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Tips and Tricks to Boost Your Toddler’s Speech and Language

When your child enters into this world, he is immediately exposed to his new environment. Speech and language development begins right away, as your child begins to explore the environment around him. The early years of your child’s life is a crucial period for speech and language development. Blog-Toddler Speech and Language Main-Portrait

As you interact with your child, there are various ways that you can help to boost his speech and language:

  • While you are playing with your child, talk about the actions that he is doing and what you are doing. For example, if your child is throwing a ball, say “throw the ball” as he throws it. This will help him match spoken words to actions.
  • Label objects for your child. As you are engaging with your child, tell him what it is that he is holding, looking at, etc. For example, if your child is holding a ball, say “you have a ball” This will help to increase his ability to identify and name various objects.
  • Expand on your child’s utterances. As your child is acquiring language skills, he will start to speak using short utterances before he can use full sentences. When your child produces one word or short multiword utterances, take his utterance and use it in a full contextual sentence. For example, if your child points to a ball and says “ball,” you can respond with “yes, I see the red ball!”
  • Use natural sounding speech with appropriate intonation when talking to your child. As your child is being exposed to language, not only is he listening to the words, but he is also listening to your tone of voice and looking at your face. Therefore, to help him understand what you are saying, it is important to match your tone and facial expression to your spoken words. For example, if your child is throwing toys inappropriately, tell him “no throwing” with a more stern tone of voice. If you say “no throwing” with a “happy” tone of voice and a big smile, your child may have a difficult time understanding the concept of “no” since the tone of voice and facial expression did not match the meaning of “no.”
  • Sing familiar songs with your child. Engaging in song is a fun way to encourage language development. At first, you will be doing most of the singing while your child closely watches and listens. While you sing, you can use gestures to match words in the song. As your child gets multiple exposures to you singing the song, encourage him to engage in the song by gesturing along with you. For example, when singing “head, shoulders, knees, and toes,” start by singing the song while you touch each body part matching the words in the song. Then to engage your child more, you can sing the song while you help him move his hands to touch the body parts from the song. Another tip you can do with songs is pausing at certain words for your child to say. For instance, you can pause before “toes” each time it occurs in the song to allow your child to say it. Not only can this help to increase language production, but it can also help your child identify and name objects, items, or in this example, body parts.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140.

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Age Appropriate Toys for Speech and Language Development

With the holidays fast approaching, here are some tips for choosing gifts that also support your child’s development.  The best toys to support your child’s speech and language development are blog-speech-and-language-main-landscapetraditional toys that do not make noises or talk for your child.  Taking batteries out of toys is an option as well. Choosing toys that relate to everyday activities (e.g., kitchen set, baby doll) are great for facilitating language that can be applied to real life situations.

Additionally, toys that are open-ended and can be used in a variety of ways are best.  For example, a basic farm set has more language opportunities than a toy with buttons that makes animal noises.  With a basic farm set, the child can imitate animal noises, label the animal names, practice location concepts (e.g., on, in, under, next to, etc.), answer wh-questions (e.g., “Where is the pig?”), and much more!

Here is a list of basic, traditional toys that are great for expanding your child’s speech and language skills:

  • Wooden blocks
  • Cars/trains
  • Baby doll
  • Potato Head
  • Doll House
  • Bubbles
  • Kitchen set and play food
  • Tea set
  • Farm set
  • Dress-up clothes
  • Stacking toys
  • Puzzles
  • Doctor set
  • Play-doh
  • Wind-up toys

Traditional toys are excellent for supporting speech and language development, but it is also fun to discover new toys/games as well!

Here is a list of new toys/games I have been using in speech and language therapy:

  • Seek-a-Boo Game
    • Great for working on vocabulary, turn-taking, and memory skills!
  • Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pads
    • All of these reusable sticker pads are AWESOME for working on speech and language skills! I particularly like the “play house” one. These are great for answering wh-questions (i.e., who, what, where, when, why, how), labeling actions (e.g., swimming, playing), formulating complete sentences (e.g., “She is playing), and more!
  • Frankie’s Food Truck Fiasco Game
    • Excellent for working on shape identification and turn-taking! Find foods that are in the shape of a triangle, square, circle, heart, and rectangle.
  • Zingo
    • This one is always a favorite with the kids. Great for vocabulary, turn-taking, and asking questions. Play with the family and have your child ask if you need a piece, such as, “Do you need a hat or a bird?”
  • Melissa & Doug “Stamp Sort” Mailbox
    • Great for little ones to practice phrases, such as, “go in,” “put in mail,” “close the door,” “open door,” “put in key,” etc. Put stamps on the letters and ask your child, “Who are we mailing it to?”
  • Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game
    • Work on color identification, matching skills, and turn-taking with this fun game. Ask your child, “Whose turn is it?” to practice pronouns in “my turn” and “your turn.”

