating something leads to a feeling of ownership and pride, which can lead to great conversation and carry-over when the child proudly presents his new creation to Mom or Dad!

Monday, November 12, 2012

What Your 3 Year Old Should Be Doing

Right now I am working with a darling little boy who is turning 3 in a few weeks.  It's almost been 6 months since we first started doing therapy together and that means it's time to do some new language testing and see where he stands with hearing, language, and speech milestones.  As you can imagine, little kiddos change SO MUCH in a very short time so it's important to be constantly monitoring progress.  Every session should be diagnostic in nature, so no test results should be much of a surprise, but it's good to get a broad overview and look at standard scores, etc.  I made a little chart here of Speech/Language Milestones that should be reached between the ages of 2 and 3.  Just thought I would share it with you! Just click on the image to open, save, and print!

PS For all you moms who are like "What in the heck are phonological processes?" Never fear!  I will be doing a series on all things related to Phonological Processes very soon.  Be excited!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

I'm Baaaaaack

Hello Readers!  I apologize for my extended absence, but I'm back now.  And with some exciting news!  My basement office is finally finished!  Well - there are still some small details to work out, but any room is a never-ending project anyway, right?  I thought I would share a picture with you before I get back into more regular posts.

It's so nice to have all my materials and games in one spot.  I just love it.  And in case you are envying my furniture, I got it all at IKEA.  Point of note: Food at IKEA is disgusting.  But everything else is AWESOME.