Movement Can Help

Some children learn more easily if they move. Sometimes, sitting at a table and naming cards or playing a board game is not the best way to work on speech or language. Here are some ways to integrate movement into working on speech or language:

  • Get your child to jump  – each time they jump, they say a word or sentence.
  • If they are playing on a slide, get them to say a word or sentence before going up the stairs.
  • If they are on a swing, face them and catch them once every few swings. Get them to say a word or sentence before you let them go.
  • If they enjoy throwing things, have a container with balls (or even scrunched up paper) that they can throw into a basket. Get them to say a word or sentence before giving them a ball.
  • Get them to say a word or sentence, and each time they do they get to do a movement. This is more fun if you make some movement cards and mix them up. Movement cards could be things like “Jump 3 times.” “Walk to the wall and back.” “Touch the floor.” This also works with yoga cards.

I hope this article was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help.

Bilingual Language Development

Research is clear that speaking more than one language with a child does not cause language disorders. In fact, some areas of language develop more quickly if children speak more than one language. However, some children hesitate to talk in a language even if they understand it. Here are some suggestions to help children to express themselves in your language:
  • Take every opportunity to speak your language to your child. Speak about what interests them.
  • Face your child and place yourself at their level. Make lots of comments and minimize questions, because some children feel lots of pressure when we ask questions.
  • During conversation, repeat back what your child has said, but in your language. Do not make your child repeat, because that may embarrass or frustrate them.
  • Avoid criticizing your child’s way of talking, and avoid criticizing others when they are speaking your language. 
  • Expose your child to as many people as possible who speak your language. It is helpful if they are exposed to the language in many different contexts.
  • If your child is just beginning to express themselves in your language, give them choices verbally, and at the same time, show them an object or a picture for each choice. While you ask “Would you like cereal or toast?” show them the cereal and the toast so that they can point to the one they want.
  • Start a sequence such as counting, saying the days of the week, saying the months of the year, and pause to allow your child to say the next item.
  • Say a sentence and pause before the last word to allow your child to complete the sentence.
  • Look for activities that your child enjoys in your language, such as games, reading or singing.
  • Repeat the same books, songs and finger plays often.
  • Photographs are a wonderful tool for developing language. Make a book of photos (You can use printed photos or use an app to add text to photos). Most children enjoy looking at photos of themselves or their family. Adding text allows you to repeat words and phrases, which makes it easier for your child to remember them.

If you are interested in more technical information about bilingual language development, here is a nice article:

Myths About Early Childhood Bilinguilism

Help Children to Organize Their Language

We can help children to organize their language, whether written or oral. Many of these suggestions are particularly helpful for condensing language when the child uses lots of extra words and sentences.

1. Graphic organizers – let her use a visual template to help organize her ideas before writing them down. This can be used for oral language too. There are lots of good ones in Success for all Learners, which is available from Manitoba Education and Training, or you can make your own.

2. Provide examples before asking her to do her own work.

3. Repeat – if she is talking and uses a lot of words to say something simple, repeat it back in as few words as possible. This will model of more succinct language and will encourage her to organize her ideas more concisely.

4. Use the same questions to do the same kinds of activities. For example, you can ask her to describe her day:

  • What happened first?
  • What happened next?
  • And then?
  • What happened last?

or to describe an activity:

  • Who were you with?
  • Where were you?
  • What did you do?
  • What was the best thing about it?
  • What was the worst thing about it?

Using the same set of questions over and over will help her to organize her language.

5. Practice being brief – ask her to write something, but set a limit on the number of words or sentences.

6. Barrier games are great for teaching more organized language. To do a barrier game, supply two sets of material. In partners, each person tries to make the same thing without seeing what the other person is doing. For example, both draw the same thing or colour a picture the same way. A barrier between the partners stops them from seeing each other’s drawing, and forces them to use words to describe the drawing to the other person.

