Category : Language Development

Language Development

Language Development: 6 Tips on Strengthening Your Toddler’s Language Development

Do you suspect your toddler has a language delay? Perhaps you’ve watched other children at the park or in a mommy’s playgroup, and noticed that the other children seem to understand and speak more than your child. Or perhaps your child’s speech is difficult to understand, but friends, family, and your child’s doctor suggest a “wait and see” approach.

While there can be a wide range of language ability between children, it’s often parents who first suspect their toddler has poor language development. Unfortunately, they are often told to wait until their child gets older, and regaled with stories of a child who didn’t talk until kindergarten and grew up to be a nuclear physicist.

If you suspect your toddler has a language delay, but have been told to wait a half a year and see what happens- your best bet is to ignore that well-meaning advice and get to work on strengthening your child’s language development.

There are several reasons for doing this, but the most important one is that not helping your child means that a large chunk of time was simply wasted. Taking a proactive approach can’t hurt your child,  but it could significantly help your child catch up to where they need to be.

You don’t need to go overboard, however, and start booking a private speech therapist to work with your child every day. As a parent, you are actually in a great position to help your child improve their language development in a nonthreatening, fun environment.

Here are some tips you can use to start helping your toddler today:

1) Sing throughout the day with your child. It’s natural for most parents to sing to their toddlers. The key word here, though, it with, not to. Choose simple songs – nursery rhyme songs are the ideal length- and encourage your toddler to sing along with you.

You can do this by singing a whole line and then stopping, letting your child fill in the blank. This helps build your toddler’s auditory memory, an area that is often weak in children with delayed language development.

2) Teach your child songs with gestures. Songs like “The Wheels on the Bus,” “Little Bunny Foo-Foo,” and “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” are great ways of helping build your toddler’s auditory and motor memory. Choose a set time each day to do them, and it will be easy to make sure your child gets practice every day.

3) Read to your child. You know you’re supposed to read to your child, but did you know that how you read can make the difference between peanut butter and jelly and a submarine?

Don’t just read the story to your child, occasionally pointing out a picture or two. Use the book as a jumping board for discussing other topics as well. You don’t have to cover everything at once; chances are if your toddler likes the book, you’ll likely be reading it more often than you like.

4) Mirror your child’s speech. Some parents, in their quest to raise little Einsteins, speak to their toddlers as if they were already in middle school.

While this might be fine for some children, children with weak language development get lost with this type of language. Instead, if your child is speaking 2-3 word sentences, then when you ask them where your favorite pen is or what they’d like to eat, you should too.

You won’t hinder your child’s progress; on the contrary, speaking on their level means they will finally be able to understand you. Try it - you’ll see progress in a week or two, guaranteed.

5) Give them lots of experiences. Parenting toddlers is tiring work. It’s easy to fall into the habit of going to the park, to the store, and perhaps a friend’s house.

However, your toddler needs lots of different experiences in order to build their vocabulary, learn new ideas, and practice new skills. Before you start packing for Disneyland, keep in mind that there are many places you can take your toddler right in your own neighborhood.

For example, take a walk to a local bakery, and show your child all the different foods that are there. Your child will learn the names of some common (or not so common) foods, and perhaps have a chance to see how some items are made.

6) Have fun! Don’t look at your sessions with your toddler as work sessions; not only will you start feeling pressurized, but your toddler will heartily resist your taking control of things. Instead, use the time to enjoy being with your child, and sharing with them the beauty of the world around them-while strengthening their language development at the same time.

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Language Development

Language Development: 5 Tips on How to Handle Stimming

Flapping hands, spinning, opening and closing doors, and saying the same words over and over again can try the patience of even the most tolerant parents. These behaviors, which are called self-stimulatory behaviors or “stimming” for short, are actually quite common in children with delays in language development.

Sometimes, though, they can be disturbing to watch, or interfere with your child’s ability to interact with the world around her.

What should you do? Is it best to let your child stim whenever she likes? Or should you put a limit on how and where she stims? And how do you help your child engage in more purposeful behavior?

Read on for 7 tips on how to handle stimming in the child with weak language development:

1) Turn involuntary action into voluntary action.

Ever watch a person with a facial tic? Calling their attention to it usually makes it worse. But if you engage the other person so that they smile, the tic goes away. That’s because they are now using those muscles in a voluntary act.

When your child starts stimming, think what you can do to engage them in voluntary action. If your child is flapping their arms, gently take their hands, and swing their hands back and forth as you sing a song together.

