Encourage Curiosity

 

Research has explored the connection between a child’s level of curiosity and their academic success. Researchers from University of Michigan’s Mott Children’s Hospital and the Center for Human Growth and Development found that kindergarteners who were described as curious demonstrated increased success in reading and math. This supports the need to encourage children to be curious about the world around them. There are many things you can do as a parent to cultivate curiosity in your child. The best place to start is to find something that is of interest to your child. Then, provide ways to explore and learn more about this topic. If your child shows an interest in building with blocks/Legos, you can find books that explain how buildings are constructed. You can also look for “blueprints” your child can follow to build a specific structure. While your child is engaged in these activities, you can highlight new vocabulary words, focus on following directions, have your child summarize what they learned, and work on problem solving skills. You will be promoting their curiosity and targeting speech and language skills all while engaging in an activity your child enjoys.

 

Curiosity Associated with Higher Academic Achievement, The ASHA Leader, July 2018, Vol. 23, 14. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB4.23072018.14. https://leader.pubs.asha.org/article.aspx?articleid=2687285

Vocabulary Development

Studies show that there are more words in the English Language than could ever be directly taught in a lifetime. Research shows that typically developing kids by age 12 have 50,000 words in their expressive vocabulary. The vocabulary that kids don’t learn at school, they learn in other environments. Research shows that most vocabulary is actually acquired incidentally through indirect exposure rather than direct instruction.

A research study appearing in the ASHA Journal suggests that the size of a child’s oral vocabulary at 2 years of age can be a leading predictor of their readiness for kindergarten and beyond. These findings propose that the vocabulary kids have in early life facilitates what they achieve in later life.

What is vocabulary?

Vocabulary is an umbrella term for words we have heard, words we have seen in print, words we understand, and words we use verbally. It is often said that a person’s vocabulary is never complete; it is always evolving, expanding, and deepening and is very much a by-product of lifelong learning. Developing a child’s vocabulary involves more than just use of a dictionary. Many different strategies and approaches for vocabulary development can be implemented from the comfort of your own home and in other natural environments!

Tips for parents-Developing vocabulary at home:

1. Provide language rich opportunities for learning (kids who have more opportunities to learn naturally have larger vocabularies than kids who have limited experiences. Language-rich opportunities to do as a family could include: going outdoors, taking a trip, going to a museum, building, cooking, playing a sport, attending a performance, etc.)

2. Make screen time educational (the use of technology for educational purposes is endless! Bridging technology with educational purposes ensures kids are using screen time appropriately and meaningfully. Encourage your child to listen to audio books, play word games, solve word puzzles, and watch educational videos.)

3. Label objects in your home and community (verbal or written labels can increase the frequency at which children hear and see new vocabulary concepts in the world around them.)

4. Engage in interactive reading experiences (whether you read to them, they read to you, or you read together, research shows that vocabulary instruction and reading go hand in hand. Children’s books often contain twice as many rarely used words as conversations do. ” Research shows that the best readers read most and the worst readers read least. Encouraging your child to be an avid reader is one of the best gifts you can give for ensuring they have academic success.

5. Apply your child’s interests to teaching moments (when children like what they are learning about, they will want to do more learning. Take your child’s interests of a certain topic and expand upon them by teaching them new words and concepts that relate and further their understanding!)

6. Review school work (children need multiple opportunities and repeated exposure to develop long term memory of concepts and terms they are learning. Reference your child’s spelling lists, school books, and homework to make the connections between what they are learning in school.)

7. Think big picture (as a parent, modeling diverse vocabulary for your child is key! Focus on more than common nouns by discussing lesser known verbs, adjectives, and adverbs to help their inventory of vocabulary grow.)

8. Engage in meaningful conversation.(research shows that parents who are stressed, overburdened, less engaged, may talk, read, and otherwise interact with their children less frequently, resulting in their children acquiring smaller oral vocabularies. Talking to your kids in even the smallest ways can help their word knowledge expand.

9. Teach word learning strategies (making word associations (synonyms/antonyms), analyzing word parts (root words, prefixes, suffixes), and emphasizing different parts of speech can teach kids how to infer the meaning of unknown words on their own. )

10. Make learning visual: (draw pictures for your kids to teach the meaning of words. Having a visual reference like a picture or drawing can help kids make connections between what they hear and see and can help them establish a memory of words. A picture or drawing can provide background knowledge to fall back when they need reminders of word meaning.)

