Monday, October 20, 2008

I've been silent long enough...

I'm baaaacckkk!!!

So it's been almost 6 months since my last post, but i've decided to pick up this project up again. Who knows how frequently i will post or how long i will keep it up this time, but we'll give it a go.

I want to pick up where i left off with a post from early April:

Basically I explained the "how" (gestures, sounds, words) and "why" (refuse, request, comment) children communicate. Then I described the different types of communicators (discoverers, communicators, first word users, combiners).

So go back to that post if you want and read the specifics.

If you want help in deciding which stage your child is currently here is a more thorough description of each. Each stage is listed with the expressive skills first and then the receptive skills. Think about which item describes your child. It may be "always", "often", "rarely" or "never" true of how your child understands and communicates. When you've gone through the descriptions look at the highest stage for both expresion and understanding where you have listed at least 3 "always" or "often". Your child may not be in the same level of understanding as he is in expression. That's okay!

-cries or fusses when he is sleepy, hungry or uncomfortable
-has different cries for different needs
-makes sounds when spoken to or smiled at
-makes vowel sounds "ah", "uh", "eh"
-makes consonant sounds "buh", "guh", "ma"
-imitates some sounds he hears
-imitates simple actions--banging on the high chair
-closes his eyes or turns away when he doesn't want something
-reaches towards items of interest
-looks at you when you talk or sing to him
-recognizes familiar voices
-turns his head toward sounds he hears
-recognizes a few gestures--"up" or "no"

-takes me by the hand towards an object he wants
-draws my attention (by giving, showing or pointing) to items of interest
-imitates actions such as clapping
-uses a few gestures, shaking head for no or waving goodbye
-makes sounds that resemble words
-imitates sounds
-uses jargon (strings of sounds together that sound like speech)
-understands familiar words in routine situations ("bye bye" or "up")
-understands names of familiar objects
-responds to simple questions ("where is your teddy bear") by moving to the object, looking at it, or pointing to it
-can follow simple commands ("wave bye bye")
-understands the meaning of "no"

First Word Users
-uses at least 3 words (or signs or points to pictures) to communicate
-uses more gestures or sounds than he used to
-imitates sounds (animal sounds) and words
-uses between 10 to 25 words or signs
-points to familiar body parts and objects
-follows simple instructions even without your gestures
-can answer yes-or-no questions
-responds to questions like "where's the cup?"
-understands the names of many familiar objects, people and animals

-combines 2 words or signs together, as in "want juice" or "no bed"
-uses at least 50 words
-asks questions using a rising tone ("mommy sleep?")
-asks questions that start with "what" and "where", like "what's that?"
-combines 3 words together, "want more juice" or "me no hat"
-refers to himself by name
-can answer questions like "what do you wear on your feet?"
-understands questions that start with "who", "who is at the door?"
-understands the concepts: in, on, under, big, little
-can sort objects by category: animals vs food
-listens to simple stories

**This information comes from the book "It Takes Two to Talk" by Jan Pepper & Elaine Weitzman (The Hanen Program).

Monday, May 5, 2008

When is "wabbit" no longer cute?

For a mom when a child says "wabbit" for "rabbit" it may be endearing (for me it's when my son says "sowwy" for "sorry" cute!). However, when sound substitutions affect intelligibility and the child is too old to be making such errors it may be time for speech-language therapy.

Some speech sounds are mastered earlier than others. So if a 2 year old is not producing "r" or "th" I'm not as concerned as if the same were true of a 9 year old.

There is usually a range from when sounds emerge to when they are mastered. Also children vary from one another on when they master sounds.

Here is the list of sounds and the ranges of development:

"p", "m", "h", "n", "w"= 90% of children produce these sounds by age 3

"b", "k", "g", "d" = 90% of children produce these sounds by age 4

"f", "y" = 50% of kids start to have these sounds at 2 1/2 years and 90% by 4 years

"t" "ng" = 50% of kids start to use these sounds at 2 years and 90% by 6 years

"r", "l" = 50% of kids start to use these sounds at 3 years and 90% by 6 years

"s" = 50% start to use this sound at 3 years and 90% by 8 years

"ch", "sh" =50% start to use these sounds at 3 1/2 years and 90% by 7 years

"z" = 50% start to use this sound at 3 1/2 and 90% by 8 years

"j" = 50% start at 4 years and 90% by 7 years

"v" = 50% start at 4 years and 90% by 8 years

voiceless "th" ("bath") = 50% start at 4 1/2 years and 90% by 7 years

voiced "th" ("bathe") = 50% start at 5 years and 90% by 8 years

"zh" ("measure") = 50% start at 6 years and 90% by 8 years

more on this topic to follow...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Baby Sign

The poll results are in! Baby sign is the topic of choice!