If your child insists on opening and closing the door, stand on one side of the door, and pretend to knock, asking, “Can I come in?” Or, you can gently push on the door, with a confused look on your face when you meet resistance.

If your child insists on repeating a word or a phrase over and over again, try to add on a word to theirs. For example, if your child keeps repeating, “The car,” chime in “the red car,” or “the car honks.”

2) Help your child strengthen his motor and visual-motor systems.

Even children who are warm, engaged children, or intellectually bright can sometimes experience a “motor overflow” when they are excited or tired.

Make sure your child is receiving occupational therapy, and be consistent about doing assigned exercises. As your child gains control of his motor system, you’ll see a decrease in repetitive behavior. Some children manage to drop stimming altogether as their language skills and motor systems improve, while others maintain a moderate level of stimming, particularly when stressed or excited.

If your child is one of the latter, you can place limits on where they stim- for instance only at home- but you will have to accept that this fulfills some important need for them, and so they won’t be able to give it up completely. Although you might feel any level of stimming is unacceptable, when you consider how much of an impact learning and communication difficulties present for your child, this level of stimming should be last on your list.

3) Take it in small steps.

Your child is stimming not only because of motor or visual challenges, but also because stimming provides some level of emotional security. That means your child has a lot invested in their behavior.

You won’t be able to eliminate stimming in one fell swoop: not only will you fail miserably, but you’ll have a very angry, unhappy child as well. Instead, choose one specific behavior, and pick the time and place that the behavior is most disruptive, and start from there.

Limit the amount of time per day that you work on this particular goal – 15 minutes is a good start- and try to tie it with a specific activity. For example, you could decide not to allow stimming at bath time. That means that you are committing to redirecting your child’s actions, as explained above, so that your child has an alternate behavior he can engage in.

4) Solve the problem symbolically.

If your child can speak, talk with them about their behavior. What triggers it? Does it usually happen at certain times of the day? Choose a time when you are both calm, and be careful not to lecture or scold. Phrase your questions in a nonthreatening manner; “I was wondering” or “ I noticed,” are neutral statements you can use to bring up the subject.”

Talking about it helps them become more aware of the problem, and also helps them understand why you (and others) find the behavior so objectionable.

If your child is nonverbal, you can use toys or puppets to help your child talk about what’s going on. Have your puppet flap their arms, open and close doors, or engage in whatever stimming behavior your child does. When your child takes notice, you can stop, and ask the puppet, “Scared? Mad?” Turn to your child and give your child a chance to ask the puppet too.

5) Give your child extra together time.

Whenever you need to spend more time correcting your child, you need to balance it out with more together time. That’s because you need to make sure that positive interactions with your child occur about 90% of the time. Correcting your child’s behavior is considered a negative interaction, even if you do it lovingly.

Spending extra time with your child, however, is not only for your child’s sake – it’s for yours too! By making sure you have time just to enjoy them, you’ll be able to maintain a warm and loving environment for both of you.

Flapping hands, spinning, opening and closing doors, and saying the same words over and over again can try the patience of even the most tolerant parents.

These behaviors, which are called self-stimulatory behaviors or “stimming” for short, are actually quite common in children with delays in language development.

Sometimes, though, they can be disturbing to watch, or interfere with your child’s ability to interact with the world around her.

What should you do? Is it best to let your child stim whenever she likes? Or should you put a limit on how and where she stims? And how do you help your child engage in more purposeful behavior?

Read on for 7 tips on how to handle stimming in the child with weak language development:

1) Turn involuntary action into voluntary action.

Ever watch a person with a facial tic? Calling their attention to it usually makes it worse. But if you engage the other person so that they smile, the tic goes away. That’s because they are now using those muscles in a voluntary act.
When your child starts stimming, think what you can do to engage them in voluntary action. If your child is flapping their arms, gently take their hands, and swing their hands back and forth as you sing a song together.

If your child insists on opening and closing the door, stand on one side of the door, and pretend to knock, asking, “Can I come in?” Or, you can gently push on the door, with a confused look on your face when you meet resistance.

If your child insists on repeating a word or a phrase over and over again, try to add on a word to theirs. For example, if your child keeps repeating, “The car,” chime in “the red car,” or “the car honks.”

2) Help your child strengthen his motor and visual-motor systems.

Even children who are warm, engaged children, or intellectually bright can sometimes experience a “motor overflow” when they are excited or tired.

Make sure your child is receiving occupational therapy, and be consistent about doing assigned exercises. As your child gains control of his motor system, you’ll see a decrease in repetitive behavior.

