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.
Research has shown that children given phonological awareness instruction in their first year of school have increased literacy skills. This was shown to be true for children with and without language disorders. After 10 weeks of phonological awareness instruction, these 5-year old children demonstrated greater gains in phonological awareness, reading, and spelling tasks compared to 5-year-olds that only received phonics-based literacy instruction. This study found that only 6% of the children who received phonological awareness instruction continued to demonstrate decoding difficulties. In contrast, 26% of the children who received phonics-based literacy instruction continued to have difficulty decoding following the 10 weeks of instruction. This research highlights the importance of understanding the sounds associated with letters and words for reading success.
Classroom Phonological Awareness Instruction Improved Literacy Outcomes. The ASHA Leader, August 2013, Vol. 18, 36. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB1.18082013.36.
Do SLPs work on reading comprehension?
Yes, SLPs are responsible for oral language (comprehension and expression) and literacy (reading, writing, and spelling). We can offer relevant skills for reading comprehension because we have knowledge of language subsystems (syntax, semantics, morphology, pragmatics) and development. SLPs understand how oral language skills transfer to reading.
What is reading comprehension?
Reading comprehension is a complex and active process where the reader applies meaning to what they read.
What skills are involved in reading comprehension?
- Background/world knowledge
- Word/vocabulary knowledge
What strategies can help develop reading comprehension abilities?
There are many evidenced-based strategies that can support children with reading comprehension difficulties. The type of text (narrative or expository) can influence which type of strategies to use, as well as, the area of deficit.
- Active-prior/background knowledge – making connections between existing knowledge and new information. Use a Know/Want to Know/Learned (KWL) organizer which helps children think about their own experiences and make relevant connections to new information.
- Questioning answering – teaches children to ask questions about the text prior to reading and answer them after reading.
- Comprehension monitoring – Used with expository texts primarily. Helps children determine if they are/are not understanding the text. When children are not understanding, they need to utilize “fix up” strategies. The therapist models the process, teaches the child to look back in the text, re-read, question answering, and look up words.
- Mental Image/Visualize – In this technique you ask the reader build images in their mind of the text.
- Story/text structure – This strategy can be used with both expository and narrative story structure but the way it is taught differs.
o Expository – helps kids look for the language used in different expository text structures (sequence, compare/contrast, problem solving, procedural, enumeration, classification).
o Narrative – teaching kids to look for the setting, characters, problem, and solution.
Many young children go through a stage between the ages of 2-5 years when they may exhibit some stuttering. The first signs of stuttering tend to appear when a child is about18-24 months old as there is a burst in vocabulary and kids are starting to put words together to form longer utterances. In many cases, stuttering goes away on its own by age 5; in others, it lasts longer. Whether or not your child exhibits stuttering behaviors, here are some great tips to think about when you’re talking with him/her.
1. Speak in an unhurried way, pausing frequently. Model slow, relaxed speech for your child.
2. Reduce the number of questions you ask. Try commenting on what your child has said.
3. Use your facial expressions and other body language to show that you are listening.
4. Set aside a few minutes at a regular time each day when you can give your undivided attention to your child. During this time, let the child choose and direct you in activities.
5. Help family members learn to take turns talking and listening. Decrease interruptions!
6. Observe the way you interact with your child. Try to increase those times that give your child the message that you are listening to him/her and he/she has plenty of time to talk. Try to decrease criticisms, rapid speech patterns, interruptions, and questions.
7. Above all, convey that you accept your child as he/she is. This support is so important!