There are many great toys/games out there, but these are favorites among speech-language pathologists.  Ditch the batteries and get talking!

Happy Holidays!

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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Should I Be Concerned With My Child’s Speech?

As a parent, everyone wants the best for their child. They want their child to grow and Blog-Speech-Concerns-Main-Landscapedevelop appropriately, and flourish socially and academically. One component to success is your child’s ability to effectively communicate their wants, needs, and ideas. Which begs the question, when should you be concerned with your child’s speech and language development? In a world where no child is the same, one thing is for certain: early intervention is better than late intervention, and late intervention is better than no intervention at all. Look for these red flags early in development.

  • Difficulty following directions
  • Difficulty answering questions
  • Difficulty understanding gestures and nonverbal cues
  • Difficulty engaging in conversation
  • Difficulty identifying age-appropriate vocabulary and concepts
  • Frustration when communicating

Expressive Language

More specifically, children should be babbling between 6 and 8 months, with their first words produced around the age of 12 months. By 18 months, your child should possess an expressive vocabulary (spoken words) of approximately 50 words. Two-word combinations are expected around 24 months, with an expressive vocabulary growing to about 300 words. By the time your child is 36 months old, expect 3-5 word combinations (or more!), with most adult language structures mastered around 60 months (5 years).

Receptive Language

Children should follow basic commands around 12 months (“Come here”), and use gestures to communicate along with a few real words. They should be demonstrating comprehension of common objects and animals, by following commands involving those items or identifying them in books (puppy, cup, shoes, etc.) around 18 months of age. Look for your child to answer questions, ask questions, and talk about their day around the age of 3 years.

Articulation

It is typical for a young child (1-2 years) to have some sound errors in their speech. However, by the age of 3, a child’s speech should be at least 75% intelligible to an unfamiliar listener, and more intelligible to familiar listeners. By age 3, a child should have the following sounds mastered: /b, d, h, m, n, p, f, g, k, t, w/. All speech sounds should be mastered by age 8.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

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Expressive Language

Expressive Language: What is it?

Speech and language pathologists may use the term “expressive language” when describing the needs of your child. To better understand expressive language it is important to understand its definition and use.  Expressive language is the output of language to communicate a want, need, thought, or idea.

Expressive language is a combination of one or more of the following features:Expressive Language

  1. What words mean: Language is symbolic by nature, therefore, each word represents an idea, item, verb, emotion, etc. Children first need to understand that when they say the word apple, they are representing the actual object of an apple.
  2. How to put words together: Understanding how to put words together is the next step to acquiring expressive language. In order to communicate more extensive or intricate ideas, children often need to combine words. For example, children learn that by saying “more milk” or “all done” they can relay more complex messages.
  3. How to make new words: Understanding that words can be changed to represent a new idea is another feature of expressive language. For example, children often struggle to properly use past tense of verbs. The word friend can be changed to friendly or unfriendly to represent new concepts.
  4. What word combinations are best for different situations: Children learn that in order to effectively communicate, they need to adjust their use of language depending on their surroundings. For example, children may say, “I want a cookie now!” while at home. However, at a birthday party with an unfamiliar adult children may say, “may I please have a cookie?”. This understanding of the social use of language is critical for children and often takes years to fully develop.

Understanding the use of language is extremely complex and can often be difficult for children. A speech and language pathologist can help assess if your child is struggling to properly learn or utilize the features of language.


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NSPT offers speech and language services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

toys to elicit language

Toys to Elicit Language from Birth to Three

 

 

 

Your child’s first three years of life are the most intensive period for speech and language development. Children learn through modeling, imitation, and most importantly; through play. Below are some examples of toys that will help elicit language and communication in your child. It’s important to keep in mind that these toys will not teach your child language all on their own; your interaction with your child while using the toys is where the magic happens. Narrate your actions, take turns, label nouns and verbs, and HAVE FUN!

Toys to help elicit language in your 0-3 year old:

Interactive Toys/Turn-taking

  • Drums
  • “Microphones”
  • Slinky
  • Ball Tub
  • Mirror

Toys for Requesting/Joint Attention

  • Puzzles
  • Blacks
  • Wind-up toys/Light-up toys
  • Bubbles
  • Balloons

Toys to Target Sounds, Single Words, and Phrases

  • Books
  • Stuffed animals (think farm animals and animal noises)
  • Barn with animals
  • Baby doll/puppet
  • Hygiene items (e.g., toothbrush, washcloth, etc.)
  • Clothing for doll/puppet
  • Dish set
  • Stroller
  • Doll House
  • Car Wash
  • Basketball + hoop
  • Cooking set + food
  • Grocery cart
  • Train set
  • Cash register
  • Play-doh and accessories
  • Doctor set

Click here for 3 tips for promoting speech and language in your 0-3 year old.