So let's hit the "hot button" questions first...

Does teaching sign language to your baby delay verbal speech? NO!

In my previous experience working with children who were deaf and then received cochlear implants, I learned that once a child can use verbal language they drop the sign language.

The same is true for infants/toddlers. Infants are cognitively able to communicate before their mouth is able to produce speech. The mouth and oral language is a much more complex process motorically than using your hands to communicate. So have children use their hands to communicate until their mouths are able to produce speech. Once a child can produce a word they will probably verbalize in conjunction with signing and then eventually stop doing the sign all together.

My theory is that you should "tap" into a child's developing language system while they are young through the use of sign language. By doing so, when verbal language is fully developed they will have a richer language system b/c of having used sign language.

The key is also the model the parents give...whenever i sign with my children I ALWAYS say the word at the same time. Example: "are you all done?" (do sign for "all done").

So the child is getting the verbal language and the sign language together.

When should I start using sign language with my child?

Just like any language reception precedes expression. Most likely a child won't start using sign language until he is 10-11 months old. However, i recommend using sign language as early as you long as you can handle months of modeling signs before you get the feedback of your child using a sign back to you.

For example, I used the sign for "water" almost every time I was holding Quade as a baby and getting a glass of water. His first sign he used was "water". But I started to get frustrated wondering if he would ever use sign language. So if you don't think you can keep using the sign then wait to start signs until your child is 6 months.

How do I teach my child sign language?

1) Limit the number of signs you model to 5 or 6 signs. Such as: "milk", "all done", "diaper", "eat", "sleep", "please" & "thank you"
2) Use the signs whenever you say the word in context (during mealtimes use "eat" & "all done")
3) make sure your child is looking at you when you say the word & do the sign.
4) Use simplified verbal language when using the sign
5) Highlight the signed word by making it louder, longer, & repeat the word and sign.

What if my child can't make the sign exactly like the official American Sign Language?

That's totally fine. Just like children use verbal approximations for words ("mama" for "mommy"; "ba" for "ball"), children use motor approximations for signs (clapping hands together for "more").

What's the best book/program to use?

I don't have a single program/book i like best. I would say get a book or video that shows you the signs so you know them REALLY well and will use them consistently and frequently. Then follow my tips above.

Let me know if you have any more baby sign questions.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Baby Talk

I want to take a break from the "play" topic to discuss the topic of "baby talk".

So often you hear that you should not use "baby talk" with your infant, but what does that mean exactly?

If you define "baby talk" as "cootchee cootche coo". Then you should not only talk to your baby in "baby talk".

However, researchers have found that babies respond to "motherese". Motherese is when you use the same words you would use with an adult but with exaggerated intonation patterns and stress.

Example: "Hello baby! Are you eating your toes? yummy toes!" (imagine a sweet mom talking to her baby emphasizing key words and using rising intonation at the end of phrases, etc).

I also think that it's appropriate for moms to "babble" occassionally to imitate their babies' babble. I discussed this in an earlier post, stating that before your child can imitate you, model imitation by imitating their speech attempts. Watch his face light up when he realizes that you heard him!

Play: Nine to Twelve Months

Active time! This is typically the age group in which mobility takes top priority, whether it's crawling, cruising or walking.