Some children manage to drop stimming altogether as their language skills and motor systems improve, while others maintain a moderate level of stimming, particularly when stressed or excited.

If your child is one of the latter, you can place limits on where they stim- for instance only at home- but you will have to accept that this fulfills some important need for them, and so they won’t be able to give it up completely.

Although you might feel any level of stimming is unacceptable, when you consider how much of an impact learning and communication difficulties present for your child, this level of stimming should be last on your list.

3) Take it in small steps.

Your child is stimming not only because of motor or visual challenges, but also because stimming provides some level of emotional security. That means your child has a lot invested in their behavior.

You won’t be able to eliminate stimming in one fell swoop: not only will you fail miserably, but you’ll have a very angry, unhappy child as well. Instead, choose one specific behavior, and pick the time and place that the behavior is most disruptive, and start from there.

Limit the amount of time per day that you work on this particular goal – 15 minutes is a good start- and try to tie it with a specific activity. For example, you could decide not to allow stimming at bath time. That means that you are committing to redirecting your child’s actions, as explained above, so that your child has an alternate behavior he can engage in.

4) Solve the problem symbolically.

If your child can speak, talk with them about their behavior. What triggers it?

Does it usually happen at certain times of the day? Choose a time when you are both calm, and be careful not to lecture or scold. Phrase your questions in a nonthreatening manner; “I was wondering” or “ I noticed,” are neutral statements you can use to bring up the subject.”

Talking about it helps them become more aware of the problem, and also helps them understand why you (and others) find the behavior so objectionable.

If your child is nonverbal, you can use toys or puppets to help your child talk about what’s going on. Have your puppet flap their arms, open and close doors, or engage in whatever stimming behavior your child does. When your child takes notice, you can stop, and ask the puppet, “Scared? Mad?” Turn to your child and give your child a chance to ask the puppet too.

5) Give your child extra together time.

Whenever you need to spend more time correcting your child, you need to balance it out with more together time. That’s because you need to make sure that positive interactions with your child occur about 90% of the time.

Correcting your child’s behavior is considered a negative interaction, even if you do it lovingly.

Spending extra time with your child, however, is not only for your child’s sake – it’s for yours too! By making sure you have time just to enjoy them, you’ll be able to maintain a warm and loving environment for both of you.

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Language Development

Language Development: 5 Tips on How to Help Your Child Answer Why and When Questions

Perhaps this has happened to you: your son comes home, looking battle weary and sporting a 2 inch rip in his new jeans. You, having assigned yourself the role of The Responsible Parent, are determined to get to the bottom of the matter.

Unfortunately, you forgot to take into account the power of The Silent One. The conversation goes something like this:

“Hi Mike. How was your day?”

“Fine.”

“Put away your book bag-wait, what’s that?

“What?”

“You have a tear in the brand new pants I bought you. How did that happen?”

“How did that happen?”

“The tear.”

“The tear?”

And so on, until you the parent decide to end the conversation before you go running madly into the night.

Children with weak language development often have difficulty answering what, when, why, where, and how questions. It can be frustrating for parents, especially when their child seems to be quite the conversationalist at dinner time. Often parents wonder if their children pretend ignorance on purpose.

In fact, for children with weak language development, it’s easier to initiate a conversation than respond to one. If you initiate the conversation, you’re in control (to a large extent) not only of the topic, but what details you discuss, and how long you discuss it. On the other hand, when children are asked a particular question, they need to be able to perform several complicated mental tasks:

1) Questions are abstract.

Most questions require your child to imagine a particular fact, concept, or event in their minds. When you ask your child “When do you want to eat your snack?” they need to picture a time in the future, and link that with wanting to eat their snack.

How will you get home?” requires your child to picture her actions sometime in the future. “Why do you want to go to your friend now?” means your child has to have an idea of how to satisfy his want.

Still, practice can help your child learn how to answer questions. Here are some tips you can use to help the child with weak language development learn how to answer why and when questions:

1) Ask your child’s opinions about everything.

When your child asks you for more juice, ask her playfully, “What you will do with the juice?” or “When should I give you another cup?”

If your child demands to wear his too-small red shirt, ask him, “What will you wear it with?”

2) Simplify questions.

Why questions are hard to answer. If you give a clue, however, it helps to narrow down the possibilities. Use your knowledge of your child to guide you. For example, if your child is angry, ask him, “Did you miss your turn to sit near the window in carpool today?”

3) Change why questions to what questions.

Instead of asking, “Why do you want to go to Dani’s house?” ask, “What will you do at Dani’s house?”

4) Give choices.

