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5 Winter/Rainy Day Activities for Speech and Language Improvement

 

Is it still cold where you are? Or still raining like it has been in the Carolinas for the last two weeks? Rain or shine, we came up with 5 fun activities you can do at home with your kids for the last few weeks of winter. These activities are simple and fun, but also target speech and language skills.

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Finger Paint Play

Most of us cringe at the thought of the mess that could be made with finger painting.  Although it can be messy, there is also great fun to be had. You can join in by painting different shapes and pictures then having them guess what they are.  If you have an older kiddo you can paint letters or words and have them practice their letter recognition and sight words. Play possibilities are endless here as you can let them create unique masterpieces. You can make your own version of Pictionary.  This gives you the opportunity to discuss a variety of vocabulary including colors, shapes, and sizes.  If your child is working on developing a certain speech sound, draw things that have that sound in it then encourage them to imitate. For example, if they are working on the /b/ sound, draw a ball or boat to expose them to the sound and give them to opportunity to practice.

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Paper Snowflakes

I think most kids can agree that making snowflakes is fun no matter what age they are. All you need is paper, scissors, and paint/crayons/colored pencils. Get a square piece of paper or trim a piece of paper so that it is square. Fold your square in half diagonally. Fold your triangle in half – again diagonally. Fold paper in thirds … one side to the front, the other to the back. Trim the extra piece of paper off the end of your small triangle. Around the outside of your triangle, cut some fun designs — circles, squares, triangles, squiggles … anything goes. Unfold your paper and look at your masterpiece. Optional: Color the snowflake with paint, crayons or colored pencils. Voila! A rainbow snowflake. You can talk about the different sizes, shapes and colors they are creating. You can also have them predict what the snowflakes will look like as well as compare and contrast the different snowflakes. This is a great activity that targets expressive and receptive vocabulary as well as following directions and comparing and contrasting.

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Paper Ball Toss

Who remembers throwing paper balls with friends and family growing up? This is a fun game that is sure to entertain your kiddos. Grab some colorful paper and crumple it up into balls. Your kiddos can answer questions or say different sounds to earn their paper snowballs. After they earn them, they can try to toss them in a basket or designated area. The child with the most paper balls at the end wins. This is great time to teach them new words and for them to practice articulating different sounds. This games gives the opportunity for your child to expand their speech and language vocabulary.

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Marshmallow Articulation

Raise your hand if your child is highly motivated by food! What kiddo doesn’t want to work for marshmallows? Grab a list of speech sounds your child needs to work on. Set out a few cups of hot cocoa. For every correct sound production, your kiddo can throw a marshmallow into their cup from across the table. The person with the most marshmallows at the end wins. This is a fabulous way for your child to get used to hearing and saying proper sound productions.  This game builds their awareness of how to articulate the sounds they are struggling with all while working for as many marshmallows as possible. It’s a win win!

We hope this provides you with some fun games to play with your kiddos this winter season. No winter blues here!

Valentine's Day Heart Conversations

Will you be my Valentine and have a sweet speech therapy aimed heart conversation? This is the perfect holiday to indulge in candy and conversation with your kiddos. Below you will find two Valentine’s Day Heart speech therapy conversation options you can have with your kids. Be sure to focus on the words/sounds your child is struggling with and don’t forget to have fun! 

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Option 1: Conversation Paper Hearts

All you need is colored paper, scissors and markers. Take the colored paper and cut them into 10 medium sized hearts. Then use specific vocabulary and sounds that your child is currently struggling with. Keep the text rather short. For example, if your kid is focusing on the TH sound you could write “mouth, path, bath, north, south etc.” Have your child say each TH word on the different colored hearts. After your child pronounces the TH sound correctly, have them take the word and put it into a sentence and/or conversation. If you used the word ‘mouth’ your child could say: “My brother has a mouth” or “I can see inside my dog’s mouth.” This option (1) is nice because you can directly customize the text to your child’s speech therapy needs. Once your child says all 10 words correctly and uses them in a sentence/conversation you can reward your child with a real candy heart!