 

References:

ASHA Leader, “There’s a Book for That!”-Shari Robertson, PhD, CCC-SLP December 2017

ASHA Leader, “Big Vocabularies in 2-Year-Olds May Predict Kindergarten Success.”-January 2016

https://www.speechandlanguagekids.com/vocabulary-resource-page/

Headphone Use Linked to Hearing Loss in Children

A recent study found that children who listen to audio via headphones have a significantly higher risk of noise-induced hearing loss compared to children who do not. As children begin to use technology more frequently (e.g. games on phones, tablets, video games, etc.), they may want to use headphones in order to play independently. However, it was found that children who use headphones were twice as likely to have hearing loss compared to children who did not use headphones at all, noting the significance of noise exposure at a young age. The study indicated that limiting the amount of time using headphones and lowering the volume may only eliminate the risk marginally. Noise-related hearing loss presents itself as muffled sounds or distant ringing in the ears. These symptoms may be temporary, however, can become more permanent with repeated exposure to noise.

Parents should try to encourage children to listen to audio without headphones by including siblings in a shared activity or by eliminating background noise so that the child can hear their activity without headphones. Checking in with your child to avoid a high volume may also be beneficial. Limiting a child’s screen time may support a decreased use of headphones overall!

 

Reference: bit.ly/port-music

Early ear infections and speech and language development

Ear infections are one of the most common illnesses in young children. Otitis media (OME) is the term for inflammation and fluid build-up within the middle ear. The accumulation of fluid causes the bones in the middle ear to not function properly and conduct sound effectively. Research indicates that OME poses disadvantages on hearing sensitivity and speech perception in children (Cai and McPherson, 2017). Speech sounds that are most affected by mild hearing loss are those high frequency sounds S, F, or SH. For more moderate hearing loss, a child may not be able to hear additional speech sounds or word-endings. It is important to identify and treat ear infections in young children to reduce these lapses in hearing sensitivity.

Your child may not be able to tell you his or her ear hurts, so it’s important to know the signs and symptoms (American Speech and Hearing Association):

  • tugging or pulling at his or her ear
  • fluid draining from his or her ear
  • crying more than usual
  • not responding to sounds
  • fever
  • trouble sleeping

If the cause of the ear infection is unknown, the doctor may decide to monitor the infection for 2-3 days to see if the fluid will drain on its own. Antibiotics can be prescribed for bacterial infections. For repeated ear infections or middle ear fluid that will not go away, it may be necessary for an ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT) to place a tube in the child’s eardrum that will allow for fluid drainage.

If your child’s hearing is compromised by an infection, it is important to facilitate communication by getting your child’s attention beforehand, speaking at eye level, reducing background noise (e.g., TV, music, talking) and using gestures and signs to enhance communication.

 

 

Communication Development and Screen Time

Technology is a part of our everyday lives. It is important to set boundaries and limits to children’s screen time so that their communication skills do not fall behind. In a poll of Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologist, the biggest concerns with children’s frequent screen time use include fewer opportunities for social interactions, delays in social development, delays in speech and/or language skills, and academic challenges. These concerns are present because children have fewer opportunities to hear language modeled by parents/peers and to practice their language, articulation, and social skills. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has established screen time guidelines to help parents balance technology and real-world experiences. They recommend no screen time (video chatting excluded) for the first 18 months, joint screen time of learning programs for children 18-24 months of age, 1 hour per day of learning program screen time for children 2-5 years of age, and to set up family guidelines for children 6 years and older that detail the amount and type of screen time allowed per day. In addition, the AAP recommends designating screen free zones and times. Here are a few screen-free activities to do with your child to encourage speech and language skills: go to the library and pick out books to read together, find a recipe your child can help you make, complete an art or science project together, or go to the park. By doing these types of screen-free activities, child will be learning and practicing important language and social skills.

https://leader.pubs.asha.org/article.aspx?articleid=2687251

https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Announces-New-Recommendations-for-Childrens-Media-Use.aspx

Oral Language and Narrative Development

 

As early as 2 and 3 years old, typically developing children begin producing narratives about what they see and do in their everyday life. As development continues, these narratives begin to include stories about the past, present, and future. Narrative language abilities are a foundational skill to higher level language such as analyzing, retelling, summarizing, and explaining written text. A deficit in narrative language production can affect a child’s academic performance and social skill abilities.

It is important that children utilize story grammar elements when developing narrative language skills, which act as a “cognitive map” to support the comprehension and production of narratives. Many kids who struggle to produce or comprehend narratives greatly benefit from visual supports (pictures, illustrations of a sequence of events) in order to teach story elements. Books, shared experiences, and videos can also be used to facilitate narrative language productions by emphasizing characters, setting, problem, solution, and other various story events. Many Speech-Language Pathologists use a variety of tools to supplement narrative development including topic boards, augmentative and alternative communication devices, sequencing pictures, and modeling.

Using picture sequences of a child performing a preferred activity is a great way to include sequential narratives into a daily routine. Once a child is accurately producing personal narratives, the focus can shift to summarizing and retelling stories from books.