If your child has trouble even with what questions, change the question to multiple choice. For example, instead of asking, “What do you want for lunch?” ask “Do you want to eat hamburgers or tacos?”

If even this is hard for your child to answer, change one of the choices to a silly one: “Do you want to eat hamburgers or elephant ears?” will have your child laughing but will also help him respond correctly.

5) Rephrase her answers to why answers.

If your son answers that he’s tired, respond, “Oh, so that’s why you didn’t want to go outside. Because you’re tired.” This will help your child see the connection between what he wants and his actions. It also gives him numerous real-life examples of using the word “why.”

Just remember- answering questions is a skill that takes a lot of practice, but it can be done. You can use the many opportunities you have daily to practice, encouraging other members of the family to join in.

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Language Development

How to Use Books to Improve Your Child’s Critical Thinking Skills in 2 Weeks or Less-Language Development

Does your child have trouble expressing himself, or explaining what he’s learned in daycare or school?

This is a simple way to improve your child’s language development, and boost his expressive language skills. It doesn’t require any special materials, and teaches you how to make an activity you already do – reading to your child – into an activity that boosts your child’s expressive language skills.

After a week or two, you’ll see major improvement in your child’s ability to understand and think critically when reading a book.

Here’s what you do:

Days 1 -2: Teach your child to use the pictures to understand the story.

On the first 2 days you’ll be reading your child’s favorite book, but with a twist. First, ask your child to tell you the name of the book. That’s an easy one, of course. Next, have them show you where on the front cover it says the name of the book. If they don’t know, point it out, being particular to read and point to each word separately.

This teaches them important information about how to read a book, but they will also learn to recognize the words. Do the same thing with the name of the author. You can also show them that inside the book it says the name of the book, and the author.

As you go through the book, there are 2 types of questions you’ll be asking: questions about the pictures, or questions about what’s written. As you flip through the pages, ask your child to tell you a little bit about the pictures.

What does she think is happening? How does she know? Ask her to tell you what she sees in the picture makes her think that – a happy face, scary pictures, etc. Guide her through the pictures first, helping her to use the pictures to predict what the story will be about.

Days 3-4: Help your child notice words and think critically about what she hears.

As you go through the book, you are going to draw your child’s attention to two aspects of the text: the words themselves, and what is being said.

When you talk about the words themselves, you’ll point out things like whether one word rhymes with another, or you might explain what a new word means. For example, in Where the Wild Things Are, the word mischief is introduced.

You can see if your child can guess what it means, referring her to the pictures as a clue, and then ask her if there was ever a time when she made mischief of one kind or another.

When you focus on what is actually being said, you’re looking at the bigger picture. For example, in Where the Wild Things Are, you can ask your child, “Why did Max’s mother call him a wild thing? Why was he lonely? Did he really go to another place?”

You can also extend this even further, asking your child what they do if they feel like making mischief – how do they handle it? Do they sometimes feel lonely?

Of course you don’t need to do all of this at once. Take your time to introduce ideas as you go through the book several times, each time deepening the level of the questions you ask your child. Your child will have gained valuable thinking skills that are critical to being a good reader – all in the space of a few bedtime readings.

TIP: Check out this post to find out how you can use wordless picture books to improve your child's expressive language skills.

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Language Development

Improve Your Child’s Expressive Language through Video Games – Language Development

Is your child struggling to make himself understood?

If your child has an expressive language disorder, you know how frustrating it can be. I know there were times when one of my children was desperate to tell me about something important in school, but just wasn't able to get his point across clearly.

He felt badly because he really wanted my advice about what to do, and I felt badly because I wanted to help him but didn't have enough info to help him.

Most of the exercises for helping your child speak better are artificial and just not fun.

If you've ever had to sit through the typical exercises given for helping your child's expressive language skills, you know they can get pretty boring.

Often you have to ask your child to state the correct word (fill in the blank), answer questions, or something other school like activity. And after a whole day of school, which was probably not the easiest experience for your child to begin with.

Let's just say that most parents and kids lose their enthusiasm real quick.

On top of everything, those exercises feel artificial. Real life is more spontaneous, and full of more social interaction than a fill in the blank. You just can't imagine  how it'll all transfer over to real-life.

Creating a game guide of his favorite video game will help your child speak better.

Talk to your child about his favorite video game, on the other hand, and watch instantly as his eyes light up, his voice becomes more animated - he's psyched and ready to go on for days.

They're a subject he has extensive experience with (so he's an expert- a great ego boost), and is enthusiastic about. Plus he gets to create a useful product for others to learn from: that makes him a winner, "cool."

