Thursday, January 28, 2010

Week 3 Signs and Gestures

So here we are at week 3. Not sure if anyone is reading this but I am going to keep chatting and hopefully someone out there is finding some information here that is useful to you and your family.

I want to check in and see how things are going with you and your child's communication. Are you hearing some words or word approximations? Is this enjoyable and are you seeing your child getting excited about communicating? If this describes what you are experiencing, then just keep doing what you are doing. Imitate what your child is saying, expand what they are saying and rejoice that language is popping!!

Is there anyone out there that is not hearing anything that could even be a word or word approximation? Any frustrations? Please don't get discouraged because this week is for you. Sometimes it is hard for a child to get the idea of using a word or series of sounds to express themselves. That does not mean that they aren't communicating, it just means that we might have to try some other "tricks" to help them along.

So, the hint for this week is : encourage your child to use a gesture or sign to get their wants and needs met.

Some people are worried that if their child starts using a gesture/sign system to communicate that they won't want to use words and will get stuck using signs instead. This is not true :) Children will want to use the same system for communicating that their family is using so the goal is always going to be verbal communication. But by using signs to begin with, your child will get success in communicating and be less frustrated. Plus they will be understanding more about turn taking and getting needs and wants met by using a communication system, in this case signing.

It's amazing that any of us learn to talk. Let's think about what our bodies have to do to actually say words. First we have to have the thought to share; then we have to coordinate our breathing, our vocal folds have to work correctly, we need to be able to move our tongue around in our mouth to produce each sound we need to make each word and also we need to form our lips in crazy positions! It's alot harder than we ever realize. Some children need some extra time to develop any of these steps that make it possible to say a word. But the wonderful thing about signing is that it is much easier to gesture or make a sign than to say a word.

So my philosophy is to focus on the goal: We want your child to be able to let you know what they want, how they are feeling, expand their vocabularies, and feel the joy of communicating with the ones that they love. So I feel that the best way to do that is a total communication approach. This includes pointing, signing, gesture, maybe even using a picture system and of course words and phrases.

If we start where your child is most successful and it's easy, then your child will practice, get more success, want to do it more and communication will happen. There are many books, videos, websites, and information about signing out there. I would suggest that you start with power words like "more"; "me"; "eat"; "drink"; "all done". These 5 signs let your child tell you alot. Then you can expand from there. Another hint: Always use words when you are using signs with your child. We want them to realize that you understand them and that there is a verbal word for what they are signing. Total communication!!

When you are using signs you will use all the hints that I have mentioned in the past 2 weeks. You will just be using and recognizing the sign instead of hearing a word at this point. It truly is a win win situation for you and your child.

Have a wonderful week.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Week 2 "Ba" ???

So how did your week go? Did you find a little time every day to watch your child and see how they are already communicating? What did you see and hear? Were you surprised at anything you saw and/or heard? Sometimes when a family starts watching and listening to their child they are surprised to find out how much their child is already communicating! Now that doesn't mean that they are using as many words and phrases as you would like, or that they are using phrases that are more than a word or two in length. Those things may still be in the future. But, your child is telling you in some manner what their needs are and that they need your help to get those needs met. And some of the things that you noticed this past week can help you and your child get to the next step.

So, let's get to the new things we will try for this week. Actually there are a couple things that I would like you to try.

The first one is when you are trying to get your child to "pop" a word or phrase, I want you to use just a one or two word phrase to comment on what your child is doing. By doing this you are giving your child a chance to be able to imitate what you are saying. Your child will appreciate that you are understanding that it is difficult for him/her to string words together successfully like you do, but he/she just MIGHT be able to imitate a one or two word phrase. And if they start having success, they just MIGHT like being able to "talk" to the family and try more and more. Just like us, a child likes to be heard and successful and if using a word or words to get their needs met actually works, I guarantee that they will want to keep trying this new activity. And we all know how much a child likes to have some control and power in situations and once they understand the fact that saying a word or words gets them something, there will be no stopping them.