Nine to Twelve Months:

Rock-a-stack/stacking rings--this is a classic, made in lots of versions...most famous by Fisher Price. You can work on LOTS of concepts with this toy and for a long time
Motion concepts:
-Pulling the rings 'off' will happen before being able to put them back 'on'
Color concepts:
-talking about colors will only be an introduction at this age...use the color names any way b/c remember it takes hearing a word 1,000 of times before he understands or uses a word
-when he is a lot older you can "test" to see if they know the colors ("hand me the red ring")
Size concepts:
-not ready for this yet, but later you can talk about "smallest" and "bigger", "largest", etc

Bead Frame--you've probably seen these in doctor's offices...curvy, metal frame with beads on them that the child can move up and around.
-works on eye-hand coordination
-when older works on color recognition, math concepts (counting the beads) and lots of opportunities for language (especially if you get the one with beads in the shape of transportation vehicles

Books--of course books should be in the discussion on play
-at this age they will love to listen to you read any book--the intonation of your voice is teaching them an important aspect of social language.
-for more interactive book reading get books that have textures or mirrors or flaps to lift.

stacking cups--use these in the kitchens while you have to get some cooking done
-she could even use your plastic bowls that nest in each other or stack tupperware or measuring cups.

Developmental milestones: By the end of the first year your child should have at least one word; respond to 'yes/no' questions; nod head for 'yes'; stop action when they hear "no"; respond to his/her name; and wave 'bye bye'.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Play: Six to Nine Months

I am most interested in this post b/c my little guy is right smack in the middle of this age range...

Six to Nine Months:

Your child will be able to do more at this age b/c if he has no physical limitations he will be albe to sit alone for long periods of time, giving him a new perspective of the world and allowing him to use his hands to interact with objects and you!

(if your child can't yet sit up by himself use a highchair or the new bumbo seats to give him the same experience of sitting up and not having to use his hands to hold him up).

This is a good age to remind you to talk about what you are doing with and for him..."hmmm, looks like you need your diaper changed. should we get a new one? okay, let's go." He'll enjoying hearing your voice and begin to understand what you're saying before he starts to say intelligible words.


soft blocks--your child at this age may be able to stack 2 or 3 blocks (according to the book)
-you can work on 'up' and 'down' (i've heard though that with opposites you should only work on one at a work on 'up' and then when the child has it work on 'down')

Where's the Cheerio-- babies at this age love disappearing games (object permanence is emerging)
-for this game use plastic cups that you can't see through
-put a cheerio (or puff) under a cup...start with one cup, then add a 2nd and even a 3rd...let him watch you put the cheerio under the cup. then ask "where is the cheerio? Where did it go?" He will lift the cup and look for the cheerio.

magnets on a cookie sheet-- find interesting fridge magnets (animals, foods, etc) and get out a cookie sheet...use the magnets to teach vocab:
"I have a dog here. Look, I can put it on the cookie sheet and it sticks there. It's a magnet dog. Now what's this? A cat--can you stick the cat to the cookie sheet? Good job--you did it. Let's see what this one is. Oh, it's a little mouse. Let's stick that to the cookie sheet also. " (the book recommends then asking the child to hand you the different animals but i think that this is too much to ask for this age group).

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Play: Three to Six Months

From "The New Language of Toys"...

Three to Six Months:

Yea! you made it! your baby is probably on some kind of routine by now and your life is starting to settle down. He will be more interested in playing starting at this age.

Language Activities:
1) Imitate your baby:
your baby may not be able to imitate you, but YOU can imitate HIM! This is my favorite thing to do with infants...say back what they say to you. coo back at her...she'll start to wait for you to do your silly sound then she will do hers.
-it's the start of imitation and turn-taking which is essential for language learning.
2) Give babble meaning
**Reinforce accidental combination of sounds...attribute meaning to her babbling.
-Example...she babbles "mamamamama"; you jump in with "you're right, here's mama. Mama. I'm your mama" which she may respond with "tata" encouraged her to vocalize, she's playing with sounds and she's listening to what you're saying.

1) Mirrors
-they love to focus on faces...what better face than her own or yours
-point out body parts "Hi there.look at you in the mirror. i can see your nose. right there. where are your eyes? those are your eyes..."
2) Ball bounce
-attach a light weight ball (like a beach ball) to a slinky using a plastic coat twist tie and suspend it from a hook in the ceiling (when you're not around you should not leave the ball suspended).
-demonstrate to your baby how ball moves when you hit it with your hands
-encourage him to reach out and bat the ball with his hands or feet (you can help him)
-he learns cause and effect and language to go along with the activity