 

https://blog.asha.org/2018/07/05/strategies-for-expanding-oral-language-and-narrative-development/

Making Speech and Language Homework Fun

It can be difficult to get your child to practice their speech homework at home. There are some ways to make their homework a little more fun and motivating. You can turn their homework into a search and find game. Make binoculars out of a paper towel roll and have your child search for their speech sounds or vocabulary words. When they spot one of their words, they have to tell you what they found. This game can be used with any speech and language homework your child has. This is just one way to make practicing speech and language at home a little more fun.

Leis, Kelly. Let’s Go on a Word Safari. The ASHA Leader, July 2018, Vol. 23, 6. doi:10.1044/leader.GL.23072018.6.

https://leader.pubs.asha.org/article.aspx?articleid=2687267

Tongue Thrust – What is it?

Tongue thrust also referred to as a “reverse swallow” is a common orofacial myofunctional disorder. It is a pattern where the tongue protrudes between the teeth while eating, speaking, or at rest.

Causes

There are many possible causes of tongue thrust including:

  • Oral habits – thumb/finger sucking, extended pacifier use, etc.
  • Respiratory issues – enlarged tonsils/adenoids, allergies, mouth breathing, etc.
  • Premature loss of baby teeth which allows the tongue to move forward into the spaces created by missing teeth
  • Difficulty with tongue coordination
  • Heredity

Effects of Tongue Thrust

Over time, a tongue thrust can affect your child’s speech and the alignment of their teeth. When the tongue continually presses against the teeth, it can push the teeth out of alignment requiring orthodontics. After orthodontics, if the tongue thrust is not corrected, it can push the teeth out of alignment again. It also can affect a child’s speech. The most common articulation errors are “s,” “z,” “j,” “ch,” and “sh.”

Diagnoses and Treatment

A speech-language pathologist may diagnose tongue thrust after evaluating the child for speech sound errors. If the child does not display any speech sound errors, the diagnoses may come from a dentist or orthodontist.

Treatment will depend on the child’s individual needs. The SLP may refer to other professionals to correct any additional needs that may be underlying or contributing to the tongue thrust pattern. Generally, treatment focuses on eliminating any negative oral habits, learning a new habitual rest posture, establishing a new swallow pattern, and correcting any speech sound production errors.

References:

https://blog.asha.org/2011/02/25/tongue-thrust-and-treatment-of-subsequent-articulation-disorders/

https://pammarshalla.com/frontal-lisp-and-reverse-swallow/

https://www.speechbuddy.com/blog/speech-therapy-techniques/what-is-tongue-thrust/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping Your Voice Healthy

Voice is so important to our ability to communicate and express ourselves. Many people don’t realize that there are behaviors that can help or hurt normal vocal functioning. The National Institute of Health provide a list of helpful vocal hygiene tips to prevent voice problems:

o   Drink water: The vocal folds move best when the body is well-hydrated,

o   Limit caffeine: Caffeine is drying to the entire body. Cutting back on these drinks can help keep your vocal folds hydrated.

o   Don’t overuse your voice:Doing a lot of talking, especially in noisy situations (sporting events, restaurants, bars, parties, social gatherings, industrial settings) can be tiring for your vocal folds. Give yourself voice breaks or moments when you don’t use your voice for a while to let your voice rest.

o   Avoid extremes: Try not to use extremes of your vocal range, such as screaming or whispering. Both can put stress on your voice.

o   Avoid throat-clearing: Throat clearing and coughing are traumatic to the vocal folds and can contribute to a vocal injury.

o   Use a humidifier: This is particularly important for the winter months when the air is dry. Generally inhaling or breathing steam helps the voice box stay moist and can be very soothing to irritated vocal folds.

o   Practice good breathing: Take deep breaths from the chest to support talking or singing. Don’t rely on the throat alone to avoid straining the voice.

o   Consider the effects of medication: Many medications, such as cold and allergy medications, are drying to the body. Try to avoid these medications to help your body stay hydrated or drink extra water while taking them.

https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/taking-care-your-voice

Communicative Gestures Used as a Predictor for Later Language

A variety of gestures have been shown to be a predictor for later language development in children with autism, children with Down Syndrome, and typically developing children. Gestures are described as actions produced with the intent to communicate and are usually expressed using the fingers, hands, arms, and facial features. Early use of gestures has been linked to increased language production, language comprehension, and object naming. A child’s joint attention skills, such as giving or showing objects may also predict later language skills. Lack of joint attention behaviors between the ages of 2 and 3 years old may be an indication of developmental deficits.

The frequency of gesture use as a form of intentional communication is an important factor when identifying children with communication deficits. Typically developing children use gestures to communicate about one time per minute by 12-months, 18-month-olds about two times per minute, and 24-month-olds about five times per minute. The amount of gestures used by infants is related to later verbal development.

Playing familiar games, singing songs, and performing routines can encourage children to utilize gestures as a form of early communication. Songs such as “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” or using hand gestures to signal bubbles popping can become interactive opportunities for children. Communicative gestures in these familiar contexts can later be generalized to new contexts.