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Frustration-Free Communication With Your Toddler

There’s no question about it, and there’s no reason to feel guilty for thinking it: communicating with a toddler can be frustrating. To repeat: communicating with a toddler can be frustrating. Every parent feels this frustration at some point, as do many toddlers! Toddlers are aware of what they want, but they often have trouble conveying these desires to care givers. It is important to remember: it’s ok! Toddlers acquire language each and every day as they are exposed to new words, and, with that, their vocabulary grows.

During this time of rapid language development, there are a few tips to support and encourage language, while also reducing frustration for BOTH communicative partners.

Tips for Frustration-Free Communication with Your Toddler:

  • Reduce the demand: When a child is trying to explain wants and needs, she may feel pressuredFrustration-Free Communication with Your Toddler to verbalize her choices or may just not feel like talking. That’s ok! If a parent is unable to elicit a verbal response, he or she may try reducing the demand! Accept pointing as an alternative, so long as the child is staying compliant with what is being asked of him.
  • Approximate: When a child is attempting to verbalize with a parent, words may often be distorted or syllables may be missing, resulting in immature speech. This is expected in toddlers, but parents can encourage approximation. For example, if a child attempts to say “door,” but instead says “do,” parents can praise their child for trying and respond with “yes, let’s open the door!” Similarly, if a toddler requests “oo na,” parents can reply, “oh, do you want fruit snacks?”
  • Model: When children are acquiring expressive language, parents should be modeling appropriate requests and verbal turn-taking throughout the day. During play, parents can express “my turn,” to encourage toddlers to initiate taking turns and labeling actions. Parents can also model requests, for example, “I want more, Molly. Do you want more?” in order to encourage toddlers to imitate.
  • Provide choices: Offering choices can help to limit toddler frustration during communication. If choices are finite, toddlers won’t have to search through their growing—but sometimes inadequate—vocabulary to retrieve words. If offered, for example, apples or bananas, toddlers will feel the independence to make the decision that they desire. Simultaneously, parents are able to quickly and efficiently learn what their toddlers want.
  • Gesture: It can be frustrating for both parents and toddlers when language demands are placed. If a toddler doesn’t feel like saying “hi” to Uncle Andrew or giving him a hug that day, accept a wave of the hand or a high-five. These gestures are still intentional communication; that is, they still promote social development. Just encourage socialization and more verbalization the next time!

These tips can help to reduce frustration for both parents and toddlers. If parents find that they are unable to understand 50% of what their toddler is trying to communicate, a licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP) can help! This time with your toddlers should be fun, and SLPs can help to make things easier for toddlers to express their wants and needs. Comment below if you have any other frustration-free communication tips!

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Helping Your Toddler Learn to Communicate

The first few years of your child’s life are a critical time in their language development. Research strongly supports that face-to-face time with caregivers and loved ones is one of the most powerful tool in language development. So how can parents help their toddlers learn to communicate? Here are 10 activities to encourage speech and language skills in toddlers.

10 Activities to Build Speech & Language Skills in Toddlers

1. Floor time. Come down to your child’s level play face-to-face. By playing at eye-level, your child will model your facial expressions, eye contact, and oral postures as you make various speech sounds.mom playing with toddler

2. Describe. Children learn language by being hearing it. Surround your child with a language-rich environment by describing what you are seeing or doing. Label nearby objects, or talking about what is happening around you. Use clear and simple language (e.g. “Mommy is washing your hands!” or “I see a red ball!”).

3. Take turns. Language is a back-and-forth system which requires the ability to take turns. Help your child learn about turn-taking through activities that promote reciprocal interactions. You might pass a ball back-and-forth, share a toy, or play a turn-taking game. For more ideas, visit Turn Taking and Language Development.

4. Ask questions. The ability to answer questions is an important skill in language development. Practice this skill by asking your child questions throughout the day. You might start with yes/no questions, and then ask “what”, “who” or “where” questions. Try to avoid “question overload” which may feel like a “quiz” or overwhelming to your child. Instead, take advantage of natural opportunities to ask questions throughout the day. For example, when reading a book, you might say “Bear is hiding! Who is hiding?”.

