A Little About Me and This Blog

I have been a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) since 1987. I am a member of the American Speech and Hearing Association. I have worked in the states of New York, Hawaii and Florida. I am currently in New York State. I have worked in settings that include public schools, special education preschools, hospitals, adult day treatment programs, home health rehabilitation, early intervention and preschool homebased therapy. I have provided evaluation and therapy to people ranging in age from 6 months to 100 years. I have worked with a wide range of conditions and treatments including fluency, aphasia, apraxia, voice disorders, dysphagia, cleft palate, hearing impairment, articulation delay, language delay, augmentative/alternative communication, autism, and many others through the years.
The purpose of this Blog is to share information and answer questions that you may have. I will strive to provide the correct information to the best of my professional knowledge. I may not share the same professional opinion as other licensed speech pathologists and I encourage second opinions if you want to be as informed as possible.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Techniques to Encourage Language Development

     If a child is not told the name of an object, he can not learn to say it. If an action is never labeled, a child can not follow a direction to do it. Think about what it would be like if you were suddenly placed in a foreign country with absolutely no idea of the language.  If people are constantly talking but not helping you learn to place meaning on words, you will not ever be able to understand or use their language.  It does not come naturally for all people to think of this with a baby or toddler.  All babies will naturally make sounds and try to communicate, but it takes specific methods of interaction to reinforce their attempts and encourage more from them.  Children can have delayed speech and language skills for many reasons.  Parents can help be sure that their child's  language environment is as rich as possible to avoid lack of stimulation as a reason for any delay. 

     Most parents use the following techniques while interacting with their babies and toddlers without realizing that what they are doing has a name.  Some of these techniques are indirect methods of stimulating language.  By indirect, I mean that there is no specific requesting of a response from the child. The parent or therapist will perform these methods in a natural way during the child's day.  Direct methods of encouraging language are requesting that the child try to imitate words and phrases or answer questions that we ask.  These are important to do in combination with the indirect methods in order to check for understanding and encourage the use of words that the children are learning. It is not always natural to focus on one of these methods at a time, use them together and in various combinations to provide the most well-rounded language stimulation experiences.


     Self Talk:  This  method is just what it says. YOU talk out loud about what YOU are seeing, doing, or hearing as you do it.  The child should be nearby or at least in hearing range when you are talking so that he can make connections between what you say and what is happening. Use single words and short simple phrases.  A running commentary of non-stop talking in long sentences will not provide the same effect. An example of a natural activity to use this method is folding laundry.  With the child playing nearby or involved in the activity, some of the self talk might go like this:  "Mommy's folding clothes....shirt....fold shirt...sock....one...two...two  socks."  "Big shirt...Daddy's shirt....fold Daddy's shirt." "Pants....blue pants...fold blue pants...." 

     Parallel Talk:  With this method, YOU talk out loud about what your CHILD is seeing, doing or hearing. A great way, but not the only way, to use this method is to sit near your child while he is playing with something.  In this example, a child is playing with a toy farm set. "Cow....cow eat....yum, yum, yum.....cow says moo...moo cow...uh-oh...cow fall down.  You picked cow up...walk, walk, walk..."   This parallel talk can happen throughout the day as the child is doing all activities:  "Roll ball...weee....get ball...you got ball....bounce, bounce...you gave Mommy ball..."

     Description: This method is partly used in the above methods as well.  This method uses words and statements to describe, label and explain objects.  This introduces adjectives in addition to the noun and verb labels you started with.  Examples are "Big ball"  "Hot coffee" "My blue shirt."  "The juice is cold."

     Repetition: To use this technique, your child must now be talking in single words and some phrases but will still have sounds that they can not say correctly.  Although it is developmentally expected that they will make errors on sounds, learning them is partly trial and error. If their productions are always accepted and never modeled differently, their brain will register this as being correct. With this method, you repeat what they say but produce your words with correct sound production as a model for them to hear how you say it.  Do not expect them to repeat yours back or correct it the next time they say it.  An example might be if he says "Boo Baw" you say "Blue ball"  just the way he said the phrase, but with a model of correct sound.  Another example of the child's phrase may be "mow gink" Repeat what he says correctly: "More drink."

     Expansion: With this technique, you repeat the child's phrase, but in an adult form.  This reinforces that you understand what they said, but it models the more advanced forms of their early language.  They may say "Moo eat." You would reply back "Yes, the cow is eating."  If your child says "Shoe"  You say "I'm putting your shoe on."

     Expansion Plus: This method uses the above Expansion method plus an additional comment that is related. Expand the child's sentence to an adult form, then add something that will enhance the meaning of this to add concepts to what they relate to this sentence.  An example would be if the child said  "Car go" You would say "Yes, the car goes. It's going fast."   Another example is if the child says "Go out." You could say "You are going outside.  We can play ball."

     Questioning:  Ask you child questions such as "What's this?" "What is the boy doing?" "Where's the ball?"  If the child is unable to answer or does not yet have the vocabulary to answer, you tell him the answer right away.  An example is :"What's this? (brief pause)  It's a monkey. Can you say monkey?" Try to encourage imitation of the answer in this method.  This method works well when looking at books with a child. Ask your child what people in the book are doing, ask where something is on the page for them to point to. Combine this method with the above methods to make looking at a book a great language enhancing activity.

     Imitation Requesting: If your child is in an imitation phase of language development, you will see more participation with this method.  If they are not yet imitating on a reqular basis, this method will help to encourage more imitation.  An example of this would be if the child says "more" but holds out cup instead of saying "drink"  You would say to him "Tell me more drink"  If the child has the ability to say drink and you have heard it before, it is fine to require that he say it before you give him the drink.  If he has not used it before, simply request it...model it and then provide drink.  

     Reinforcing:  One of the best ways to encourage children to communicate is to respond to their communication attempts. Reinforcement encourages a behavior to continue.Responding to their communication encourages them to do it more.  If a baby babbles you should babble and chat back to them.  If a child tries to tell you something, take the time to try to figure it out.  If a child is incorrect with speech or language production...model the correct form.  Be sure to acknowledge their communication attempts and  provide time for communication with them.

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