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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
Now that the weather has warmed up, you and your children may be eager to get outside and enjoy what the city has to offer. During these outings, you can encourage carry-over of your child’s specific speech and language goals (e.g., expanding vocabulary, formulating sentences, describing interesting objects, retelling events, answering questions, practicing words with certain speech sounds) while having fun with the family!
- For an outing just beyond your front door, take a nature walk with your child and discuss what you see. Take notice of plants growing, bugs crawling, birds chirping, and animal tracks.
- It’s always fun and free to visit Lincoln Park Zoo. Go on Wednesdays and Fridays for free sing-alongs with Mr. Singer.
- Take advantage of free museum days for Illinois residents. Check out Sue the T. Rex at the Field Museum, the mirror maze at MSI or the underwater critters at Shedd for free!
- Visit Old Town School of Folk Music on Saturdays to take part in group singing and instrument-playing. You don’t need to be enrolled in a class to join the fun!
- Kids can learn about animals and pretend to be a variety of forest creatures at Animal Secrets at Kohl Children’s Museum.
- Troll Hunt opens May 1st at Morton Arboretum. Families can watch the giant wood trolls being built for two weeks on the arboretum grounds before they’re finished on June 22.
On May 12, a 7,500-square-foot Model Railroad Garden opens at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
These are just some of the ideas, compiled from https://www.mommynearest.com/edition/chicago/article/50-free-things-to-do-with-kids-in-chicago.