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Option 2: Conversation Candy Sweethearts

This is an easier option as all you need is one box of classic Valentine’s Sweethearts. Open the box and spread the hearts out. Have your child take each heart and repeat the words. If your kiddo said the text correctly, have your child create a conversation using each heart. This is a fabulous way for your kid to be creative, work on sentence structure and word articulation. Keep a tally of each Sweetheart that is pronounced correctly. Once your child pronounces 5 Sweethearts correctly, he/she can eat a candy heart! This option (2) is easier setup wise but not as effective because you can’t control the text on the hearts. However, it’s still a great way to get your child speaking and using different sounds and words. 

I hope you and your kiddos have a blast having Valentine’s day heart conversations! 

Grocery shopping and kids: Five concepts children learn at the store

Are you a Sunday grocery shopper?  For years, our family routine has been to make a weekly menu/list then grocery shop on Sunday afternoons (when everyone and their brother are at the store too).  I haven't been able to get out of this habit and go on a different day not matter how hard I try.

I also cannot get on the online/app grocery order train (I know-what!?!).  I've done it twice and always end up with produce that I don't like!  I enjoy picking out my produce and other items.  One advantage to online ordering is not having to trek it to the store with your one, two or three+ kiddos.  There are advantages to taking your child to the grocery store too!  (I promise you it doesn't have to be a screaming in the cart because he wants those cookies trip).  What do kids learn about on a trip to the store?  (This post focuses on a typical grocery store but any of these strategies could work in any type of store).

1.  Social language:  Going to the store involves having to speak to others (usually).  You may have to ask for an item, order lunch meat, speak to a cashier or speak to another person in an aisle to get by them.  Your child is watching and hearing you use these various types of social language, eye contact and body language.  Children pick up on these concepts early.  

2.  Colors, shapes, types of food:  Here's the big one: the grocery store involves so many opportunities for great language and vocabulary exposure.  You can talk with your child about the colors of fruits, vegetables and food boxes.  With an older toddler, a parent can say things such as "Show me the big red box of cereal" or "What fruit do we need that is yellow and monkeys like it?".  Children will enjoy looking at the various shapes of fresh food and meats.  Parents can play a guessing game with their child by pointing out two types of food and asking which one is a meat, cereal, fruit, etc.  You can also lead a great game of "I Spy."  "I spy something that is a fruit, grows on a vine and we eat it in the summer:  Watermelon!"

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3.  The use of money/the concept of paying:  The grocery store is a great way to introduce the concept of paying/money.  Children have to learn that certain things cost money.  It is important to have children see you pay and discuss the amount (a little bit or a lot of money).  It is also great to have children see cash but a lot of people don't use cash any more :)  

4.  Introduction to simple numbers in functional setting:  Counting food items is a great way to introduce numbers to small children.  Parents can count the number of fresh vegetables or fruit items they are picking up/bagging.  Parents can also model counting through aisle numbers (i.e. We are going down aisle three to find some cereal, etc). 

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5.   Spatial concept practice:  If your child is old enough to walk or move around the card (or you use one of those driving carts!), handing your child food items and using phrases such as 'put in' and 'drop in' are great for teaching in and out.  You can also point out food items that are beside each other (in the fruit/veggie bins), things that are high on the top of the self or low on the bottom of the shelf.

We hope this provides you with some good tips and strategies for your next grocery store trip.  Happy shopping!

Summer Speech and Language Activities

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It has been a fury of rain here in North Carolina for over a month now.  We have had a few sunny days, but overall it has been one of the rainiest springs that I can remember.  I usually don’t mind the rain, but with two young children, I’ve never prayed more for sunshine. There is only so much splashing in mud puddles that excites them.  Now that we have a glimpse of the sun and warm weather, we are gearing up to spend a lot of time outside. Many people think of speech and language learning as something you would do inside or while sitting down across from one another.  While you can definitely target speech and language indoors, you can stimulate language development anywhere. This is one of the main takeaways that we want parents to understand. Language can be used anywhere and anytime and you don’t have to come up with fancy activities to really engage your children.  Some of the best speech therapy sessions I’ve had have been outside using toys and activities the family already had. Here are some of my favorite and simple ways to target speech and language outdoors.

