Category : Language Development

Language Development

Language Development: 6 Must-Know Tips on Helping the Child with Weak Expressive Language Skills

If you think that speech therapy is the only way to help the child with weak language development, think again. There are numerous reasons why you, as your child’s primary caretaker, are a great candidate for helping your child. First of all, your child spends a relatively limited time in therapy. And as a parent, you know your child inside out.

Second, you know that when your daughter shrugs her shoulders she’s feeling overwhelmed, and that “umba” is short for “I’m going bye-bye.”  You also know what motivates them, and you probably have a good idea when they’ve had enough.

Last of all:  you spend more time with your child, whether it’s in carpool on the way back from school, or waiting in line at the grocery store. And time, in the therapy game, is a deal maker.

If you’re feeling incapable of teaching your child on your own, then consider this: you’ve already taught your child some of the most difficult tasks he’ll ever accomplish. And look at it this way: helping your child learn to express himself beats cleaning up walls, toys, and the insides of shoes (she told you she didn’t like them, didn’t she?) smeared with poop ANY DAY.

Now for those six tips:

1) Encourage your child to elaborate.

Children with weak language development tend to speak in short, incomplete sentences. They don’t always express complete thoughts, either because it’s too difficult for them or because they assume you know what they’re talking about.

Instead of accepting this state of affairs, explain to your child what elaboration is, and why it’s important. When your child reverts to incomplete, cut-off, or non-sequitor sentences, follow up with an “I need you to explain that part to me a little bit more. What/Where/How did that happen?

2) Play 20 Questions.

You can play a new twist on this family favorite that will help your child learn how to describe objects in more detail. First, you choose something in the room. Then you start giving details about it, one detail at a time. After each detail given your child gets a chance to guess what you’re thinking of.

Because your child can look around in the room, it will be easier for her to guess what you’re referring to. And when it’s her turn to describe an object, she won’t have to rely on memory; she’ll have a visual stimulus right in front of her.

3) Discourage the use of words like “stuff” or “thing.”

Encourage your child to think of the word she really wants to say, rather than relying on these vague filler words. If he struggles with word retrieval issues, encourage him to give clues about what he’s referring to. For example, if he wants to say hot dog, he can say “you eat it on a bun. It’s long and thin.”

Once you guess what the word is, don’t automatically tell your child the word. Instead, just say the first few sounds or syllable, and let your child fill in the blank.

4) Be careful not to embarrass your child in public.

While improving your child’s speech is a noteworthy goal, not all places and times are ideal for doing so. Don’t ask your child to give long or complicated answers, if they’ll have trouble getting their thoughts together. If your son makes a grammatical error, don’t correct him in front of everyone; wait until you get home, and tell him there.

5) Make sure your child gets a chance to speak.

It’s easy to get in the habit of helping your child finish his sentences, or explaining what he means to other family members. But if you want your child to improve, you need to step back, and give him a chance to use the skills he is learning.

Also, if there are other children in the family who are very verbal, you will need to step in and ensure that your quieter child gets to have his say too.

6) Shut off TVs, DVDs, cell phones, and other gadgets during specific times of the day.

If you want your child to improve her expressive language skills, there has to be a time when meaningful conversation can take place. A conversation with your daughter with the TV in the background, cell phone in her hand and iPod in yours is bound to fail.

Furthermore, the “rules” of texting and chatting discourage lengthy conversations, and encourage poor grammatical usage.

So set a specific time of day for “unplugging.” Whether it’s at dinner, before bed, or after 10:00 in the evening, doing so will not only improve your child’s ability to talk, but will strengthen family ties as well.

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Language Development

Language Development: 10 Signs That Your Child May Have a Language Disorder

Ever have moments when every word that came out of your mouth sounded as if you had claimed citizenship on the planet Mongo?

Verbal bloopers like calling someone by the wrong name, or taking ten minutes to say what could be said in half the time, are fairly common occurrences, though embarrassing. Usually, most people write it off to tiredness, or stress. But imagine if you’re a child with weak language development: what would it be like to have a whole day filled with these kinds of verbal bloopers – and more?

The unfortunate truth is that your concept of how intelligent, personable, or successful a person is, is  based largely on how articulate they are. While we are willing to make some exceptions for the strong silent type, there is still an underlying prejudice that a person whose speech is not their strong suit isn’t quite “smart” or “with it” enough.

Children especially suffer from this perception. All day long they are forced to perform, whether it’s for teachers, classmates, or parents. They often don’t know when they’ll be tested – as when a teacher calls on them suddenly in class, or they have a limited time to gather their thoughts and come up with a reasonably articulate answer.

Further complicating things is that a child may understand you perfectly (receptive  language), and may even know the answer – but getting the answer out may be equivalent to getting out of the Mirkwood Forest unharmed.

Here is a list of 10 symptoms that point to the possibility of your child having a language output problem, also called an expressive language weakness:

1) Hesitation or labored speech. This is the most obvious of symptoms. Children speak using a lot of filler words (“Umm, well,”), and speaking is clearly hard work for them.