At the same time, your child will be polishing his sequencing skills, improving his sentence structure, learning how to paraphrase, as well as a host of other skills. Ready to dive in?

How to Play:

1) Explain to your child that they are going to create a game guide for other kids on how to play their favorite video game. Younger children might choose to make a basic guide, while older children and teenagers can choose to make a walkthrough, or an “expert” or guru guide.

2) Let your child decide what format her presentation will be in. She can choose to make a video, a podcast, or a PowerPoint presentation. If she chooses to make a video, she can use a screen capture program such as Camtasia to record what is seen on the computer screen.

If your child chooses to make a podcast or other audio recording, there are many free programs she can use to audit their recording. Audacity is one such program that is both free and of high quality.

PowerPoint presentations can include screenshots (use the “print screen” button on your keyboard and crop out the unnecessary stuff), but you can also add music (try Musicloops for free music) to spice things up.

3) Help your child sketch out a basic outline for their presentation. Explain to them that in order to be effective, it minimally needs to include the following elements:

  • Goal of the game
  • Basic explanation of what you need to do on each level
  • Tips and hints

Have your child first create each section individually as a rough draft; they can put the parts together later.

4) Next, have your child turn on the video game. They will create material as they play, so they will have a better idea of what they need to write. If they can’t pause the game after each level, then let them play the game once through and then write material for each section immediately afterwards.

Younger children might need you to help them: ask them questions about the game, and write down their answers (if they have difficulty writing) or give them time to write the answers on their own.

5) Help your child revise and edit each section. Don’t worry about spelling or punctuation; let spell check do that for your child. You are more concerned with your child’s ability to give over information in a clear, fairly concise manner.

That means your child should make sure that someone who is a complete newbie to the game should be able to understand their guide. Encourage them to show it to a family member or a friend (if they’re feeling brave) who is not familiar with the game, explaining that this is what everyone who creates a how-to guide does before they publish their work.

6) Create the final product. If your child is making a PPT presentation, she can write everything out on slides, taking screenshots when necessary. She should first write it out, taking the screenshots afterwards; she might need your help with this, as it requires quick hands and some pasting and cropping.

If your child is creating a video, he now has a good idea of a script. He needn’t memorize it; since he’s written it and he’s of course familiar with the game, it merely acts as a prompt for him to ensure he’s said everything he should say.

7)  Share it with the world. The best part of creating this guide is sharing it with other game fans. Your child can post it on gamer sites, or he can upload it to the following free sites:

  • Video: Your child can upload to just YouTube, or he can use TubeMogul or Traffic Geyser to upload the video to multiple sites.
    • PowerPoint Presentation: Your child can submit their PPT to these sites for free:   Slideshare, Slideboom, Authorstream, and Slideburner. You can also easily turn their PPT into a PDF using PrimoPDF, which is free. You can then submit the PDF version to these sites: Calameo, Butterfly, Yudu , Esnips, and Scribd.
  • Podcast or audio presentation: Submit to these sites for free: podcast.com, iTunes, dayo, and podcastalley.
  • Written report: Since your child’s report will be very similar to a step-by-step tutorial, your child can submit it to these sites for free:  e-how.com, tutorialized.com, Good-Tutorials.com, and Designm.ag.

Whichever site your child chooses to submit their guide, they can use Pingler and SocialMarker to submit the URL of their product to dozens of social bookmarking sites. Both are free and will help their guide get noticed, hopefully sending traffic from other like-minded gamers.

Most importantly, your child will be on their way to improving their expressive language skills, all in a fun and novel way.

If you liked this post, why not like it on Facebook? Better yet, why not tell me what you think in the comments below?

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Language Development

Language Development: 6 Reasons Why Your Child Should Believe in Monsters

What, you can’t imagine why looking under the bed for that elusive hairy monster with beady black eyes could be a good thing?

Actually, being able to imagine things –even unpleasant ones- is critical to your child’s development. Here’s why:

1) Being able to picture things in his mind is the first step towards abstract thinking.

When your child brandishes a stick and calls it a sword, it shows he can use one object to represent another. That means he will be able to conceptualize something that isn’t right in front of him. He’s no longer limited to the here and now. He is now the shaper of his future.

2) Imagination helps children realize that there are consequences to their behavior.

Everything that we do has a consequence. Consequences, however, are not necessarily negative; they simply mean that when you do one thing, something else happens.