 

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Nature Walk

This is one of my kids very favorite outdoor activities.  They ask to do it ALL the time. This requires no planning or special toys, just you and your kids on a walk.  Talk about all of the things that you see: trees, squirrel, sun, clouds, leaves, flowers, etc. If you child finds a leaf, talk about the colors, shapes, the texture, what sound it makes when you step on it.  These are hands on ways to target descriptive words and build vocabulary. If you are a planner, you can make a list of things beforehand that you want your child to find: 1 bird, a red flower, a green leaf, a furry animal. This is a fun way to get them engaged and also to target their understanding of vocabulary.  My kids enjoy the spontaneous and the list version. Now that my daughter is 4, she enjoys coming up with the list herself to see if her younger brother (age 2) can find them. This is a great way to work on speech and language as a family and involve older siblings.
 

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Water Table/Baby Pool Play

Kids love playing in water, especially when the weather is nice.  My kids love to break out the water table or baby pool in the backyard.  This is a fun way to target opposites (wet/dry, empty/full, hot/cold) and also water specific vocabulary (boats, whales, fish) and action words (swim, splash, float).  We get their water animal figurines out and have them go for a swim or take their boats and submarines for a race. We talk about the different types of animals and water activities.  I will take an animal and ask them to tell me what they are doing. For example, I may take a whale and make it jump out of the water. Then I ask my son, “What is the whale doing?” There are many basic concepts you can target as well as vocabulary building activities you can do with water play.

 

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Pictionary with Sidewalk Chalk

If your house is anything like my house, all of your outdoor furniture and patio is covered in sidewalk chalk.  We have chalk everywhere. We are always grateful for the rain to give us a nice looking patio again, only for it to be covered with colorful pictures as quickly as it disappeared.  While chalk can be messy and annoying, it is also a great way to build vocabulary and understanding. One of my favorite ways to play with sidewalk chalk is to play a game of Pictionary.  I will draw something and ask the kids to guess. Then we pass around the chalk and give everyone in the family a turn to draw and guess. My youngest usually draws a snake every time, but he still loves to participate.  This activity is great for targeting colors, shapes, receptive vocabulary and expressive vocabulary.

 

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Sandbox

We recently got a sandbox from a friend and my kids have played in it every day since it arrived.  Besides making a huge mess, they have enjoyed digging for “treasure” or other hidden objects. I’ve hidden animal figurines, small cars and other small objects in the sand and then had them dig them up.  We name each object and talk about them. If it’s an animal we would name it, talk about the sound it makes and where it lives. If it was a vehicle or an object, we talk about the color and use of the object.  For example, if they found a key, we would talk about how it was silver, shiny, and used to unlock doors. This is a great activity to target vocabulary, describing words and use of objects. It’s also a great way to encourage multi-word phrases.  If your child says “car” you can expand upon what they said and say, “red car”. Then give them the opportunity to imitate you.

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Bubbles

What kid doesn’t like bubbles?  I know mine are obsessed and I’ve had many clients say their first words to request bubbles.  Words associated with bubbles: “pop”, “more” and “bubble” are perfect for first words because they use bilabial sounds (sounds produced with the lips) and these sounds are usually the easiest for young children to produce.  Blow a few bubbles or turn on your bubble machine for just a minute or two to get them interested. Then stop blowing and wait for them to indicate they want more. They may just grunt or gesture toward them. Model the words “more” and “bubble” and give them plenty of wait time to imitate.  If they don’t imitate you right away, that’s okay. Model the word one more time and then begin blowing again. Then stop blowing or turn off the bubble machine again and repeat the process of waiting for them to indicate they want more and modeling “bubble” or “more”. I also like to say the word “pop” repeatedly as the bubbles pop during the interaction.  Usually they will eventually imitate. Be very exaggerated in your models and REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT. If your child is not yet using verbal language, you can also practice using the sign for “more” during this activity. If your child is already using single word utterances, you can work on multi-word utterances.  For example, you could model, “More bubbles” or “I want bubbles."