5. Use gestures. The use of gestures to communicate is a critical step in language development. Language is a symbol system, filled with both verbal and nonverbal symbols that represent our thoughts and ideas. Help your child use gestures by modeling pointing to request objects, waving “bye bye”, blowing kisses, or clapping. You can also practice gestures through finger play and singing (e.g. pat-a-cake, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Wheels on the Bus).

6. Make requests. Encourage your child to intentionally communicate by asking for desired objects. Instead of predicting your child’s needs, guide them to ask for things, whether by pointing, making a word approximation, reaching, or vocalizing. You can also try presenting two choices to your child (e.g. “Do you want bear, or ball?”) to help them verbalize which one they want.

7. Say no. In addition to telling you want they want, it’s also important for your child to tell you what they don’t want. Help your child say “no” by modeling for them. For example, if you can tell your child doesn’t want to play with a ball, model the words “No. No ball” while shaking your head back and forth, and remove the ball.

8. Read. Enjoy one-on-one time with your child while reading books. Books are an excellent way to build language skills in children, including: listening comprehension, sentence formulation, vocabulary development, inferencing, problem solving, narrative language skills, and social emotional development. For more ideas, visit Encouraging Language Development When Reading to Your Toddler.

9. Sing. Songs are extremely beneficial to language development. Through songs, children learn language patterns, distinguish speech sounds, learn gestures, and engage in interactions with others.

10. Play. For developing children, play is the means by which children learn. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics “Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development.” Playing with your child provides countless opportunities to hear and use language while spending one-on-one time with loved ones.

It’s important to remember that every child develops at their own pace, with some skills progressing faster or slower than others. Some child may need additional support to help foster their speech and language development. Research has well-documented that intervening early on is most effective in remediating speech and language difficulties. If you have concerns regarding your child’s speech and language, it’s important to schedule a speech-language evaluation with a licensed speech-language pathologist right away. For more information or to schedule an evaluation, contact our Solutions Center to speak with a Family Child Advocate.

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Language Fun with Halloween

Halloween is a super fun holiday! There are so many great ways to use Halloween to build your child’s language skills. Here are a few ideas:

“Categories and Sorting” to Boost Language

After your child goes trick or treating, have them sort their candy into different categories. They could sort candy by type (chocolate vs. gummies), size, shape, color or taste.Boy in Costume Sorting Candy

“Describing” To Boost Language

Picking out the perfect Halloween costume is always fun! When talking about costumes, have your child describe what it is that they’d like to be this year. Have them talk about costume colors, accessories, emotions/feelings associated with the character, etc. Or when you’re at the store, play a guessing game. “Guess who I am thinking about…I wear a pointy hat, fly on a broomstick and can be a little scary!”

“Following Directions” To Boost Language

There are lots and lots of Halloween art projects and craft ideas. Take any project and turn it into a following directions activity. Depending on what level your child is at, you can have him/her follow 1 or 2 step directions. It could be as simple as a drawing activity. Start with a haunted house picture. Tell your child, “draw a pumpkin next to the door” or “Put a scary ghost in one of the top windows.”

Vocabulary

Halloween is a great time to work on different vocabulary words. You can work on synonyms or antonyms, definitions, grammar or even salient features. For example, take the word “spooky.”

You can ask the following questions:

  • What does spooky mean?
  • What is the opposite of spooky? What is another word for spooky?
  • Tell me something that is spooky – once they give you an object, have them tell you more about the object. For example, let’s say they say “witch.”   Then have him/her tell you what a witch has, where you find a witch, what does a witch do, etc (these are all salient features).

Reading Comprehension

There are many thematic books for Halloween. Find a book that is appropriate for your child’s reading level and work on reading comprehension skills. Ask wh- questions (i.e. who, what, where, why, why) while reading the book. You can ask text-based questions (questions that stem directly from what you read) or critical thinking questions (questions that will stimulate your child’s thought process). For example, if you’re reading about a scary character, you could ask “What makes you scared?” or “What do you do when you’re scared?”

For a list of great Halloween Books, click here.  You can read summaries and even take a look at the first few pages of the books.