As a baby your child learned that when they cried, you came. They also learned that when they shook a rattle, it made a noise, or when they kicked their feet, their body moved. As a children get older, they can use their imagination to picture their behavior, and to imagine the response that takes place.  That allows them to experiment with things in their mind without actually having to carry out the act.

Instead of grabbing her favorite toy from her little sister’s hands, your child can now anticipate that a crying sister means an unhappy mom. Translation: I’d better find a different way of getting my toy back.

3) Pretending lets children have in fantasy what they can’t have in reality.

We can’t always have what we want, nor is it always best to. Your child can enjoy the fun of sleeping out in the wilds of Africa, going to the ball in a pumpkin coach, or experience what it’s like having a friend who knows exactly what you like.

4) Play can help your child express his feelings safely.

Most parents know that children’s emotions show up in their play.

You don’t, however, need to be a play therapist in order for your child to benefit from expressing her feelings through play. Ever put a child in time-out, only to see your child putting their beloved bear in time-out also?

You can use that opportunity to help your child understand her feelings about being disciplined with a simple, “Oh, so your bear had a hard time listening today?” Or, you can just watch and enjoy the show;  either way, your child has an opportunity to express how she feels without criticism.

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Language Development

Cat Got Your Child’s Tongue? 4 Tips on How to Improve Your Child’s Expressive Language Skills (Language Development)

The strong and silent type may be appealing in Hollywood, but when you’re faced with a child who has weak language development, the stark reality of spending days and weeks waiting for your child to reveal even the most uninteresting bits of their day quickly intrudes.

You’ve probably noticed how children with weak expressive language skills seem to bounce back and forth between two extremes: in the morning for example, you can spend a half hour trying to keep up with your youngster’s almost frantic chatter - only to find that nothing of real substance was actually said. Upon arrival from school, you then spend another half hour wishing you had trained with the FBI on information gathering techniques: your child’s mouth is closed as tight as a drum.

There are however, several tips you can use that will not only get your child talking, but help your child talk meaningfully:

1) Introduce a little variety.

Repeating the same things over and over again, whether in play or speech, is actually quite common in children with weak language development. By doing so your child creates a little island of safety that he controls.

You can gently encourage your child to break out of his routine by introducing something new into the script.

For example, if your child insists on telling you exactly what he ate, and in what amounts, every day after school, throw in a friendly, “I hear the elephant on the menu is real popular.” If your child simply ignores you, don’t give up. Simply repeat, “Did you have any?” with a smile on your face.

Don’t worry if your child waves you off with a “Dad I’m trying to tell you something.” What you’re looking for is a response (preferably related) to what you’ve said. The more your child is able to respond to your words or gestures, the more they will build their ability to communicate effectively.

2) Help your child be a problem solver.

Perhaps you tend to try and make things as easy as you can for your child; after all, they have so much else to deal with, why make it harder?

But this is exactly what you shouldn’t do. Not to be mean of course, but you need to push your child a little bit, every once a while, instead of just going along with whatever your child does. In doing so, you create a problem that forces him to take the next step, rather than just repeating the previous one.

3) Introduce new sensory experiences.

Remember how kids used to dive in a wading pool of slime and flounder monster-sized pot of spaghetti on Nickelodeon? While no one’s suggesting you recreate Prince Spaghetti day in your backyard, it does help if you try to bring in the sensory or motor processing skills that are difficult for your child.

You can introduce arm chair adventurists to textures or movements they would normally resist simply by allowing a doll or play figure to act as a substitute. This allows your child a non-threatening way to experience something they would never consider (at least while you watch).

4) Don't just comment on what your child does - help him extend the conversation.

Next time, instead of nodding absent-mindedly while your child tells you about the exploits of Dora the Explorer (for the 34th time), answer. But not with long-winded soliloquies, or with trite little remarks like, “You’re making a nuclear bomb to destroy the world? Why how lovely.”

Your child doesn’t need you to agree with them. Instead, extend what they are saying, but be sure to use simple words or phrases. For example, if your 3 year old –who usually speaks 2 or 3 words at a time - crashes his plane into the living room couch, remark, “Boom! Plane broken.”

The key to helping your child open up is engage, engage, engage. No one likes to be talked over, down to, or bugged to death. So keep things friendly.

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Language Development

3 Tips on How to Help Your Child Make Friends

Listening to reports of your child being made fun of, picked on, or quietly ignored, is difficult for even the most stoic of parents. Childhood friendships, though they may seem simple to adults, are as full of intrigue and drama as a daytime soap opera: one day the girl next door is your daughter’s best friend, while the next day she is her worst enemy.

Most parents, however, can console themselves with the knowledge that those bumps are only temporary.