 

We hope these ideas have been helpful and given you some ideas that you can use with your own children.  Targeting speech and language development doesn't require fancy activities.  You just need an engaged parent and things you already have around your house or yard.  Hopefully these activities have encouraged you to get outside with your little ones this summer! 

The Do's and Don'ts of playing with your toddler

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Let's take it back to play for a minute.  Yes, we are speech therapists, but in order to even start addressing speech and language (spoken and understanding), we need to talk about play.  Kids learn through play-both with parents/teachers and peers.  Do you want some good tips on how to play with your child?  Read on!

1.  Do get on their level.  Sit on the floor, get on your knees beside their kiddie table, lie on the floor with them, sit beside their bed...you get the point.  Getting down to their level allows children to fully engage with you.  You have a better chance of getting eye contact allowing children to see and hear your words.

2.  Don't expect children to pick up on play skills or new vocabulary if you're in the other room.  Yes-children can play independently and we will get to that farther below but in order to teach children new skills, you will want to be in the same room as them.

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3.  Do go with your child's lead.  This is just a fancy way of playing with what your child wants to play with OR engaging in your child's idea.  If she wants to use her baby bottle as a gas tank for the car set-go with it!  If he wants to use the car ramp as a grocery conveyor belt, go with it!

4.  Don't always direct your child's play.  Yes-suggest play items or different ideas but play does not have to be rigid.  Letting children explore and have different ideas is how they learn new vocabulary and concepts!

5.  Do repeat key items/words-first in simple terms then in more complex terms.  If you are playing with a car ramp with your toddler, say first "Car goes down" then pause.  Maybe the child takes the same car down again then you could say "Look, there is a green car driving fast down the ramp!"  Children benefit from hearing the same words/concepts several times.

6.  Don't talk too much!  Remember our post about waiting?  Find it here.  Wait 10-30 seconds to let your child have a chance to think of something and form new words.  

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7.  Do put down your cell phone or turn off the TV.  Playing with your child as an adult takes effort.  It does.  We don't always want to play as adults because there are a million more things to do:  laundry, cleaning, work, emails, phone calls, preparing food, etc.  BUT teaching a child new skills requires full engagement.

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8.  Don't expect your child to learn everything from TV or an iPhone app.  There are TV shows that are great and educational for children in small amounts:  Sesame Street and Daniel Tiger are two of our favorites.  There are some great learning applications for your tablet or phone as well.  The important thing is to make sure you are engaging with your child while using these items: Pausing the show to talk about a concept every 5-10 minutes or using the application with your child and explaining colors, shapes, numbers, letters, or whatever the application targets.  There will be more to come from us regarding how to effectively use technology with your little one soon!

9.  Do choose developmentally appropriate toys.  See our gift guides for one year olds, two year olds, three year olds and four year olds here.  We recommend toys that can be used in various ways and don't include a lot of lights and sounds.

10.  Don't make it too complicated!  Lastly, play should not be complicated.  Children often benefit from play that is very simple with one or two parts or concepts that are repetitive or surround the same idea.  Remember when you played with boxes, toilet paper rolls, sticks and rocks!?!  (Don't let your child play with sharp objects that could hurt them-not advocating for that).  It's OK for children to play by themselves at times too.  When a child can sit up safely and independently, let them play independently with safe toys where you can see them.  As they get older, this time can start to stretch longer, depending on your child.

Happy Playing!

 

Does Your Child Understand You? The Importance of Receptive Language

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“How many words should my child be saying?”  “What sounds should she be making?” “When should he put 2 words together?”  When parents ask us about speech and language skills, we primarily get questions about expressive language (what a child says) and articulation (how a child pronounces a word).  We rarely hear parents asking about a vital component of speech and language development: receptive language (what a child understands). So what is receptive language, why is it so important and how can you encourage your child’s development of receptive language skills?

What is receptive language?

