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Supporting Reading Comprehension Skills at Home

Reading with your child is a wonderful way to promote development of comprehension and receptive language skills.  The following tips are intended to give you some guidelines for enhancing comprehension of stories at home.  Keep in mind, that books your child can read the words to (or decode) are not always at the same level of what he or she is capable of understanding.  For that reason, it is important to read decodable books as well as read to him or her books that might be more challenging for your child to read but demonstrate more sophisticated language structures and vocabulary.

~Before Reading~

State or discuss the topic of the book with your child.

Make connections to personal experiences with the topic.  This will help your child activate prior knowledge he or she may have about the topic of the story and facilitate his or her connection with the story.  For example, if reading a book about the beach, you might say, “Remember when we went to the beach last summer?  It was so hot outside and we built sand castles and wore our bathing suits.  What did we see at the beach?”

Look at the cover of the book and make a prediction about what the story might be about.  Focus on the idea of predicting rather than requiring an accurate or logical prediction.  Then ask your child, “Why do you think it will be about…?”  Provide a sentence starter if needed, such as “I think the book will be about…”

Take a “Picture Walk”. Quickly flip through the pages of the story without reading the words and talk about what you see.  Modify your child’s prediction and point out explicit reasons for those changes, i.e., “Look a sail boat.  Maybe they will go on a boat ride in the story.”

~While Reading~

Read the words. Then stop and look at the pictures.  Point out illustrations that show implied information, or information that is not explicitly stated, such as the feelings or reaction of a character.

Ask questions about information that was just read.  Who, what, where and why questions can be formulated about information that was read in the story or seen in the pictures.  For example, “Who dropped the cake?”

Ask your child retell or restate what has happened in the story periodically.  Flip back through the pages so the child will have access to the pictures to promote their retell.

If your child has difficulty expressively, ask a question and then provide a sentence starter, such as, “Uh-oh what a … (mess)”.

~After Reading~

Ask your child to show and tell you his or her favorite part of the story and then explain why he or she enjoyed it.

Have your child retell the whole story or ask him or her about something that happened in the beginning, middle and end.  Help him or her formulate the language if needed (“First Bob and Mom went…”).

Make further connections between the story and a personal experience or another story you have read.

Use interesting or new vocabulary in daily activities.  For example, if the book talks about a “buoy,” when you go to the beach, point out the buoy and remind your child about the story you read.

Read the story again! Re-reading stories enhances children’s understanding of not only the content, but the details, vocabulary and story structure.

March 23, 2010 at 11:53 pm Leave a comment

Supporting Expressive Language Skills at Home

Children with expressive language needs often have difficulty explaining their ideas clearly, retelling experiences or finding the best words to use when communicating.  The following are some suggestions for accommodating and supporting expressive language needs in day-to-day interactions with your child.  These are targeted especially towards pre-K and early elementary-aged kids, however they can be beneficial for all children.

1.  Be Patient

Often just a little extra wait time is all a child needs to find an evasive word or begin to express his or her thoughts.  Wait patiently before interjecting.

2.  Ask Specific Questions

Rather than asking your child a broad, open-ended question like, “What did you do at school today?” ask specific questions to give your child a context and some organization like, “What did you make in art class today?” or “Who did you play with at recess?”

3.  Use Verbal Sentence Starters When Needed

Many children have difficulty getting started in a conversation.  Direct the conversation, especially when your child is sharing with an adult he or she might not be familiar with.  For example, rather than saying, “Go talk to Grandma” help your child formulate a context for a conversation by suggesting, “Go tell Grandma about our trip to the store.  We bought…”  Using a sentence starter can be just the support a child needs to get started sharing a story and it gives the listener background information which will prevent a communication breakdown.

4.  Take Responsibility for Communication Breakdowns

If you do not understand your child, put the breakdown upon yourself by saying, “I did not understand that.  Could you say it again a different way, please?”  Other strategies to support retrieval and organization of language include asking a child to show you what he or she means with gestures or a picture.

5.  Use Prompting Questions

To get information from your child, ask basic who, what, where, when or why questions to elicit details.  Then, when you have relevant details, help him or her formulate stories by restating those details.  For example, “Oh, you and Michael played basketball today.  So what did you do with Michael?  Today Michael and I…”

November 12, 2009 at 12:54 am Leave a comment

Speech Sound Development

A common question I get as an SLP is about what is considered “normal” speech development.  Parents often ask, “Is my child’s speech ok?” or they have concerns about a “lisp” or a distorted /r/ sound in their three year old child.  Below is some information compiled from Shriberg’s “Order of Speech Sound Acquisition” that details approximate time periods that sounds develop.  This is intended to be a general guide for development to aid parents in determining if their child’s speech is developing appropriately or if they should consult an SLP for an evaluation.

Speech Sound Development

Children’s speech sounds develop from the time they utter their first babbles until mid-elementary school.  The following list provides parents with more specific information about what sounds should be developing at what age ranges.  When sounds are emerging, children’s speech production may include omissions, substitutions or inconsistent productions.  Parents can facilitate speech sound development by exposing children to emerging sounds in games and stories and naturally providing models when sound substitutions occur.

Early 8 Sounds

These sound have emerging development between the ages 1-3 with consistent production around age 3.

/m/  as in “mama”     /b/  as in “baby”       “y”  as in “you”      /n/  as in “no”

/w/   as in  “we”         /d/   as in  “daddy”     /p/ as in “pop”    /h/  as in  “hi”

Middle 8 Sounds

Emerging development between ages 3-6 ½ with consistent production around age 5½.