Hearing Impairment and Language

The earlier your child is diagnosed with a hearing impairment, the earlier he can receive services to assist in the development of speech and language skills during the critical 0-3 year-old period. Children with a hearing impairment are at a disadvantage during this time frame because much of language develops from exposure to the sounds and voices around them.

Implications of a hearing impairment during early childhood can include the following:

  • A smaller base vocabulary
  • Slower acquisition of words and sentence structures
  • Some American English sounds are produced with a very high frequency which is harder for children with hearing impairments to hear.  As a result, children with hearing impairments don’t learn these sounds.
  • Difficulty hearing and/or producing the /s/, /z/, /sh/, /ch/, /f/, and /v/ sounds. Read more

Speech Delays and Talkative Older Siblings

Older sibling with younger siblingA parent recently asked me what to do when her child’s older sibling constantly answers for him.  While it’s caring that the older sibling wants to help his little brother, it’s also very important for each child to have his own space to learn and develop, try new things, and make mistakes.  So how can parents help?

What to do when an older sibling compensates for a child with speech and language difficulties:

  • Talk to the older sibling alone. Instead of being reactive, be proactive by talking to your older child about his younger sibling’s needs.  Teach him that it takes time to learn how to talk, and he can help his younger sibling talk by giving him space to try on his own.
  • Use positive language. Instead of telling older siblings what they can’t do, tell them what they can do.  For example, “You can help Jonny talk by being a good listener,” or, “You can be a helpful big brother by letting other people have a turn to talk.”
  • Teach older siblings alternative ways to be a helper. Praise your older child for wanting to help his younger sibling, and then offer him other ways to help. For example, he can help his younger sibling by being a good listener, by giving him time to finish his ideas, and by saying encouraging things (such as, “good job!” or, “thanks for sharing your idea!”).
  • Emphasize “talking turns” between family members.  It’s important for all children to learn conversation rules early on, which includes learning about listening, interruptions, and waiting for a turn to talk.  This can certainly be hard for young kids.  To help, emphasize “talking-turns.”  (“It’s Jonny’s turn to talk. Next will be your turn to talk.”)  You might even use a tangible object, such as a toy microphone, ball, or teddy bear, to pass back and forth when it’s each person’s turn.
  • Play games as a family that promote turn-taking.  You might take turns with a toy by passing it back and forth, play catch with a ball, or play a board game that involves turn-taking, such as Barn Yard Bingo, Candy Land, or Zingo.
  • Encourage active listening. Teach family members what it means to be a good listener. Use concrete examples such as, “You can listen by looking at the person who is talking,” or, “When you are listening, your mouth is quiet.”
  • Set aside one-on-one time for each sibling to play with a parent alone. Language development is enhanced through modeling, practice, and play with caregivers.  To make sure your child is receiving language-rich opportunities, set aside 15-20 minutes each day to play one-on-one with your child.
  • Praise the things that are going well. When you notice positive behavior, reinforce your child right away using very specific language.  For example, “Wow! You let Jonny have a turn to talk. You are a very good big brother when you let other people have a turn to talk.”

By incorporating these strategies into your daily routine, you can help your children develop healthier communication habits.  Older siblings have a special role as a “big brother” or “big sister.”  By teaching them about their special role, you can encourage your kids to feel more positive about helping their younger siblings. For more ideas about how to incorporate siblings into your child’s speech and language development, visit the blog, Encouraging Siblings to Help With Speech & Language Practice.

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Encouraging Language Skills during Family Board Games

One of the most impactful ways a child can make progress toward their speech and language goals is through home practice.  I compare it to working outFamily playing a boardgame at the gym; one day a week counts for something, but you’re unlikely to see noticeable results.  Instead, three or four days a week is the best way to build muscle and endurance and notice tangible changes.  Speech and language development functions in a very similar way. To help children maintain and make further gains between speech sessions, we assign home practice activities.  To kids, this often translates to “more homework!”  So how can we encourage children to practice throughout the week?  Try choosing fun and engaging activities that mask the speech and language goals

Here are some board games recommended for school age and adolescent students:

7 favorite games that encourage language skills:

Outburst Junior. This fast-paced game encourages the use of categories and vocabulary.  Players are given a word or category, and asked to name as many category members as possible before the time runs out.

Scattergories Junior. This fun game also encourages the use of categories.  Players are given a specific letter (e.g., “F” or “G”) as well as a list of categories.  Each player must think of various category members that begin with that letter.

Guess Who. This silly game encourages players to ask questions and group pictures together based on similarities and differences.  Players have a board filled with faces (or in the new version, animals, appliances and even monsters) and have to guess which face belongs to their opponent.