According to the American Speech and Hearing Association, Language is the comprehension and use of a spoken, written or other communication symbol system (sign language). (ASHA, 1993). There are two main components of language: expressive language and receptive language. Expressive language refers to what a child says says and receptive language refers to what a child hears and understands.  Receptive language is the foundation of language as a whole. We don’t typically use words and concepts we don’t understand, so understanding is essential to use speech and language appropriately. Children typically understand much more than they say so receptive language development is usually ahead of expressive language.  Babies begin to develop receptive language skills almost immediately. They will hear their mother’s voice and turn towards it and as they grow into an older baby they will be able to respond to “No” and follow simple commands such as “come here” or “hand me the book”. It is important that we stimulate receptive language skills as much or even more than expressive language because children need a strong foundation of receptive language to express themselves effectively.  Children with a receptive language delay may have difficulty following directions, answering questions and identifying vocabulary.

 

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What are some early receptive language skills?

If you are concerned about your child's ability to understand what you say, check out these milestones for birth through four below to see if they are on the right track.    If you still have concerns about your child's understanding we recommend setting up an evaluation with a licensed speech pathologist in your area.  You can also begin using some of the receptive language tips outlined at the end of this post in your daily routines.  

Birth- 3 Months

  • Attend to sounds in their environment
  • Babies will respond to sounds differently.  They may startle at a loud sound or be comforted by a familiar voice

 

4-6 months

  • Begins to respond to the word “No”
  • Recognizes familiar voices
  • Moves eyes to the direction of sound

 

7-12 months

  • Recognizes names of familiar items
  • Follows simple commands such as “come here”
  • Recognizes verbal cues for routines such as “bye bye” or “peek-a-boo”

 

1-2 years

  • Identifies familiar items by pointing to them in books
  • Identifies basic body parts and clothing items (shoes, socks) by pointing
  • Responds to simple questions (Where’s Daddy?)
  • Responds to yes/no questions by shaking head or nodding

 

2-3 years

  • Follows 2 step commands
  • Understands simple spatial relationships (in, out, on)
  • Understands opposite concepts (hot/cold  wet/dry)

 

3-4 years

  • Follows 3 step commands
  • Identifies colors
  • Understands more complex spatial relationships and opposite concepts


 

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How can you encourage receptive language development in your daily routines?

  • Read  

Reading to your child is a great way to promote receptive language skills.  This allows you to introduce them to a variety of vocabulary words and also give them the opportunity to point to familiar items.  Ask them to point to several items on each page. “Can you find the dog?” or “Where is the cow?” This activity keeps them engaged in the book while strengthening their vocabulary and ability to follow commands. Make sure to label all the pictures you see to consistently expose them to new vocabulary.   If you have an older toddler or preschooler, ask them questions throughout the story to be sure they are understanding what they hear. Older preschoolers should be able to answer simple “Who” “What” and “Where” questions. If they are unable to answer the questions independently, go back to the pictures in the story and see if the picture cues can help them answer.

 

  • Simplify your language

We highly recommend using rich language when talking with your child, but very young children or children with a receptive language delay may benefit from using more simplified language in order to understand what they hear.  You could say, “Get your shoes” instead of “Timmy, go into the kitchen and get your shoes by the door.” Children with receptive language delays may not understand the commands you give if you are too detailed.

 

  • Play Hide and Seek

Hide a few favorite things around your house and tell your child you are going to give them clues to find them.  This targets following directions and can also target spatial relationships such as “on”, “under” and “behind”. You could give clues such as “Look under the bed” or “ Open the door and look inside the box.”  This activity can help you gauge how many step commands your child can follow and help you to identify which spatial relationships or positional words that they understand.

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  • Identify body parts and clothing items

Each time you get your child dressed or give them a bath you have the opportunity to expose them to body part and clothing vocabulary.   When they are young, simply label the body parts and clothing items as you go. “I’m washing your feet.” or “This is your shirt.” After they have been exposed to the vocabulary, you can ask them to get involved.  For example, you can ask them to point to various body parts. “Where are your eyes?” or “Hand me your foot to wash.” You can also put out various clothing items and ask them to hand the correct one to you. “Hand me the pants.” or “Where is your shirt?”

 

  • Play Simon Says

This game encourages following commands and can also target spatial relationships, body parts and colors.  Give your child commands and see if they can follow them. “Simon says, pat your head.” “Simon Says, get a green crayon.”  “Simon says look under the couch.” This activity is so fun for little ones, while also encouraging various receptive language skills.