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Teaching Your Child To Care

Teaching your child to care for others is an important role that each and every parentgirl caring for friend carries.

Often, people assume that compassion is a born instinct, but it can also be taught. Yes, all people are born with some level of a “caring gene”, just as Babe Ruth was born with a talent to play baseball. However, if Babe Ruth was never introduced to baseball, never taught the rules of the game, never tried to play, then what good would his natural talent have been? Everybody can be taught to feel for others; you just have to start teaching them while they are young and continue teaching them by example!

Here Are Some Tips to Help Your Child Learn To Be More Compassionate:

Start Young

  • Start teaching your child to care for others as soon as they are able to communicate.During play-time, role-play with your baby on dolls. Show them how to hold, hug and care for the doll. Even pretend the doll got hurt and show your baby how to comfort the doll. Playing with your child and a doctor’s kit is another great way to show your child to care for others and how one person makes another feel better.
  • It’s also important to teach your child in the moment. When at the playground or on a play-date and your toddler’s friend falls down or gets hurt, bring it to your toddler’s attention. You can say to your toddler: “Oh no, Joey got hurt, and is very sad. I think it would make him feel better if you gave him a hug”. This will ensure that when your child is in preschool, he or she will more likely be the kid who helps his or her friends instead of running past them when they get hurt.
  • Just as teaching your children to care for those who are hurt physically, it’s equally important to teach your child to be aware of those who get hurt emotionally. Let your child know that it is not okay to hurt other’s feelings. This will prove to be vital when your child is in grade school and Bullying begins.

Lead by Example

  • Parents are the first teacher a child ever has. Everything a parent does, their child is watching, taking notes and learning from. Show your child how to be compassionate. When you see a homeless person on the street, stop and give him/her some spare change. Afterward, explain to your child why you helped that person. How there are people out there less fortunate. Let your child know that there are children who may not have as many toys as your child. Ask your child how it would make them feel to not have all the things he/she has.
  • Often, people get frustrated when they have to pull over to let an ambulance or fire-truck pass by because it delays them to their destination. Instead of getting irritated, say out loud how you hope the ambulance or firemen get there in time to help those in trouble.

Find Local Places to Visit

  • Along with leading by example, you can help your child become caring and compassionate by actually working with those in need. Many nursing homes have programs where you can bring children to come and talk to residents.
  • You can also take your child to a soup kitchen to help serve people in need. Let your child feel good about helping others!
  • Have your child bring a bag of toys to a children’s home to give to less fortunate children. There are plenty of websites that offer information on places and ways you and your child can help. Below are a couple of examples:

 http://www.redcross.org/volunteertime/ and http://www.volunteermatch.org/

So go ahead, turn off your T.V. and video games and go out with your child into the world to make a difference!

I welcome any comments on more opportunities for children to “care”!

Oral-Motor and Feeding Difficulties in Young Children

All children are born hard-wired to eat. However, some children with poor oral motor skills may present with many challenges while feeding. Some children may appear to be “messy eaters”, but in reality, they may not have the strength to successfully close their lips around a spoon. Other kids may tend to rush through meals, however their oral awareness may actually be reduced and they may not even be aware of how much food is actually in their mouths. Therefore mealtimes may Young Girls Is A Messy Eaterprove to be difficult and frustrating for children, and equally as stressful for mom and dad.

Oral Motor And Feeding Red Flags

  • Lack of oral-exploration with non-food items as an infant
  • Difficulties transitioning between different textures of foods
  • Weaknesses sucking, chewing, and swallowing
  • Frequent coughing and/or gagging when eating
  • Vomiting during or after meals
  • Refusal to eat certain textures of foods
  • Rigidity with diet
  • Avoidance of touch on face and around mouth
  • Loss of food and liquids when eating
  • Obvious preference for certain textures or flavors of foods
  • Increased congestion during and after meals
  • Grimacing/odd facial expressions when eating
  • Consistent wiping of hands and face during meals
  • Pocketing of food in cheeks, or residue observed after swallow
  • Irritability and anxiety during mealtime
  • Excessive drooling and lack of saliva management
  • Sudden refusal to eat previously tolerated foods
  • Excessive weight gain or loss

Oral-Motor Skill Improvement

Fortunately, there are also many activities you can easily incorporate at home to facilitate improvements with oral-motor skills.