2) Take a long time to say very little. If you’ve ever heard someone take too long to get to the point of things, then you have an idea what this looks like. If your child has this problem, you may find yourself hurrying them along, or prompting them, in order to get to the main point.

3) No connecting words. When you speak, you use words like “and” or “then” or “next” in order to connect two different ideas. Children who have weak language output often leave these words out, making it hard to understand how their ideas fit together.

4) Using too many common words. Some children prefer to use very common words when they speak, even though you know they can understand words that are more complex. That’s because the words that are frequently used are easier to pull out of their mental word bank.

5) Difficulty clarifying or revising what they’ve said. This is a child who when asked to explain what they meant, seem to shut down. They understood what they said previously, but they find it hard to condense what was said, or say it in other words.

6) Have a hard time taking another person’s point of view. The child who has social difficulties often suffers from this. They may run up to a friend and start tickling them; it doesn’t occur to them that their friend might view this as an attack on their person. Or, they might say, “We’re going to Kim’s house today after school,” without taking into account that the listener may have no clue who Kim is.

7) Excessive grammatical errors. While some amount of grammatical mistakes might be expected due to a child’s age or environment, children with weak language development will make more mistakes than other children who are the same age and cultural background.

8) Overly simplistic speech. Children who display this symptom often sound as if they are writing a message for the telegraph company: they use far less words than would be expected, even if more are needed in order to understand what they’re saying.

9) “Dumbing down” their thoughts. If you’ve ever read an essay or report from a child that seemed far too simplistic for the child you know, then you’ve seen this action. This may be a child who has a wealth of complex thoughts and theories running through her head, but unfortunately is unable to bring out this treasure trove of ideas.

10) Their everyday speech is better than the more difficult language of schoolwork. It can be tempting to assume a child who is articulate with his peers and family doesn’t suffer from weak language development. However, the speech that we use everyday between friends and family is not the same as what we read in textbooks, newspapers, or other sources.

If you are unsure whether or not your child has any of these symptoms, choose a specific period of the day to observe them. For example, you could listen and observe your child for 2 or 3 days during carpool, or during dinner. Try to have at least 3 instances to choose from, just to ensure that the one day you choose to observe your child was the day they were out of sorts.

Stay tuned for the next post on how to handle weak language production at home-coming soon!

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Language Development

Weak Language Development and Tantrums-Helping Your Child to Calm Down On Their Own

Tantrums are par for the course for children, especially those with weak language development. Worse than dealing with a tantrum, however, is dealing with a child who just can't seem to calm down on their own.

Whether they are angry, tired, frustrated, or just plain having a bad day, children who have trouble calming themselves on their own get upset more easily - and unfortunately- stay upset for longer.

Some parenting experts suggest "letting them crying it out." But perhaps you tried that, with this disturbing result: a child who instead of settling down, ends up looking a lot like the Energizer bunny on an illegal substance.

Or perhaps you've tried running at the first moment your child shows signs of a tantrum, in hopes of heading her off at the pass. This may work, but after a little while your child seems to need you to comfort her for every little upset.

It’s actually not uncommon for children with delayed language development to have trouble calming down on their own. They don’t become attached to the traditional childhood “loveys,” and seem to be completely reliant on an adult to help pull them out of their hysteria.

In reality, what you need to do is help your child learn to calm themselves down on their own. This doesn't mean, of course, that you leave them to suffer on their own. Instead, it means helping your child learn how to draw from her own resources when she's upset.

That will give you a child who can help herself go to bed more easily in the middle of the night, who will handle separations more easily, and who will handle conflicts with other children more effectively.

The reason that children with language delays have trouble calming down on their own is because they have trouble visualizing things in their mind. When you say you're just going to the store, they have a hard time connecting the word "grocery store" with an image of the supermarket down the road.

So when you leave, they feel bewildered and upset; they can't imagine where your going, or when you'll be back.

Children with language delays also have trouble connecting two unrelated things together. You may find yourself telling your child dozens of times not to walk away from you at the mall, but they just don't get it - even when you tell them all the horrid things that could happen to them.

That's because they can't form a picture in their minds of being kidnapped or lost, nor can they connect that to their action of walking away from Mommy.

So what can you do to help your child –despite these difficulties- learn to calm themselves on their own? Here are 3 tips you can use to help decrease your child's tantrums and learn to calm down on their own:

1) Engage in pretend play with your child.

Pretend play gives your child plenty of practice in visualizing something that isn't right there in front of them. If your child is thirsty, offer him a play cup full of “juice.” When your child slides down a slide, pretend it’s a mountain. When your child is unhappy, have a puppet or a doll speak to him and ask him why he’s sad.

2) Give your child a lovey.
Give your child a doll or a stuffed animal. Choose one that isn’t hard to replace, just in case it gets lost. Pretend the doll is real: when your child eats, ask her if her doll is hungry too. Then pretend to feed the doll food.

When your child cries, go over to the doll and remark, “Oh, your doll (give it a name) is sad too! Is she sad because she hurt herself?” Then let your child help you put on a pretend band-aid.

