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.

Talking More

Some little children seem to know what they want to say, but it is really hard for them to get their mouths to cooperate! They say few words, and the ones they say are pretty difficult to understand. This may be due to a difficulty coordinating the movements for speech. See if these suggestions help:

  • Pick a few words and short phrases to model during an activity.
  • Say them as often as you can.
  • Say them slowly. Occasionally say them very slowly.
  • If your child makes a sound, repeat it. If they say a word, repeat it correctly. If they take another turn, keep it going as long as you can.
  • If they say a few words, do activities that encourage them to say those words. If they say “Mom” and “Dad,” look at photos of “Mom” and “Dad” together. If they say “eyes,” look at lots of creatures together, pointing to their eyes.
  • Reduce pressure to talk. One way to do this is to ask fewer questions.
  • Start sentences for your child to complete: “Oh look! It’s a _____” is easier and more encouraging than “What’s that?” for many children. If you don’t get an answer you can finish the sentence yourself and keep playing.
  • Pause frequently, so that your child can choose whether or not to take a turn.
  • Watch them closely and interpret their gestures and sounds. Model what they seem to be saying, without asking them to say it.
  • Sing songs, do nursery rhymes and read simple books – the same ones as often as possible, and as slowly as possible. Slowing down reduces pressure and makes it easier to coordinate the movements for 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. We provide services in English and French for children and adults to help with speech, language, swallowing and memory.

The Link Between Paying Attention and Learning

Some children have difficulty paying attention. Sometimes they have difficulty staying in one spot for longer than a few seconds. Sometimes they get so focused on what they are doing that they have trouble shifting their attention. They may miss much of what you say. They may miss the beginnings of sentences or words. Here are some suggestions that will help small children to pay attention:

  • Follow your child’s focus of attention. Talk about what interests them. This helps them connect your language to their actions.
  • Speak slowly. Repeat new words in a few different sentences.
  • Minimize distractions. Shutting off appliances, shut off the radio, and shut off the TV. Have only one or two toys available at a time.
  • Do not get your child to shift attention too often. If you direct their attention to something else, give them time to shift their attention before talking about it.
  • A gentle tap on the shoulder may be a better way of getting them to shift their attention than just talking.
  • Talk to your child face to face, at the same level. It is much easier to pay attention to someone who is “in your face.” If you are holding an object and talking about it, bring it close to your face so that your child can pay attention to it and to you at the same time.
  • Use lots of gestures and facial expression as well as an animated voice to get your child’s attention.
  • Use what your child is interested in to capture their attention. For example, many small children like to open and close containers. Put small objects or pictures into clear containers with lids – then talk about them as your child opens and closes the containers.

I hope these suggestions were 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. We provide services in English and French for children and adults to help with speech, language, swallowing and memory.

Early Language Stimulation

It is easy to talk to a chatty child who engages in conversation easily. It’s a lot harder when children don’t talk much – and especially if they don’t talk at all.

If they don’t talk yet, you can use single words and short phrases to talk about what they are interested in. Observe what they are looking at or what they are doing. Talk about that! Getting down to their eye level will help you to know what they’re interested in, and will also help them to see and hear you better. I like to sit in a smaller chair and put my little clients in a bigger chair, so that we can see eye to eye. With some of my smallest clients, they sit facing me while I lie down on the floor!

It helps to speak slowly and to pause often, to give them more time to understand and respond to what you say. Switch off anything that makes noise so that they can hear you clearly. Repeat the same words often to give them more chances to learn words and sentence structures.

They may already communicate by using gestures or noises, like pointing to what they want. You can imitate what they are doing to encourage them to keep using gestures and noises, and to let them know that they are effective communicators. You can also use a word or phrase to say the same thing. It is always helpful to model language that is just a step more complex than they are using. Don’t get too complex, though – you may lose their interest!

If they are starting to talk a little, pay close attention to what they say and respond to it. Repeat what they say as well, adding a word or two. Short, simple, correct phrases help. Give them lots of opportunities to use the words that they already say. For instance, if they can say “uh oh,” take turns dropping things on the floor and saying “uh oh.”

It’s tempting to pressure a child to talk, but pressure often makes children less likely to talk. It’s important for children to feel relaxed for their brains to work optimally!

Is “baby talk” helpful? Talking to children in an animated way, with lots of facial expression and a voice that captures their attention, is definitely helpful. It tells them that you are talking to them! And it gives them information about the sound system and helps to highlight important words, too. One word of warning, though – some people change the sounds of the language when they use “baby talk.” It is always best to model correct speech and language for children.

Hearing is crucial for language development, so if you have concerns, get your child’s hearing checked. Even fluctuating hearing loss from ear infections can affect a child’s ability to learn language. Talk to your doctor about a referral to audiology as a first step to making sure your child can hear well.

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.

 

Starting a New School Year

Transitions can be difficult for anyone, and especially for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, including Asperger Syndrome. The new school year is a major transition – even more so if a child is changing schools.

Many children with ASDs have areas of intense interest. Whether they are trains, LEGO, fireworks, primates, or art, their interests can help the new school year get off to a great start. Paula Kluth and Patrick Schwarz describe how to use special interests to achieve a variety of goals in Just Give Him the Whale, an excellent resource book. Some ideas to try:

  • Paste photos related to an interest in the child’s agenda and in notebooks or binders.
  • Use magnets to post pictures related to the interest in the child’s locker.
  • Work the interest into lessons.
  • Ask questions about the interest during class, to give the child a chance to shine and to be known.
  • Ask all the children in the class to make a short presentation about anything that interests them.
  • Let the child start a club related to the interest.
  • Have materials related to the interest handy to help the child to calm down in times of stress.

Simply asking about their interest can help you connect with the child, and get the new year off to a great start. We often hesitate to let a child talk about their interest, because we want them to talk about other things, too. Show an interest in what is important to the child, and they will more easily show an interest in others.