However, if your child has trouble making and keeping friends, watching your child navigate the waters at the playground or local schoolyard can be devastating. You want your child to be successful and to be happy, and you’d do anything to help them. But making and keeping friends is something that unfortunately, you have very little control of.

Or do you?

Children with LD tend to be unaware of how their actions affect others.

Joining in a group of other children is something that occurs dozens of times a day. Waiting at the bus stop for the school bus, walking through the schoolyard on the way into school, joining a game during recess – these are all common pitfalls that many children face, and fail.

Many children with language development weaknesses or ADHD tend to barge into group, without taking note of what effect their arrival has on the group. In addition, they tend to respond to anxiety and fear with a need to control the situation. So they might try and control the situation by introducing a new topic suddenly, not letting others have their say, or talking about subjects that are uninteresting for the rest of the group.

Teach your child how to join a group of children successfully.

You can help your child make a tremendous leap in her social skills simply by teaching her to “stop and look” before she enters a group. Explain to her that before she joins a group of children, she should stop and look to see what they’re doing. Do they look like they wouldn’t mind if someone else joined their group? Or do they look like they want privacy?

Teach her how to recognize the nonverbal body language that shows whether or not they’d be welcome. Then practice with her at home, using role-playing to help her get the idea of things. You can also decide together on a special word or signal that you can give her that will let her know when she needs to step back and take a better look at things.

Learn from the popular kids.

Studies show that the most popular children join a group unobtrusively, then look to see how they can help. If children are at the beach busy building a monster sand castle, they’ll be the ones offering to bring more water – usually a job no one wants to do, but a necessary one.

Asking if they can help, and giving a suggestion as to what they’d be willing to do, are both subtle, but very powerful ways of being socially successful. Asking to help before you barge in shows that you recognize they are in charge, and states that you’re not interested in grabbing power for yourself.

Offering a specific type of help, especially one that no one really wants, demonstrates that you’re truly willing to help out the group for the sake of the group itself, and not because you want all the glory.

Have your child practice being a “helper.”

Next time you go to the park or other public place with your child, have your child sit with you and look at the various groups around them. Help her examine the nonverbal cues of each group, and ask her to guess whether or not the group would mind if someone joins them.

Next, encourage her to describe to you what they’re doing, and give an example of how they could be a helper.

If your child has siblings, you can practice this skill at home with her sisters and brothers. If not, then perhaps you can make a playdate with the children of a good friend or family member. If you can, try letting your child practice these skills with children who are a year or two younger.

These three skills are part of the foundation of building friendships. Practicing them regularly with your child will give them a much better chance at making and keeping friends.

 

 

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Language Development

Expressive Language: Why Your Child Doesn’t Ask Why

So you've managed to improve your child’s expressive language skills. They can converse with people outside of your family.

They understand that conversation is a back and forth process, with one person asking, while the other answers.

And yet, you find that your child’s speech is curiously flat. After careful consideration, you realize that they still don’t ask “why.” If you have other children, you can’t but help but be struck by the difference: on the one hand, a child as young as two will ask over and over again, “Why Mommy?” On the other hand, your language-delayed child seems to be content with things as they are.

You know she’s intelligent, so what gives?

The answer lies in your child’s inability to understand.

Understanding something is not an either/or situation.

Most of us think of understanding as either/or: either you understand something, or you don’t. In reality, being able to understand something is much more complex than that. Understanding is something that takes place on different levels, over a period of time. It changes constantly as we use what we already know about something in order to interpret and gain insights about something new.

Furthermore, your child’s ability to understand depends on what kind of material they’re being asked to understand (visual, auditory, etc.) how much they need to understand at once, and whether children are capable of self-evaluating their understanding.

Here are some common reasons that affect your child’s ability to understand:

Weak language development

Even though your child might seem to be better at speaking, there are numerous levels of language that your child needs to be good at in order to communicate effectively.

Many children’s language development looks a lot like a mine field in a third world country: some safe areas, with lots of areas that may or may not be okay. For example, your child might seem fine in everyday conversation, but his knowledge of words and their meanings could hamper how much he understands things at home and at school.

Another child might seem fine at home in all areas, but the special vocabulary that school requires might not be in his repertoire.

Your child needs to be proficient in language at the word, sentence, and paragraph level. They also need to have the ability to reflect on how language works, and be able to apply language in social situations.

