Bilingual Households and Speech Delays in Children

Bilingual Households and Speech Delays in Children

Language Development Parents' Corner Speech delay

Does growing up in a bilingual household create speech delays in children? The answer in the short term appears to be yes. Over the long term, however, children from bilingual homes tend to bounce back and may even derive special advantages from growing up in a household where both English and another language are spoken.

Tips For Raising a Bilingual Child

The key to raising a bilingual child is early exposure. The first few years of a child’s life represent the most rapid period in the growth of language pathways for speech development. Researchers say that a child’s brain in this critical period are like giant file cabinets that store up huge libraries of phonetic knowledge.

Scientists at Cornell University describe the acquisition of language as one of the greatest feats in human development. Their research indicates that an initial deficit in word learning or vocabulary was followed by “a fast pace of development,” ultimately reaching the same rate as children raised in monolingual homes. While many teachers and parents may be concerned that raising a child in a multilingual or bilingual household could be confusing, the scientific evidence indicates that bilingual children do not suffer from “language confusion, language delay or cognitive deficit.”

The Advantages of Raising a Bilingual Child

The cognitive advantages that your child will reap from bilingualism or multilingualism will likely aid his or her academic achievements later in life. In fact, far from causing problems in a child’s intellectual development, bilingual or multilingual kids enjoy special advantages over their monolingual peers, including easier access to other languages and cultures in ways that their peers often do not share. Moreover, exposure from birth to more than one language may yield the best results in achieving native-like proficiency.

Perhaps best of all, the children of bilingual or multilingual parents do not need to be “taught” a second language in order to get it right. Language learning is a complex process that children work through on a step-by-step basis, according to the sounds that they hear from their parents and overhear in other settings. So while exposure from birth to different languages is essential, moms and dads do not need to drill their children if they are developing normally. They can simply allow their kids to “discover” other languages on their own.

At the same time, however, parents can take concrete steps to facilitate multilanguage development that will enrich understanding and mastery, including:

  • Surrounding the child with conversations and social groups that utilize more than one language.
  • Exposing children to different languages through multilingual play groups.
  • Reading to and telling your child stories in different languages.

Another tip for parents raising the bilingual or multilingual child is for each parent to stick to his or her native tongue. This is known as the OPOL — “one parent, one language” — strategy for nurturing multilingual speech development. It’s based on the idea that kids will have an easier time if moms and dads consistently speak their own native tongues.

Of course, parents with children who have diagnosed language difficulties have special concerns regarding the effects of bilingualism. But research shows that, even among kids with language development challenges, it is possible for them to achieve bilingualism. According to one researcher, the evidence “suggests that…these children can acquire functional competence in two languages at the same time, within the limits of their impairment. Therefore, children with specific language impairment living in families where knowing two, or more, languages are useful and important, should be given every opportunity to acquire two languages.”

Parents who are unsure or have doubts should make sure that their children’s hearing has been tested; they should also consult an expert and remember that language development is a complex process that takes time and that some children will simply develop these skills at different rates.

Do Ear Infections Affect Speech Development?

Do Ear Infections Affect Speech Development?

Hearing and Speech Hearing Loss Language Development Speech and Hearing Disorders

Ear infections and speech development: good news for youngest kids, but parents still have plenty to fret about.

Although a new study published in Pediatrics shows a sharp decline in the rate of childhood ear infections among kids in the first year of life, there are still plenty of children (and parents) who have to struggle through an ailment that remains stubbornly common — and, if left untreated, ear infections affect speech, lead to hearing loss or an overall delay a child’s speech and language development.

Stine Jewett, a mother of two who lives with her husband near San Francisco, knows all about the trials that come with recurrent ear infections. Last year, her son, Thomas, developed an alarming streak of ear infections at the rate of one almost every other month. According to the meticulous records she kept of Thomas’s condition, Jewett says that her son suffered from five incidents of acute otitis media — the common ear infection — in less than one calendar year.

“It would always happen on the weekend,” Jewett recalled. “There would be no symptoms leading up to it and then, always early Saturday night, going to get the ear drops.”

At the beginning of this period, Jewett says that she and her husband had no idea what they were in for. Their other child, an elder daughter named Anna, had never come down with an ear infection in her entire life. Also, Thomas’s age made him a bit old to be so vulnerable to ear infections, not to say a long and — for his parents — bewildering series of them.

Stine Jewett and her son Thomas

Stine Jewett and her son Thomas

“Whenever I saw a runny nose, I would worry,” Jewett said. “What was most puzzling was that he didn’t start getting them until he was three. Most kids start getting them around one. He never had any until he was three, and so it was not a typical case. The doctors really didn’t have anything to say.”

And, after a while, Jewett ran out of patience with the antibiotic remedies that Thomas’s physicians were prescribing. After some initial reluctance, she opted for a procedure that involved putting her son under total anesthetic and inserting tubes in his ear canals, so that the middle part of that organ can drain the fluids that cause infections in the first place.

