Early language development – how to support your child

Early language development – how to support your child

Language Building Skills Language Development Reading

Literacy (reading) skills are important for a child’s early language development, social communication, and academic success. Before a child can pick up a book and decode the words on a page into something meaningful, they must first develop an understanding of what written language is and how it is used throughout their environment. Logos, signs, and labels may be teaching your child how to read without you even realizing it. Preschoolers also learn early concepts of literacy by watching their caregivers interact with written language. These first steps in learning to read are called emergent literacy skills. While you may already be teaching these skills in your day to day life, here are some other ways we can support literacy.

One important skill for early language development literacy is understanding that sounds can be manipulated in order to become words, which is known as phonological awareness. You can support your preschooler’s phonological awareness by talking about and teaching different speech sounds during shared reading activities.

Another skill that helps support reading is print awareness. When children  demonstrate they understand the logos, signs, and labels in their environment have meaning, they are showing  they have print awareness. Print awareness also involves holding a book upright and knowing that the words on the page tell a story. Even before they are able to read the words, encouraging your child to follow the words with their finger from left to right while  reading to them will support print awareness. It is also beneficial to discuss the physical parts of the book, who is the author and who is the illustrator.

Alphabet knowledge, or the understanding that letters represent sounds and letters can be grouped together to become words, is another skill that we can teach while reading together. There are many children’s books about the alphabet, but you can identify individual letters anywhere and talk about the sound that it makes.

Finally, oral language skills are needed for early language development and reading comprehension. Everytime you engage in conversation with your little ones, you are modeling oral language skills. Teaching new vocabulary is essential for oral language and early reading because while reading teaches vocabulary, some word knowledge is needed in the earliest stages of literacy.

Reading is a valuable skill to have throughout a child’s life that encourages children academically, socially, and creatively.  Children who learn to read early on are often more successful than their peers, and reading is also a source of knowledge. Reading also exposes children to new words and language uses. Books teach children about emotions and individual points of view. Appreciation of others thoughts and feelings will help children communicate and build relationships with peers. Of course, reading is also enjoyable and amplifies creativity.

Baby talk: does it help or hurt how your baby learns language?

Baby talk: does it help or hurt how your baby learns language?

Language Building Skills Language Development Parents' Corner

Often referred to as ‘baby talk’, Motherese (or Parentese or Fatherese) is a term used to describe the quality of speech caregivers often use when speaking to a newborn child. Using a higher pitch, more exaggerated articulation, and great facial expressions, we seem to naturally talk in this manner to babies.

Many have debated the importance or hindrance that use of baby talk has on a child’s speech and language development. Some parents believe that baby talk is an important first step in teaching a child to talk and some believe that using baby talk limits a child’s language comprehension. Researchers have conducted studies to find an answer. While modeling adult language is beneficial to a child’s speech and language development, baby talk has withstood the test of time and been a useful tool in creating a bond between an infant and their parent. This attachment helps a child learn to develop relationships with others throughout life. Babies from many different cultures around the world, speaking many different languages have shown interest in this quality of speech as it grabs their attention. This type of interaction can also give an infant their first experience with social cues such as turn taking and eye contact, and speech sounds.

Within the first days of life, a baby’s brain has remarkable neuroplasticity, meaning they can create new neural connections quickly and absorb new information like a sponge. As they experience their first sights, smells, and sounds, they make many first impressions that are everlasting. Studies have shown that babies often learn to recognize and prefer the sound of their caretaker’s voice. Although researchers have not been able to identify whether it’s more beneficial to use adult speech right from the start, use of brain scanning technology has allowed us to see the reactions infants have to adults using baby talk in their native language as well as foreign languages. This TED talk by Patricia Kuhl discusses one of these studies.

Remember- there is no clearly defined right or wrong style of parenting or teaching. If you are a new parent, no matter how you choose to speak to your child, just make sure you do it! Even when you are not speaking directly to an infant, they’re constantly taking in information and making connections. Whether by choice or instinct, if you do use motherese with your child, it is recommended that this type of speech be weaned off as the child reaches toddlerhood and begins develop speech and language skills.

More resources to check out:

ASHA: How Babies Form Foundations for Language 

TED: The Surprisingly Logical Minds of Babies

Photo credit: www.prettymomguide.com

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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