  • Blowing activities (blow-pens, instruments, whistles, etc.) help to improve posture, breath control, lip rounding, and motor-planning skills.
  • Infant massage may also help to increase oral-awareness and facial tone.
  • Straws, sour candies, and bubbles may help with drooling.
  • Constantly exposing your child to a variety of new foods will help to avoid food jags, and increase their tolerance to different textures and tastes.

If you notice that your child presents with some of the above-mentioned characteristics and does not seem to be improving, it would be advantageous to speak with a Speech-Language Pathologist about your concerns.

 

Tips For Getting Your Toddler Out The Door

toddler by the doorYour child may have difficulties getting out the door for a number of reasons. For example, transitions from one activity to the next may be a problem. Other children may engage in problematic behaviors to avoid a non-preferred activity, acquire access to a preferred activity, or escape transitioning from a preferred activity to a non-preferred activity.

The following are some strategies that may help in getting your toddler out the door. However, identifying the reasons for difficulty is important in making a treatment decision and should not be overlooked.

STRATEGIES TO USE FOR GETTING YOUR CHILD OUT THE DOOR:

• Provide advance notice of an upcoming change in tasks (i.e. a two-minute warning). This could help in reducing “anxiety” related to transitions.

• Use visual schedules to communicate transitions between activities to decrease problem behavior.

• Deliver positive reinforcement if your toddler follows the schedule or completes the transition without any problem behaviors. Some examples of reinforcers (i.e. what increases the occurrence of a behavior) may be praise, food items, breaks and activities. Every child is different, so their reinforcers may be different as well. Figure out what your child prefers and use this to your advantage in increasing compliance with their and transitions.

• Use graduated prompting to help your toddler transition:
-Use a hand-over-hand prompting procedure to physically guide compliance to the transition, regardless of the problem behavior. Read more

Building Social Skills Through Play Dates

two kids playingYou worked diligently planning for today’s play date: abook to get things started, a seasonal craft to tie in education, and a creative snack to conclude the day.  Last you checked, breaking up a scuffle and mopping juice box puddles off the floor weren’t on the list.  So what went wrong?

Planning a play date can be overwhelming at times.  We want things to go as planned and, above all, we want our child to make friends.  Building friendships involves an array of skills, including initiating interactions, taking turns, being flexible, asking questions, and negotiating.  For children with language difficulties, these skills can often be challenging.  So how can we help them succeed?

Strategies to help your child navigate peer interactions during a play date:

  • Talk to your child ahead of time about their upcoming play date.  Discuss who is coming over and what is going to happen.  Include concepts such as taking turns, sharing, or being a good friend.  If possible, show your child a picture of their peer as you discuss. Read more

Raising an Independent Child

Childhood IndependenceIt’s summer time, the kiddos are out of school, and Independence Day is right around the corner!  It is the perfect time to help your children become more self-sufficient and confident by encouraging them to become more independent in their daily routines.

Where Childhood Independence Begins

Typically, children begin to demonstrate their independence by the age of two.  They may want to try everything by themselves and even act annoyed if you try to step in to help them.  This is perfectly normal and I encourage you to embrace this developmental milestone!

Bedtime should be the first area to be targeted when teaching your child independence.  Establishing a consistent bed time routine is a must.  Children should be sleeping in their beds independently.  They may still need reminders to stay in their room, but there are plenty of ways to work on getting this accomplished.  You can try giving them a signal of when they can leave their room (e.g., when the light comes up or when the clock looks like this: 7:00).  You can also keep a bin of toys in their room that they are allowed to play with in the morning.  It is very important to be aware of your reaction when they do get out of bed.  Firmly state the expectations (e.g., “Johnny, you need to stay in bed until the clock reads 7:00”) and guide them back to their room.  Do not provide eye contact or attempt to rationalize with them.  You may need to bring them back to their room several times over many days.  Don’t give up!  I promise it will get easier!

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