/t/  as in “two”       “ng”  as in “running”       /k/   as in “cup”       /g/   as in “go”

/f/  as in “fish”     /v/  as in “van”       “ch”  as in “chew”     “j”  as in   “jump”

Late 8 Sounds

Emerging development between ages 5-7 ½ with consistent production around age 7 ½

“sh”  as in  “sheep”          /s/   as in “see”           “th”  as in “think”          “th”  as in “that”

/r/ as in “red”          /z/   as in “zoo”          /l/  as in “like”          “zh”  as in “measure”

August 13, 2009 at 9:28 pm Leave a comment

Language Modeling

One effective technique for facilitating expressive language development is appropriately using language modeling.  The following examples demonstrate four ways you can model language for your child.  The goal for language modeling is to increase the amount of language your child is using as well as expanding the complexity of what he or she says.

1. Expansion: Restating the child’s utterance while adding relevant grammatical or semantic details. For example, a child says, “Him running.” The listener can expand to, “Oh, he is running,” (grammatical expansion); or, the child says, “The dog is running,” and the listener may say, “Yes, the big brown dog is running fast!” (semantic expansion).

2. Self-talk: Refers to what YOU are doing as you perform an activity with your child. For example, as you bake cookies together: “I am going to open up the chocolate chips. Oops. Two chips fell out. Let’s put them in. In go the chips. Time to stir. I need my big spoon. Stir, stir, stir. I’m mixing the chips into the cookie dough. Yum, yum!”

3. Parallel talk: Refers to talking about what the CHILD is doing while he/she is involved in an activity. For example, as the child plays with trucks: “You’re driving the red truck. Up goes the truck on the ramp. It’s going up very slowly. Up, up, up. Oh, no! The truck fell off the ramp. Crash!”

4. Recast sentences: A specific type of sentence expansion which changes the basic sentence type, (i.e.  declarative, imperative, interrogative, exclamatory) of the child’s utterance. For example, if the child makes a declarative statement, “This baby (doll) is sick,” the listener may restate this utterance as a question, “Oh, is the baby sick?” or, “Doesn’t the baby feel well?”

Adapted from P. Lavin CCC-SLP (Thanks Pam!)

June 22, 2009 at 11:48 pm Leave a comment

What is the difference between Speech and Language?

Often, when parents first contact me with concerns about their child’s communication, it is important for us to differentiate between speech and language.  For most people, speech and language are synonyms, used interchangeably to describe “talking.”  For a speech-language pathologist, it is important to clarify a parent’s concern as being primarily related to “speech” or “language” prior to an evaluation.

In general, speech refers to the actual production, or articulation, of sounds by the mouth.  If you are concerned about your child’s speech, you may be more concerned with how your child is speaking, rather than what he or she is actually saying.  He or she may be very difficult to understand and use many different patterns of sounds or have difficulty with producing only one or two sounds (such as /s/ or /r/).  When we talk about speech, we are referring to the actual sounds, rhythm or voice your child is using.

Language refers to what your child is saying.  Often, I ask if a parent is concerned with the words the child is using.  For example, how does your child put words into sentences, use grammar or different forms of words such as plurals or -ing verbs?  If your concerns have more to do with the sentence structure or the way your child is creating phrases and sentences, rather than the sounds he or she is using, your concerns may primarily be about his language. (Please note, in this example, we are talking about expressive language needs which often co-occur with receptive language or comprehension needs.)

For more information about the difference between speech and language, please visit my website at www.twomeyspeechtherapy.com/treatment-areas

May 27, 2009 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment

May is Better Speech, Language and Hearing Month!

Hooray!  May is Better Speech, Language and Hearing Month!

Although it is important to think about developing and protecting our speech, language and listening skills all year round, here are some ideas and websites you can use with your children in to celebrate this month!  Visit www.twomeyspeechtherapy.com/parents/ for more information.

  • Protect Your Ears! A recent poll reported more than half of all high school students experienced symptoms of early hearing loss likely due to the increased use of portable and personal electronics.  Encourage your child to turn down the volume and replace in-the-ear earphones with headphones worn outside of the ear. Visit www.listentoyourbuds.com for more information and fun activities.
  • Take Care of Your Voice! It is important to stay hydrated and avoid excessive abuse to your voice, especially during allergy season.  Aim to drink eight glasses of water a day and encourage your child to refrain from yelling and over exertion of his or her voice.
  • Play language games and sing songs in the car or when spending quality time together!  Songs such as the “Name Game Song” encourage sound awareness and development of rhyme.  Language games such as I Spy promote vocabulary growth and the Picnic Game (Mom is going on a picnic and she is bringing apple pie, Dad is bringing sandwiches and I am bringing…) promote memory and develop language processing.

May 3, 2009 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

What is a Speech-Language Pathologist?

What is a Speech-Language Pathologist?

A speech-language pathologist (SLP) is often also referred to as a “speech therapist”. An SLP can evaluate, diagnose and treat disorders related to communication and swallowing. An SLP must hold a graduate degree from an ASHA accredited program and complete at least nine months of supervised clinical fellowship in order to practice.

Who Do Speech-Language Pathologists work with?

SLPs work with people of all ages, throughout the lifespan. From infants to the elderly, an SLP has a role in treatment of many different medical, educational and social disabilities and illnesses.

Where do Speech-Language Pathologists work?

SLPs practice in a variety of settings including hospitals, schools, clinics, private practices, rehabilitation facilities, nursing care facilities, state and local agencies, early intervention, adult day care centers, and home health agencies. Settings can vary dramatically making the diversity within the profession of speech-language pathology widespread.

April 2, 2009 at 12:29 am Leave a comment

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