Once your child begins to play with the doll on her own, you can start offering it to her when she needs comforting. Eventually she will choose the doll on her own.

3) Help your child express her feelings.

Next time your child starts to throw a fit because he can’t button his shirt, help him verbalize how he feels: “Can’t do it? Makes you mad?” Be sure to use very simple language. If your child speaks in 2-3 word sentences, then so should you.

If you regularly engage in pretend play with your child, you’ll soon find that not only will your child's imagination be stronger, but they'll be more successful in calming down on their own as well.

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Language Development

Language Development: Biting Toddlers-What to Do With the Child Who Bites

If you have a child who is a “biter” you know how embarrassing and frustrating it can be. Biting is upsetting to most adults – and children too- not just because it hurts, but because it seems to strike some sort of primitive chord deep within us.  Even though children thoroughly enjoy being chased and “eaten,” an actual bite is viewed as way out of bounds.

So what do you do if despite your best efforts, you find yourself with a biter on your hands?

First, you need to understand that biting is more common than you realize. Developmentally, toddlers and preschoolers often bite. There are several reasons for this. Some children, especially those who have language delays, have difficulty expressing what they want or how they feel. Biting, even though it’s an undesirable behavior, is supremely effective in getting your point across.

Other children may be better able to express their needs, but may still lack the ability to solve problems on their own. They can’t seem to manage the back and forth that problem-solving requires. Slowly their frustration builds, and then suddenly erupts-with a chomp on the unlucky child nearest them.

There are several things you can do in order to help your biter stop biting:

1) Keep things simple at playtime.

Don’t have your child play with too many children at once, or for too long. As the saying goes, better to leave the party while everyone is still happy to see you.

If your child can handle only 15 minutes before he lets his teeth do the talking, then leave after 10 minutes. Don’t worry, you won’t always have to cut things short, but right now you need to set up the situation so your child can succeed.

2) Give more adult supervision.

At school, one of the teachers (or a volunteer) can spend a day or two following your child around during peak times. When she sees your child about to bite, she can cup her hand under his chin, and remind him that no biting is allowed.

She can also help him express how he’s feeling, and suggest an alternate, more appropriate behavior for him instead.

At home, you can do the same thing. You can also teach your child the words he needs in order to make himself understood: “We DON”T bite. You need to say, “I want that toy too!”

Role play right then and there with your child what to do, making sure your child says the appropriate phrase right then and there. Remember, you can’t take away a behavior unless you have something else to replace it.

3) Don’t punish the child by washing out his mouth or giving him bitter substances to taste.

Your child isn’t biting because he’s choosing to; it’s something that he impulsively does because he lacks the tools to handle the situation better.

So washing out his mouth or giving him something unpleasant to taste won’t work, since in the heat of the moment he won’t remember about the punishment anyway.

4) Remember that this too shall pass.

Even though it may seem like forever, the vast majority of children – even those with language delays- will stop biting. Beware though: since development proceeds from top to bottom, you may find yourself with a child who hits, or a little later, kicks. But that’s another post.

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Language Development

Language Development: 3 Tips on How to Help Your Child Remember What He Learns In School

It’s common for children who have language delays to have memory issues as well. I remember sitting countless hours with my son going over material for school, only to find that by the next morning it was if we had never gone over the material. Unfortunately, there were always teachers who never really believed we had spent an entire evening trying to remember endless terms and facts.

In reality, trying to cram in a meaningless jumble of facts is an activity doomed to fail from the start. That’s because children with language delays are generally spatial thinkers: they need to see the big picture of whatever topic they are learning from the start, filling in the details afterwards. Unfortunately, often the exact opposite takes place: children are given a topic, then presented with numerous facts and details relating to that topic.

However, by capitalizing on your child’s strong visual skills and by organizing the material to be studied from general to specific, you can double or even triple the amount of material your child retains- and get it all done in a lot less time. Here are 7 tips on how exactly you can help your child remember more of what he learns in school:

1) Use diagrams to help your child see the big picture.

The key to making this work is to use more than one chart to illustrate key points. For example, if your child is learning about the desert, the first chart would only list main points like wildlife, plants, and weather.

Rather than filling in more specific points about wildlife, plants and weather on the same chart, you would save all that information for different charts. So the second chart would only list wildlife, but you would write the general categories that apply, like survival methods, food, etc. The third chart would also be on wildlife, and would go into even more detail.

You can also use the site classtools.net to make games, diagram, quizzes, and interactive activities that will also help you keep a reluctant learner engaged.

2) Use pictures to get the idea across.

There’s a reason for the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Instead of insisting that your child read over and over again a meaningless (to him) jumble of words, have him draw a picture of the key points instead. Click here for a good explanation (with pictures) of how to do this.

3) Review the material in shorter bursts, rather than one long marathon session.

Studies show that students remember material better if they learn for shorter periods of time, taking breaks between. You can help your child make that break time even more effective with vigorous exercise, which has been shown to dramatically increase the scores of students.

Even with all of your help, your child might still not do as well as he or she would like. Make sure your child understands that the best victory is with one’s self. If he can beat his best score, then he really is a winner.

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