How to help a child to speak fluently

If your child gets stuck trying to get words out, these suggestions may help:

  • Take time every day to talk to the child. Look at books together or play together. Talk about what you are doing. Do not put pressure on the child to talk, but make comments followed by pauses to give him the opportunity to talk.
  • Pay attention to what the child says and not to the way he says it.
  • Maintain eye contact – when you look at the child when he speaks, you show that you are interested in what he says and that you like to talk to him.
  • Avoid interrupting when he talks.
  • To help him to talk slowly and calmly, talk slowly and calmly yourself.
  • Use simple language – if the child tries to imitate a complicated language model, he may have difficulty imitating it fluently.
  • Reduce time constraints. Overly busy schedules put pressure on the child to talk quickly.
  • When the child is less fluent, talk less. If necessary, you can play a non-verbal game. When the child is more fluent, do activities that involve more talking.
  • Replace direct questions with comments. For example, instead of asking “What would you like for breakfast”, you can say “For breakfast, you can have cereal or toast.”
  • Model information or answers that you would like the child to give you. Avoid asking him to speak on demand.
  • When you correct the child’s errors, repeat what the child said, but correctly. Do not ask the child to repeat the correct production.

Please do not:

  • Finish the child’s sentences. If you supply the words, you increase the child’s feeling that he is not able to talk for himself.
  • Make suggestions such as: Slow down, breathe, relax. The child needs to think about what he is saying and not about how he is saying it.
  • Pretend to understand what a child has said.
  • Use the words « stutterer ». It is more helpful to use words to describe the difficulty the child is having: “It was hard to get that word out,” than to label the child.
  • Ask the child to express himself in public. Speaking under pressure is particularly difficult for many children.
  • Ask a child to answer unexpected questions, to explain a disagreeable event or to explain why he did something wrong.
  • Ask a child to express himself when he is very emotional, especially when he is crying.
  • Criticize the child for lack of fluency or rewarding him for fluency.
  • Discuss the problem in front of the child.

I hope this article was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help.

Help Me Talk Better

Some children talk like younger children. Some make lots of mistakes when they talk. There are some simple ways we can help them develop their language skills.

Talk to them as often as possible. Talk about what they are doing at that moment. If they are playing, talk about what they are playing with. If you are looking at pictures together, talk about the pictures that catch their eye. If it is dinner time, talk about what they are eating and what their favourite foods are. Use sentences that are the same length as theirs, or a little bit longer. If your child uses 2 to 4-word sentences and you reply using 12-word sentences, they may lose interest! Likewise, you can use new words but not too many at a time.

If they say something, but incorrectly, repeat it back correctly. This way they hear the correct form of what they just said. If they say something correctly, repeat it back to reinforce their good language skills. You can also add a word or two to what they just said, to help them use longer sentences.

If they make the same mistakes often, you can teach them the correct way of saying it by using the structure you want them to use. If they say “he” for “she,” you can make lots of sentences about a female family member using “she.” (“Oh, look! Mom’s home. She is back from work. She looks tired. She looks happy though. She is happy to be home.”) To an adult, this may sound boring and stilted, but to a child it can simplify language enough to make learning to talk a little easier.

To give them the best chance of benefiting from your language models, face them and place yourself at their level. If they are a lot smaller than you, you might put them in a bigger chair and take the small one for yourself. Eliminate background noise, or reduce it as much as possible. Speak a little more slowly and clearly than usual. It is also important to pause often, to allow them to participate in the conversation.

One activity that is especially helpful for language development is looking at photos together, especially photos of events in the child’s life. Most children love looking at themselves and their family! You can label the photos so that they hear a consistent language model each time they look at the photos. When the label gets too simple, you can replace it with more advanced language. One family I know has a blog with lots of photos of events in their life. There are also apps available for tablets such as the iPad that help put photo albums together, such as Story Creator and Pictello. They make it easy to label the photos for consistent language stimulation.

The most important thing about activities for language learning is that they have to be fun. Children learn best when they are enjoying themselves.

I hope this article was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help.

Word Finding

Some children have lots to say but they seem to have trouble finding their words. They might use general words such as “that thing” instead of more specific ones. They may use related words, such as “dog” for “cat.” They may use gestures instead of words. They may describe what they are talking about instead of naming it: “You know, the round thing that you bounce.” They may take a long time to express themselves. Children who have word-finding difficulty often have difficulty answering questions, even though they know the answer. They may be very frustrated by their difficulty accessing words.

We can help them! Sometimes we know the word they are looking for. However, if we are too quick to say the word for them, they do not make the brain connections that help them find the word the next time. Here are some things that help make those brain connections, and that therefore help in the long term:

  • Wait a moment to see if they can come up with the word on their own.
  • Give them a choice between 2 words. You can slowly increase the number of words you get them to choose between.
  • Say the first sound or syllable of the word.