Headbanz. This engaging game encourages children to verbally describe objects, ask questions, and remember clues.  Players are each given a secret word to wear on their headband.  Players can look at other players’ headbands, but cannot see their own.  Each player must ask questions about their word, and give others clues for theirs (e.g., “Is my word an animal?’).

Catch Phrase Junior. This high-energy game encourages the use of vocabulary, verbal descriptions, categorization, synonyms, and word definitions.  Players are given a word and must try to get team members to guess what it is without actually stating the word.

Cranium Junior. This entertaining game also encourages the use of vocabulary and word meanings while tapping into the various senses.  Players are given a question card and must act, hum, draw, or sculpt the answer to help their teammates guess what it is.

Apples To Apples Junior. This interactive game encourages the use of vocabulary, word meanings, synonyms, and categorization.  Players are given a stack of cards, each with a different word (a person, place or thing).  A descriptive word is then placed in the center of the game and players must choose a card from their stack that best fits the description.

5 modifications for kids with language difficulties:

Each of these games relies heavily on language skills. Therefore, a child with language difficulties might find these games challenging.  To help, here are a few ways to modify each game so that your child feels more successful.  I advise using the modifications for all players, instead of singling one child out.

  • Extend the time allowed for each turn. Instead of using a sand-timer, use your own timer on a smartphone or stopwatch to allow each player more time to complete tasks.
  • Eliminate timing altogether.  If you notice your child crumbling under the time pressure, just eliminate timers altogether.  After your child has had practice with the game and feels more confident, you can slowly reintroduce the timer.
  • Adjust the vocabulary words. If your child seems unfamiliar or overwhelmed by the vocabulary in the game (e.g., Apples to Apples), create your own playing cards with more suitable vocabulary for your child.
  • Encourage note-taking. Games such as Guess Who and Headbanz rely on memory.  If your child seems to have difficulty remembering clues, encourage him/her to write things down during the game (e.g., my headband is an animal, it lives in the zoo, it has stripes, etc).
  • Provide lots of encouragement. Discourage any negative comments from players, while encouraging positive comments instead (e.g., “good try” or “nice job!”).  Give your child positive and descriptive praise for anything they are doing well (e.g., “Wow, you are showing great sportsmanship” or “That was an excellent question to ask.”)

Above all, have fun!  Games provide an excellent avenue for learning, but more importantly, they provide a fun and engaging way to spend time together.  By incorporating your child’s speech and language goals into games, your child will learn and practice without ever hearing those dreaded words, “more homework.”  Ask your child’s speech-language pathologist for more fun activities to address their speech and language goals at home.

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Sample Activities to Increase Oral Awareness!

Development of oral facial muscles is important for a child to accurately produce speech sounds. Poor coordination and strength of articulators can adversely affect skill development for speech sound production. When looking at oral development it is important to ensure the child is provided a variety of movement opportunities to build a variety of oral skills. Movements should include movements of the jaw, tongue, and cheeks to build strength and coordination.

Father practicing oral awareness with child

Below are sample activities to do at home to increase oral awareness and movement

  1. Gather two sets of 5 items varying in size, texture, shape, and temperature. For example; ice, a tongue depressor, straw, teething toy, and straw. Encourage your child to use each of the objects in oral-exploratory play. Imitate your child’s movements and comment on what your child is doing and how it makes the mouth feel.
  2. Mirror play! Have your child sit with you in front of a mirror. Explain that you will be playing a “clown” game. Feel free to dress up in silly hats or clothes to play the game! Instruct your child that you will be taking turns making silly faces in the mirror and copying each other. With your models, make sure you do a variety of tongue movements. Stick your tongue out, move it side to side, lift up the tip up to touch your nose. Have your child practice the movement 2-3 times before it is his or her turn to put the clown hat on.
  3. Play musical “chairs”. Choose objects around the house that include a target sound. For example if the target sound is “b” you could find a book, bear, bottle, bread, and bowl. Place pieces of paper on the floor, with the item on the paper, in a circle. Have the child walk from sheet to sheet until the music stops. Once the music stops, have your child say the target word they land on. You can also write the word on the pieces of paper to increase print sound awareness.
  4. Cut an egg carton in half lengthwise, turn it upside down, and color or paint each of the 6 protruding sections a different color. Next, find a puppet or an animal with a large mouth. Find small “food” items to feed the puppet. These could be marbles or pretend food. Tell your child that you are going to sing silly songs to help feed the very hungry animal! Model a sequence of three sounds varying in intonation tapping the egg cartons to pace each sound as they are sung. Different intonation patterns can include rising/falling pitch or increase/decreased loudness on individual sounds. For example, “ ba BA ba”. Think of the NBC studio signature tone. Once the silly song is imitated you can feed the hungry animal! Using rhythm and a singsong voice has been proven to help facilitate speech output.

These activities will encourage oral motor development in a fun and exciting way. Your child will be learning and exploring and improve his oral awareness in the process!