“I was hesitant,” she recalled. “I actually wanted to avoid [the tubes] for some reason. In surgery, they put him completely under so that he will lie still. But that’s only for children. An adult getting this would not be under. So that was scary. But what basically pushed me over was, ok, he’s on antibiotics again. Is he going to get resistant to antibiotics? What if he gets really, really sick. A friend who was an ENT was like, just do it. Now I wish we had done it sooner. Looking back, I feel bad that I thought he was just being difficult or grumpy.”

Ear Infections Affect Speech and Language Development

In the days just before his surgery, Thomas was tested by an audiologist who found enough congestion to account for low hearing loss in the boy’s left ear and moderate to severe hearing loss in his right. The severity of hearing loss can fluctuate, however, due to the varying levels of fluid build up, which can make it even more difficult for parents who are trying to figure out their child’s inflamed level of irritability or grouchiness. A person speaking in a clear, normal voice will sound like a whisper to a young child with enough congestion to block the normal passage of sound waves.

Building a Child’s Brain with the Thirty Million Words Initiative

Building a Child’s Brain with the Thirty Million Words Initiative

Language Development

Before children set foot in a classroom, their main source of knowledge comes from within the home. That’s why one of the philosophies of the Thirty Million Words Initiative (TMW) is “Parents are children’s first and most important teachers.” Many children will know how to say 100 words by the age of 21 months and will normally begin to string those words into short sentences. This is precisely why introducing vocabulary to your child early on is essential. Although it may just seem like baby talk, research has shown that parents who begin speaking to their children at an early age provide their child with a greater advantage later in life.

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New Language Development Research: Early Assessments Predict Future Academic Success

New Language Development Research: Early Assessments Predict Future Academic Success

Language Development News

A recent language development research study sought to understand whether children who were identified as having language challenges in preschool tended to have longer term academic difficulties. As you can see, from the very nature of what they were trying to investigate, this longitudinal study—spanning two decades—was the way to go. Research in the field of speech-language pathology deals with human behavior, which is extraordinarily complex. It can take years to be able to draw solid conclusions about the clinical effects of the work we do. What these authors found was surprising and has important implications for how we approach language challenges in preschool children. This study was just published by the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, and can be accessed in its entirety on their site. But I wanted to make sure that parents would have access to such important work, by describing it’s implications.

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Catching Early Signs of Speech Delay

Catching Early Signs of Speech Delay

Interviews Language Development

Parenting is no easy feat, many times with our ever busy lives, the convenience of websites like WebMD seem to be the go-to diagnostic center, rather than the traditional “trip to the doctor’s office.” Deciphering whether or not your child has a speech issue may not always be straightforward. I took the opportunity to sit down at Heights Pediatrics with Dr. Katerina Silverblatt, to address some of the most vital questions parents may ask themselves when it comes to discovering early signs of speech delay.

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6 First Chapter Books Your Kids Will Beg to Read

6 First Chapter Books Your Kids Will Beg to Read

Language Building Skills

The benefits of reading aloud are many: It’s an excellent way to build vocabulary and speech, which will set your child up for future successes in school and life. It encourages imagination. It’s practically free. And it’s incredibly entertaining. Before long you’ll be onto your first chapter books.

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What to Do If Your Family Has Been Denied Early Intervention Services

What to Do If Your Family Has Been Denied Early Intervention Services

Language Development State Resources

You, as a parent, know that your young child could use a boost in his or her language development, but your local Early Intervention (EI) program has deemed your child not sufficiently delayed to warrant funded therapy services. So what do you do now that you’ve been denied Early Intervention Services? This is an agonizing question to have to face. Unfortunately, as a consequence of the 2008-2009 financial crisis, many states sharply cut back on available funds for EI. I thought this was a terrible decision. What better investment in society is there than in the very young? And the research is strong and clear: intervening early in a child’s development can have an outsized impact on their overall development.

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Stuttering in Children and Toddlers

Stuttering in Children and Toddlers

Language Development Speech Therapy for Kids

I get this question very often in my private practice. Many parents have observed in their young children (birth to age 5) a difficulty in forming fully fluent sentences. The task of forming coherent, perfectly articulated, and fluent language is a tall task and one that can take the whole of childhood to master. So, in many cases, stuttering in children or a disruption in their fluent speech is perfectly normal and not something that would require the attention of a speech therapist. Because stuttering is by far the most common type of speech dysfluency, I will focus today’s post on stuttering. However, there are several factors that parents should consider when faced with speech dysfluencies. These factors can very quickly give you, the parent, an indication of whether you would need to consult with a local speech therapist.

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Fun Toddler Language Learning Activities

Fun Toddler Language Learning Activities

Language Building Skills Language Development

We often get the question posed to us, “how can I help my toddler to talk?” The short is answer is blunt and very obvious: talk to your child! That’s right, just make sure you are directly engaging your toddler in a wide variety of activities that are rich in language. At a high level, it really is that simple! This is a recommendation that is rooted in reams of research in the field of speech-language pathology and allied disciplines. However, just hearing from me, “talk to your child!” might leave you frustrated and wanting more: how do talk to my child? What are some fun toddler language learning activities that are best for this? This blog post is dedicated to providing some guidelines and tips for making this happen. It is one of the most important things you can do as parent of young child and it can have a positive impact on not only language development, but also on future academic potential and even on emotional development.

photo: Happy Kids and Orange Bird by Sam Howzit

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