If we don’t know the word they are looking for, we can re-start their sentence – just repeat what they just said and then pause. Sometimes this is enough to help them find their words. If that doesn’t work, we can ask them to show us – draw it, mime it, or take us to something that will help us figure it out.

When words are well-organized in the brain, they are easier to find. They are also easier to find when they are connected to lots of other words. Therefore, the following activities may also help:

  • Name as many items in a category, such as animals, as possible.
  • Sort items into categories, such as fruit and vegetables.
  • Think of things you need to do different activities. What do you need to play hockey?

It is no fun getting stuck on words, but try to have fun with the above activities. Children learn best when they are having fun.

I hope this post was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help.



Transitioning With ASDs

I saw a really sweet little girl with autism today. We had a great time playing with this ball. Her mom had the brilliant idea to take a photo of the ball so that when they come back, she can show her the photo. Then she’ll remember the fun we had, and want to come back. This is a great example of using visual supports for children with autism, and also of transitioning towards the next activity instead of emphasizing stopping the current activity.

I hope this post was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help.

Working on Articulation

Lots of young children have difficulty with speech sounds. The most difficult sounds to produce are /s/, /z/, /sh/, /ch/, /j/, /r/ and /l/. These sounds often take longer to develop, and can make it hard to understand some children. Imagine how frustrating this is for the child and the person they are talking to! Here are some things that may help:

  • Slow down your own speech, so that your child slows down too. This may help them to place their tongue and lips in the correct position, or it may just give you more time to figure out what they are saying.
  • Face them and place yourself at their level physically to allow them to see the mouth movements you are making, and eventually to produce them.
  • Do activities that support your ability to understand your child’s speech – where the context makes it easier to figure out what they say. For example, look at a book with one big picture on each page with your child.
  • If you do not understand what they just said, ask them to repeat, slow down or show you. Sometimes it helps to ask them to say it a different way.
  • If you understand part of what they just said, repeat the part that you understood.
  • If you understand what they just said, repeat it correctly.
  • Practice any sounds that your Speech-Language Pathologist suggests daily. Practice them for a short period of time. Sometimes it helps to practice easier sounds such as /t/, /d/, /n/ or /l/ in order to get a more precise position for the tongue – this will help to develop more difficult sounds such as /s/ and /z/.
  • In general, you will practice sounds in isolation, then in syllables, then in words, then in sentences, and finally in conversation, but this will vary according to your child’s difficulties and what the Speech-Language Pathologist suggests for your child.
  • Make it fun. If you can, integrate drill into games so that your child keeps wanting to practice. Working on speech may be a long-term commitment. Keeping your child interested and motivated is important.

Here is more information about what to do when you don’t understand a child’s speech, some suggestions for practice and integrating movement into speech practice.

I hope this post was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help. Good luck!

Speaking Spontaneously

I see a number of children who can talk, but they repeat what they have heard other people say. This is called echolalia. Here are a few things that you can do to help a child who echos but doesn’t speak spontaneously:

  • Break apart the chunks – if they repeat a sentence often, say different parts of it back to them. If they say “Have some milk,” you can say “Milk. Mmm, milk is good. I want some milk. I’ll have some milk now.”
  • Accept any communication – gestures, sounds, echolalia. Pay close attention to what your child is telling you. Respond to their message. At the same time, model how to say it in words.
  • Say things as you would like your child to say them. This teaches your child to communicate in a way that other people understand.
  • Model language that is a bit more advanced than your child’s spontaneous communication. If they only echo, and don’t have any spontaneous phrases or sentences, model 1 – 3 word phrases.
  • Spend lots of time interacting with your child.
  • Do the same thing your child is doing, and talk about it.
  • Play the same game several times, and then stop part way through. This encourages your child to communicate that they want you to continue.
  • Put some preferred objects out of reach, or in clear but in tough-to-open containers. This encourages requests.
  • Make funny or interesting changes to your child’s surroundings. Wear a funny hat or put a shoe on the table. This encourages comments.
  • Work on lots of different reasons for communicating: to keep a game going, to refuse, to ask for more, to request an action, to request an object.

In the past, people discouraged children from echoing, but now we know that it can lead to spontaneous language. Encourage all speech!

I hope this post was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help.