 

I hope you have found this explanation of receptive language helpful and that you can use some of the strategies with your own little ones.  If you have any concerns about your child’s receptive language development, we always recommend getting an evaluation from a speech pathologist.  If you would like more receptive language tips, please visit the resources and downloads tab of our website for a free receptive language tips handout.

References:

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (1993). Definitions of communication disorders and variations[Relevant Paper]. Available from www.asha.org/policy.

Do this tomorrow: Easy ways to improve your child's receptive/expressive language while getting dressed

Getting a toddler dressed is always fun, am I right?  First, it is typically in the morning when we're all rushed.  You've got this little wiggly person who needs clothes and they're singing, trying to play and you're trying to wrangle them into a shirt and pants.  The next thing you know (at least at my house), you have a naked baby running through the house!

Why not work on speech and language in between chasing your naked kid around the house?  Here are five easy ways to incorporate important concepts into your daily dressing routine!

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1.  Work on understanding (also known as comprehension) by asking your child to go get certain items of clothing.

Make sure his shirt, pants, socks and shoes are in an easy to find location then ask him to go get one item at a time.  This teaches children that certain words match to various clothing items.  You can make this more complex as your child develops into a preschooler:  Please bring the one that keeps your arms warm.

2.  Work on speaking (also known as expression) by letting your child verbally choose an piece of clothing to wear. 

We all know toddlers and preschoolers thrive off of making their own decisions.  The night before daycare, preschool or the next day, lay out 2-3 outfits for your child.  Let them choose by stating "this one" or "the red shirt."

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3.  Work on understanding of location (also known as spatial comprehension) by talking about where clothing items are located in your home. 

Are your child's pants stored in a drawer?  Make sure you highlight IN and OUT as your remove the pants to put on your child.  Are the child's shirts hanging in the closet? Make sure you highlight UP on the rack and IN/OUT as you select a shirt.  Are your child's shoes by the front door?  Make sure you highlight BESIDE or NEXT TO the front door when asking your child to find these items.  For more learning opportunities (if you have extra time), you can hide the items (not too hard) around your home and give your child hints to find them.

4.  Work on understanding of body parts (also known as comprehension) during dressing. 

Dressing (and bathing-see post here) are great times to work on understanding of body parts.  At younger ages, highlighting arms, legs, head, feet, hands, etc are great.  As the child matures into an older toddler and preschooler, they can learn more complex body parts including knee, elbow, chest, ankles, wrists, etc.

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5.  Discuss seasons and weather.

As you're dressing in the morning and putting on various clothes depending on the season, talk to your child about what season it is, what the weather is like and why we wear certain types of clothing depending on the season.  Your conversation can go something like this:  Today it is going to be cold and it is raining.  Let's put on this long-sleeved warmed shirt so you stay warm.

Working these five items into your daily dressing can improve your child's receptive and expressive language skills.  They may even reduce your stress level in the morning-just kidding, only coffee can do that!  

Is Your Child a "Late Talker" or Do They Need Speech Therapy?

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Have you ever wondered if your child needs speech therapy?  If you have wondered this, has someone you know told you that your child was probably fine or a “late talker”? We hear it time and time again, “ My brother didn’t talk until he was three, and he’s just fine now.” or “Boys talk later than girls, he’s probably just a “late talker.”  This notion of the “late talker” and people writing off a mother’s concerns about their child’s development are becoming more and more prevalent. Many of our clients say that they had a gut feeling that their child was behind, but a well meaning grandparent of friend assured them that their child would be fine or was simply just a “late talker”. We’d like to address this issue and help put the “late talker” theory to rest.

 

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We have developmental norms for a reason:

Child development is an area that we are continuously learning about.  Each child is unique and children at the exact same age can display very different skills and abilities.  Although development can vary, there is a set of norms that is considered typical or age appropriate. We do not have to strictly adhere to a list of child development norms; however, it does give us a good idea what skills our children should be working towards.  Speech is no different from any other area of development. There are skills that children should acquire at certain ages. For example, most children will be able to use approximately 50 words by age 2. This is a recommendation. If your child is using 40 words by 2 but learning new words pretty regularly, you probably don’t have a reason to be worried.  If your child is using 3 words by age 2, then you may need to consider an evaluation with a speech pathologist. These norms give us a look into typical speech development and can alert us when something is off.

