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Enhancing Language Learning with Books

I think one of the most common messages we receive as parents and that we give as educators and professionals is, “READ TO YOUR CHILD!” I find that parents LOVE books, and rightly so, but sometimes they are very frustrated with book reading. They’ll say things like, “I used to point to the pictures, and he would say the names, but he just stopped,” or “He just points to the pictures, and I say the names, but he won’t repeat them,” or even, “He just won’t sit still for the book – he cries as soon as I get one out!”

There is a brief developmental window where this is fun for your child, and when it is that time, it’s fantastic to do so. Where people get tripped up, especially with late talkers or children on the autism spectrum, is that sometimes your child’s interests are limited, or your ability to get them to interact with you is compromised. So when a child gets tired of pointing to or naming the same pictures, parents are hit hard! It feels like they have lost one of the most academically and socially encouraged way to help their child grow.

Similarly, the parent who says, “He won’t say the names of things!” is missing the point. If you are INTERACTING around the book, THAT is the point. So, if he’s pointing to things and waiting for you to name them, especially if he doesn’t have much (that you can understand) to say anyway, this is a big win!! The way you’re reading books now is not the way you will read them forever, and eventually it will look more like you imagined.

For the parent who says, “I can’t even get him to look at it,” you’re going to have to get creative. Your child is not yet ready to interact in the way you imagine looking at books together. For example, I once had a client whose family really wanted her to look at books, but she was developmentally equivalent to an 8-month-old. She loooooooved when I snapped her board books like an alligator or flipped the pages really quickly, and in that way, I was able to pique her interest in books and transition her to looking at the pictures while I made up songs about them.

Since Seth is still so young (14 months) there are some really specific ways I read books to him that I also use with clients with language delays. Most importantly, I don’t make it a quiz. With a very early learner, I don’t even insist on hitting every page or looking at the pages in order, never mind reading all the words. If a very early learner is interested, that’s good enough for me. (If you’ve got a child who LOVES books, memorizes them, but HATES sharing them, that’s a different post.)

I do make a point to talk about the pictures. I keep my language simple and concrete: related to what we see! I am ANIMATED. I make the story come alive. To watch us, just click the video below.

To get a book reading guide to help you personalize your book reading to your child, please send an email entitled “Book Reading” to admin@joyopensdoors.com

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Speech Therapy at Home for Busy Families

I was inspired to create this video/post because of my own to-do list! Like everyone else, I’m pretty busy, but there are so many ways I can and do work in speech and language learning throughout our day. Often, when I talk to families, they have some misconceptions about speech therapy: it needs to be this super-structured adult-directed specially set aside time. And when people can’t make that happen, because… life!They feel guilty, and they think they can’t make a difference in their child’s abilities. But I’m here to tell you THAT’S NOT TRUE!

The best, best, best way to work on developing your child’s speech and language is to work it into your day. Research consistently shows that parents are the most important teacher for young children. Even the most perfect, most intensive therapy program is no match for you and your busy life. Therapy programs have to work on something called “generalization,” which is basically whether or not skills learned in therapy can carry over to new settings and new communication partners. So, if your child learns to say “bubbles please!” to your therapist in her office, that doesn’t mean your child will automatically ask you or use that skill at home. But if you practice all day long in different contexts, that skill is more likely to stick and to generalize.

When parents are really busy, they often have trouble with the “big picture” strategies, like “get face to face” because it’s vague, and they have A LOT on their minds. When that happens, people are sometimes much more successful with specific instructions, like “Say the names of the clothes while you’re folding laundry. You can work in words about colors, sizes, and numbers.”

So I’ll spend some time over the next few posts giving you some specific ideas to help encourage your child’s speech and language development while you’re still doing your day-to-day activities. Talk to you soon!