When your child starts venturing into imitation, you may get what is more a word approximation than a really clear word. And that's fantastic! If your child uses the same grouping of sounds for the same object or want, then that is the word/word approximation that is meaningful at this point. For example, the word approximation "ba" can mean many things. Some meanings could be "bottle"; "baa" for a sheep; "ball"; "Bob" (the Builder), etc. You get the idea.

At this point, don't worry about how clear your child is, just be very excited that they are adding to their expressive vocabulary, woo hoo!! So, the other thing I want you to try is that when your child tries to communicate with you, you say back to him what you think he is saying or would like to have said. For example, When your child says their very proud "ba" and they are handing you a ball then you respond "ball, yes that's a ball, thanks for telling me". Typically a child understands so much more than they can say at this point, so for them to hear you validate that you understood what they said is a wonderful feeling for your child.

The title of my blog is "communication from a child's point of view" and I just want to take a minute to have you think about how your child feels when he cannot get his wants and needs met by talking like everyone else around him/her. How would you feel? Sad, confused, frustrated, angry? Now think how you would feel if the people that mean so much to you finally figure out that they do understand what you have been communicating? I know how I would feel...relief, happiness, enjoyment, joy, etc. Communication is totally an emotionally based system. You really can't make a child talk. But you sure can set up opportunities and situations for them to communicate and the more they have success, the more they will keep trying. The more they practice the better they will get at this and all of a sudden you will have a happy child that is communicating and getting their needs met. Happiness for everyone!

So, good look this week on trying out these couple new suggestions. And as always, this should be fun and a positive experience. And I know how busy and full your life is. So, I don't mean for you to be trying these things all day long...oh no! But if you could just focus 5 to 10 minutes a day on your child when you are both relaxed and having fun, that is when you can try these suggestions out.

And as I mentioned last week, please feel free to ask me any questions or share any comments. I would love to hear from you. Have a great week.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Week 1 Beginnings

I had to have this titled "Beginnings" because I have never blogged before. Yes, I am just jumping into this form of communication with faith that I will be able to share my ideas with you in a way that is meaningful, fun and helpful.

I have been a speech and language pathologist of over 25 years and my main focus has been with children, especially children under the age of 5. Over time I have found easy things that parents can do during their day that will help their child communicate better. I would love to share these ideas with you and answer any questions that you might have. Every week I will post an idea or suggestion or hint that might be helpful to families that are struggling with communication issues. Please feel free to ask questions or comment...I would love for this to be an interactive site where we can all help and support eachother.

While working with the children and families, I have I realized the family is the key to change with this age group. Families, you really are the most important teachers for your child. You know your child best and your child trusts you and connects with you like no one else. So, that is where the learning should start. I believe that you do not need to take your child to a speech therapist so that they can wave their magic wand and "fix" your child. Most little ones that are delayed in communicating just need a little nudge to get going and a speech therapist is a perfect resource for the family. When we all work together, that's when the magic begins.

So here is my thought for today:

Regardless of what your child is saying or not saying, he or she is always communicating and it's up to you to figure out what they are saying and how they are saying it.

The first step that you need to do is watch your child, be a detective and take notes. Watch what interests them and how they react to those things. Do they smile? Do they reach for an item? Do they make some sound or sounds? Could those sounds actually mean something? Do they take you by the hand and take you to what they want? All these actions are communication. All these actions are a starting point for us to build on. So for this week I want you to watch your child and see how they are already communicating. Have the whole family join in on this activity and compare notes.

Be sure to watch nonverbal as well as verbal communication. Watch for gestures, changes in facial expressions, sounds or possible word approximations that your child says the same way for the same thing, watch how your child problem solves, get as many clues as you can and look for any patterns that might show up.

Enjoy this process...have fun with it and next time we will use the information you discovered this week to lead us to the next step.