In my early intervention practice, many of my clients struggle with eye contact. There are many ways to help children improve this skill. The most important step is to be on the same level as your child so that they can be comfortable and feel less pressure. I will hold up preferred toys or items to my eyes to get the child to look at my eyes. Wearing play glasses can also help as it draws the child’s attention to my eyes. When a child wants something, he or she must look me in the eyes before getting it. Even if the eye contact lasts for less than a second the child receives what they want so that they learn that eye contact is important.
The Hanen Program offers programs for parents and professionals to play and communicate better with their children. Programs focus on children with language delays, children with Autism, or children with Asperger Syndrome. Speech-Language Pathologists are trained by the The Hanen Program and then work with families to teach them new skills and methods to work with their children. Their website has a great deal of information and can serve as a great resource. If you are already receiving Early Intervention services and feel The Hanen Program could be appropriate for your family, tell your service provider and he or she can help you find a provider.
This time of year, many of my families use the Elf on the Shelf to help with behavior and as part of their general Christmas celebration. You can use the elf as a way to encourage speech and practice pretend play. You can have your child make food for the elf, make it a little house, or even have your child put the elf to bed each night. Have your child tell the elf what he or she did during the day to practice recall as well as new words and sentence structure. If you’re one of the creative parents who put the elf in all sorts of silly situations, ask your child to describe what they see! Have fun with it and enjoy your holiday.
Hands and Voices is a great organization in Colorado for children with hearing loss and their families. They offer information regarding preschool transition, state laws regarding special education, and activities in the area. This is a great website to utilize and signing up to receive further information will connect you with resources specific to your area.
On December 2 at 6:30 pm, Children’s Hospital in Wheat Ridge will have a parenting class discussing newborns and basic care. They will cover topics such as eating and sleeping habits. Be sure to visit the Children’s Hospital website for further information and to reserve a spot!
To learn new vocabulary in American Sign Language, I recommend the website ASL Nook to families. They have short videos with themes, such as Disney in ASL or Sea Animals in ASL which are great resources when taking trips or learning specific topics in school. Children uses signs in the videos so that parents can see how small hands may make some of the signs. You can subscribe to the site and receive e-mail updates of new videos.
A study in the June 11, 2014 issue of the Journal of Children and Media reported that having the TV on while playing with children can negatively impact their language development. When the television was on during play time, parents used significantly less words and phrases. Even if the family was not actively watching the TV, just having it on in the background influenced parent-child interactions.
In my early intervention practice, I often discuss TV time with families. I have seen the speech and language skills of children increase significantly when parents reduce the amount of time children are exposed to the television during the day. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV or screen time for children aged 24 months or younger. This can be difficult with all of the television programs and electronic games available for families, but the priority for parents should be their child’s development.
Most children begin sharing with their caregivers when they are between 9-12 months of age. They begin taking turns with peers around 24-30 months and sharing between 36-42 months.
When you have siblings at home or your child often plays with others, however, it can be frustrating to watch them struggle with learning to share and take turns. A beginning skill to work on is trading toys. That way, your child still has to give their toy away but still gets a toy. Another method is to take turns with puzzles and toys such as Mr. Potato Head so that that there is a visual end to the activity. Giving your child the final turn allows them a feeling of accomplishment. I do this often during my sessions with my speech therapy clients and have had great success.
Children with sensory impairment can sometimes be overwhelmed by both visual and auditory input. This can limit their ability to enjoy activities that other children participate in, such as a trip to the Denver Children’s Museum. In order to help children with sensory impairment, the museum will be hosting free low-sensory mornings on September 6 and November 8. They will limit the ambient noise and attendance. For more information, visit their Low-Sensory Morning information page.
The Wow! World of Wonder Children’s Museum in located in Lafayette, CO and has wonderful exhibits and activities for families and children to enjoy together. I recommend the Language and Movement class, which teaches early learning skills through multiple senses. It’s also a great opportunity for children to practice their social skills in a comfortable environment. Wow! changes their exhibits every once in awhile, so keep an eye out for new learning opportunities throughout the year.
Ear Community is a non-profit organization serving children and their families who were born with hearing loss due to Microtia and Atresia, Hemifacial Microsomia, Treacher Collins Syndrome, and Goldenhar Syndrome. They provide information about each of these syndromes, as well as different levels of hearing loss. Ear Community has a local chapter, The Microtia and Atresia Support Group. In my early intervention practice, I share this information with my clients who have hearing loss or one of these disorders.