Incomplete concept formation

A concept is basically a bunch of specific ideas that can be grouped together to form a general idea. For example, if I want to understand what a car is, I would have to take into account the specific features that make a car what it is – and not a helicopter, raft, or ice floe. Here’s an example of the beginnings of a concept map for a car:


Now of course there’s a lot more you could add to this concept map (and not being a car fanatic I’m sure you could correct me on a few points :), but you get the idea.

Being able to hold in mind a concept leaves you free to consider the bigger picture, instead of holding on to thousands of details. Some children, however, have trouble seeing the big picture, even though they have all the details. They can’t intuit a concept from the bits and pieces that they have.

Slow data processing

Ever tried to work on a computer that was functioning slowly for some reason? It may have been a good computer- even a newer model – but for reasons unknown seemed to take forever to process the most basic of things.

Some children, though intelligent, are a little like that. They need more time than most people, whether at home or at school, realize. Perhaps they think things through more thoroughly, or on a deeper level. Regardless of the reason, they’ll get there if you’ll just give them the time.

Unfortunately, with our fast-paced life, these children don’t often get the time they need in order to get to the finish line. They may appear bewildered and confused: they were still processing the first half of what you (or the teacher) said, but you’ve already sped along to the conclusion.

Small chunk size capacity

Some children can only process a certain amount of material at a time. While their friends and classmates are busy swallowing whole bucket loads of information, they’re daintily nibbling on a bowlful. As time goes on, children are expected to handle larger and larger amounts of information at a time, these children often fall behind.

 

Too creative, or too intent on playing by the rules

Being creative can be a boon in a lot of ways. Interpreting a picture, giving your opinion about why a character acted as they did, or composing a dramatic first-person story are all examples where creativity is especially valued.

Sometimes, however, children are expected to stick “to the facts, and nothing but the facts.” A child who is too much of a “top-down processor,” or who interprets information largely upon how they think or feel, might have trouble knowing when to elaborate, and when to play by the rules.

The opposite can also occur: children who are so black and white, so intent on staying between the lines, that they fail when they need to give their own original input. These children are called “bottom- down processors.” They do great on math tests, fill in the blank, or other clear cut situations, but fail miserably in situations that aren’t clear cut, require brainstorming, essays, or original stories.

These are just some of the reasons why your child has trouble asking why questions. I’ll admit, it’s a little complicated. But before you start hopping off to spend a lot of money on social stories books, reading comprehension series, or other materials, you need to pinpoint why your child is having the trouble they're having.

It’s a lot like taking an aspirin for a severe stomach ache: it might be indigestion, and it might not be. Wouldn’t you rather get to the bottom of things before you go under the knife?

 

Questions? Comments? I'd love to hear from you - share your thoughts below!

 

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Language Development

A Developmental Checklist: Language Development

It can be pretty frustrated trying to get a clear picture of what’s wrong with your child. Even after you get a diagnosis, you may still be confused about exactly how to help your child. Unfortunately, I find that many professionals focus on your child’s diagnosis, rather than the whole child.

Not only is this annoying, but it’s harmful too, since sometimes people get stuck on how most kids with your child’s diagnosis are supposed to act. I’ve even heard some people say things like “but do you think kids with (fill in the blank) can really do that?” Uggh!

I prefer to look instead at the individual child: what are this child’s strengths and weaknesses? I usually spend about an hour observing the child, across a variety of situations: in a group, during a structured period (arts and crafts time, for example), and unstructured time (free play inside and outside).

Some of the things I watch out for are how they react to stress, to disappointment, and how they interact with other children and the adults around them. I also look to see if they seem generally happy and confident, or if they seem discouraged, and don’t seem to persist when they want to get something. After the observation I do a more formalized assessment of them that takes about a half of an hour.

As a parent, you already know more about your child than anyone else. You possess an intimate knowledge of your child across time and a variety of situations. That’s why I’ve provided a detailed assessment for you to use in order to get a picture of your child’s level of development.

While an assessment is not an evaluation, it is a good tool for flagging potential problem areas, and for getting a clearer picture of your child’s strengths and weaknesses. I especially like this one because it’s a developmental checklist-which means that you can use the information and build a detailed learning program for your child.

There are already numerous hands-on learning games on this site that will help you do that, but I’ll be adding more as time goes on, as well as structuring the material so that you’ll know which games to work on first.

I recommend filling out this assessment together with another family member who knows your child well. You can also give a copy to your child’s teacher or caregiver. Also, don’t feel as if you need to fill it all out at once: some parents prefer to look at the questionnaire, choose a few questions, observe their child, and then move on to the next few question.

Language Developmental Checklist

Leave me a question below in the comments section if you have any questions about how to do this, or about the results of the assessment.

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