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There are always exceptions to the rule:

“My cousin didn’t talk until he was 4 and he’s a neurosurgeon now.”  We have heard a variety of these types of stories. There are the so called “late-talkers”, the kids who started talking later than usual, but didn’t require speech therapy services.  I’m sure there are children who started speaking later and didn’t need speech therapy, but there is no way to determine which children will be “late talkers” and which children will have a speech disorder.  It would be wonderful if we had a crystal ball that could determine which children will need speech therapy and which would just talk later, but since that isn’t possible we have to treat all children the same.  It’s better to treat a child who may have ended up developing speech and language skills on their own than it is to not treat a child with a speech or language disorder. We often hear parents who are upset with themselves that they didn’t seek out services sooner because they were just assuming their child was a late talker.   Your neighbor’s daughter may have waited until 4 to talk and ended speaking age appropriately, but that is the exception to the rule. Many “late talkers” end up with speech and language delays that do require speech therapy. We recommend to always err on the side of caution and get an evaluation if you are concerned.

 

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An evaluation can only help

I know that many parents are hesitant to start therapy or even get an evaluation when their children are young.  They don’t want to be jump the gun so soon, but since working in early intervention I have learned there isn’t such a thing as too soon.  The sooner the better as far as child development is concerned. If you have concerns about your child’s speech and language development, or any area of development, it never hurts to begin with an evaluation. You may get an evaluation and find out that your child’s speech is age appropriate or slightly delayed, but not enough to warrant therapy.  You will still get a full picture of your child’s skills as well as some tips and techniques that can help you continue to facilitate a language rich environment. If an evaluation does show your child has a delay, they can begin receiving speech therapy services right away. There is no con to pursuing an evaluation. You will receive valuable information and peace of mind either way.

 

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Late talkers are often frustrated

Let’s say you do have a child who is a “late talker” and ends up speaking at an age appropriate level at age 3.  Although they ended up eventually speaking, that’s several years of ineffective communication during the toddlerhood years. This is certainly going to result in frustration for both the child and his caregivers between ages 1-3. Toddlers and preschoolers can be frustrated easily even with the most advanced speech and language development because they are figuring out the world in which they live.  If you add on a speech delay to an already frustrating time, that is going to make your child even more exasperated. Why go through such a difficult and frustrating time for everyone waiting on your child to talk, when you can get help from a professional and make everyone’s lives easier? As humans, it is in our nature to communicate. This is no different for young children. They want to be able to communicate their thoughts and ideas just like the rest of us. Speech therapy can really lessen the frustration for children and their families as they are given the tools to communicate effectively.

 

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Things to look for

If you think your child may be a “late talker”, look for these signs to see if an evaluation may be warranted.

  • Is your child making progress?  Some children may be slower to develop speech, but still make continuous progress.  If your child appears stagnant in their development, seek out an evaluation by a speech language pathologist.

  • Is your child frustrated by not being able to effectively communicate with you?  Are you frustrated by not being able to understand your child? If you answered yes to either one of those questions on a regular basis, seek out an evaluation.  

  • Does your child talk, but you have difficulty understanding most of what they are saying?  Do they have difficulty imitating speech sounds even with cues and when watching your mouth? If you answered yes to these questions, It is recommended they get an evaluation.

  • Is your child motivated to communicate?  If you don’t feel your child is making an effort to communicate with you or those around them, get an evaluation.  

  • Do your child’s speech and language skills meet the developmental norms for their age?  If they seem off from what is typical, consider an evaluation.

 

I hope this information is helpful and clears up why speech therapists often recommend getting an evaluation instead of waiting to see if your child will eventually talk.  Since there is no way to tell which children will end up having a speech delay and need therapy, it is best to be proactive. We hear so many parents express regret in waiting to start speech therapy and hope that these tips can help your determine if a speech evaluation is warranted.