On June 12, 2014, the Colorado Children’s Hospital will be hosting an event to help parents with potty training. The seminar will run from 6:45 – 8:15 pm and be held at the Denver Zoo’s Norgren Hall. Potty training is difficult for many parents and the experts at Children’s Hospital are a great resource. Please follow this link to learn more and register.
May 11th is Mother’s Day and many families ask me for speech related activities they can do as part of the celebration. My favorite is to have your child practice writing their name on a card. Also, drawing lines and circles is a necessary skill for preschoolers so you could also focus on trying to draw a portrait of Mom for the big day.
Have a wonderful Mother’s Day!
Our ears are very sensitive and contain the smallest bones in the body. Prolonged exposure to loud noise or exposure to a short intense sound, such as firecrackers, can damage hearing. It is important to begin protecting your child’s hearing when they’re young and to teach them how to protect their hearing as they get older. Hearing protection, such as earplugs and earmuffs, should be used during extended loud activities such as on airplanes, at concerts, and riding motorcycles.
Some loud toys can also impact hearing. Every November, the Sight and Hearing Association posts a list of toys that could negatively impact your child’s hearing. Be sure to check this before shopping for the holidays!
In general, sounds louder than 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. The Center for Hearing and Communication has a fact sheet that explains common environmental noise levels, so use this as a guide for when to utilize ear plugs and ear muffs.
As an early intervention speech language pathologist, I utilize sign language with many of my clients. Research shows that babies with normal hearing who were exposed to sign language demonstrated a four year old speaking level at the age of three. For children with speech and language delays, sign language may help them begin to gain the communication skills necessary to reach their typical developmental levels. Sign language sparks the language part of the brain and demonstrates to children that they can use words and language to get their needs met and express emotions. Over time, most children begin using speech instead of signs because speech is more functional outside of the home. If you’re considering using signs with your child, please see the Further Information page on this site for links to excellent resources.
In my early intervention practice, many of my clients struggle with their vocabulary development. Instead of using words to ask for what they want, children will grunt or say “uh” while pointing to request. This can be frustrating for both the child and their parents so I instruct families to name what a child points to and encourage the child to use the word. Using this method helps children gain the new vocabulary words as well as teaching them to use words when requesting.
A BBC news article recently highlighted the benefits of early intervention speech therapy. Research published in the Journal of Neuroscience studied the importance of language intervention between the ages of two and four since the brain is most elastic and has a greater capacity for positive response to speech therapy.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recently began a new campaign called Identify the Signs. The organization developed a website with information for families and caregivers to learn more about the signs for a speech and language delay as well as steps to take towards gaining help. Early intervention is a wonderful service for children identified as needing help with their development and Identify the Signs helps educate people about all of their options.
In early intervention, I encourage parents to participate in as many library activities as possible and to read books with their children. Children with speech-language developmental delays benefit greatly from exposure to books.
The Boulder county library system offers story times and suggested book lists. The librarians in the children’s section are helpful and friendly, answering almost any question. Computers are available for library patrons to use and the libraries have areas for children to play and become comfortable in the library. I suggest enjoying the library as often as possible!
Most children gain sounds in their speech in a typical sequence. There are also typical errors that we expect children to make as they develop their speech, though we expect these errors to resolve as a child ages.
Until the age of three, typically developing children may do the following:
- Repeat the initial syllable of a word twice, such as “baba” for “bottle.”
- Substitute the sounds /t/ and /d/ for the sounds /g/ and /k/. For example, they may say “tat” for “cat” or “dot” for “got.”
- A consonant in a word may influence another, such as saying “beb” for “bed.”
- Leave off the last consonant, including “co” for “coat” or “ba” for “bat.”
- Delete the unstressed syllable in a multi-syllable word, such as “mic-phone” for “microphone.”
Until the age of seven, a child may produce the following errors:
- Deleting a consonant in a cluster, such as “boo” for “blue” or “fas” for “fast.”
- Substituting /w/ for /l/ and /r/, such as “wight” for “light.”
- Replacing consonants with vowels, including “boyd” for “bird.”
- Inserting or misplacing vowels in words, such as “taruck” for “truck.”
- Substituting /t/ for /s/, /ch/, /f/, and /sh/, for example “bot” for “boss.”
If these mispronunciations continue past the typical age limits, a speech-language pathologist may be required to treat these articulation errors.