Thursday, May 27, 2010

Week 19 Using Music to Pop Language

I picture your week filled with fun times with books. I would love to hear your stories about any success you had with books or any insights.

This week we will think about how to use music to pop your child's language. We know that children love music and respond to it very early with wiggles and baby dancing.

The neat thing about songs is that they are very repetitive and often times use short phrases. Just like we are doing when we are focusing on popping language with our child. So, we are repeating, using short phrases, using animation or at least a fun voice and there is fun music involved...what child could resist?

Here are some hints of using what you already know to make music more fun and interactive.

Try to slow down the songs. Start listening to the speed of kids songs...they really are very fast which makes it hard for your child to "sing along". So, when you are singing with your child, slow the song way down. Think how fast we sing "old McDonald". If you sing it slower you can add pauses (to give your child an opportunity to join in-also known as taking a turn). You can build up the anticipation of what comes next "and on his farm he had a.............." and wait :)

Now lets add some props so that we can make it more fun and give the child a choice. So with Old McDonald I would have some animal figurines or stuffed animals or pictures of animals and then you can set up the turn like this "and on his farm he had a.... cow or horse?" and show them the props. And remember, when props are around, y0ur child may just take the lead and play with the props and the singing time might be done but you can still use the props to pop language.

Now lets focus on sounds/words that will be easy for your child to produce. I love Old McDonald because you have the "eieio" refrain which is easy for a child to say. But it works best if you slow it down and after modelling a couple times, pause for dramatic effect before you say "oh" because that can be fun and motivating. And using a dramatic voice makes things even more fun which keeps your child engaged for a longer time.

Another prop that can be fun is a toy microphone or even a real microphone. Some kids are hesitant to participate but put a microphone in front of them and it becomes a new activity. Also if you add instruments of any kind, this makes music more interactive. Instruments can be as simple as putting some rice or beans in a sealed jar or tube and shaking it and as fancy as buying instruments at the store. And don't forget about clapping and dancing and using your whole body while you are singing...moving around can keep the busy child engaged longer.

Here is something I want you to try this week. Sing to your child throughout the day, commenting on what they are doing. For example "put your sock on your foot, on your foot. Put your sock on your foot on your foot, put your sock on your foot, put your sock on your foot, put your sock on your foot on your foot." I know it would help if you could hear the tune that I am using. Try to use a tune that you already know but put your own words to it. Keep it simple, repetitive and fun. Let me know how it goes.

Have a great holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Week 18 How to "Read" When Book Time is Difficult AND How to Use Books To Pop Language

If I asked you the following question, "how does your child like books?" I bet that your answer would fall into one of the 2 following descriptions:

Parent #1: answering with a smile "my child loves books, we snuggle together and read at least 15 minutes before bed every night. Also throughout the day my child will bring me books and we will read them on and off all day long."

Parent #2: answering with a grimace on their face "my child doesn't like books! Well they like them but they will not let me read to them, they won't sit still, they want to turn the pages, and don't even think about giving them a book with real pages because they will rip them or tear them out. We try to read books at bedtime but all it ends up being is a power struggle."

If your answer is close to either of these, this post is for you!!! I have lots of hints for the first parent to make your many times with books throughout your day a way to get your child talking more AND I have lots of hints for parent #2 to make books a more fun activity with your child.

Let's think about's a couple other questions to think about:

What does your child like about books? Possible answers.....................
1. They like the pictures.
2. They like to chew on them.
3. They like to turn the pages.
4. They like sitting on my lap and having that special time together.
5. They like listening to me read the story.

What makes books difficult?
1. They like to rip the pages.
2. They won't sit and listen to the story.
3. They want to turn the pages and have control of the book.
4. They want to hear the same story over and over again.
5. The books that have the parts that make noise drive me crazy.

The suggestions that I am going to share will help both parent #1 and parent #2 because we are going to change our focus from reading books with our child to using books to pop language. By taking the "reading to the child" part out of our focus we will make the interactions with books more fun and that will help parent #2, plus all the suggestions will also pop language.

When you want to use a book to pop language you need to make it into an activity for turn taking, setting up opportunities for your child to use a word/sign, etc. How are we going to do that? First think of things that your child loves...characters from TV shows or movies, animals, tools, whatever. Then get a couple books that are about what your child loves. In addition, before you try to use the book, gather some toys that would go with the book. For example: if your child loves Dora, get a Dora book and then bring out any Dora toys that you have in the house. If your child loves animals then grab a couple of their stuffed animals or plastic animals that you would have. If there are fun actions in the book, let's say making a cake, bring a bowl and a spoon with you before you sit down to "read" the book.

Once you are ready, you have the book and the fun props with you, you are going to use your one and two word models, animation, and props to make this book a fun interactive experience. Let's use Dora as an example. You have the book about Dora and you have a Dora figurine and maybe some play cookware. The book is about Boots birthday party. You are not going to read the book!!! You are going to model and comment. So, you open the book and there is Dora...."hi Dora" you might say and even wave to her. Now wait and see what your child does. The next page might be talking about Boots know that so you could say, "we need to make a cake for Boots birthday, let's find a bowl" (which you have right there.) You and your child find the bowl and a spoon and then you can "stir" up the cake...pretending but doing the actual motions. You could pretend to stick your finger in the batter and say "mmmmm" while licking your finger off, followed by "good cake, or nummy cake" and see what your child does. Build your next turn off of what your child does. Now, you might only go through a page or two, but the more fun your child is having with you and the book and the props, the more they will be interested in trying this "book thing" again.

You want to avoid power struggles with the book. As soon as your child grabs the book and takes over, don't worry or try to grab it back. You can interact with the props, talk to Dora "oh, Emily has the book, I wonder what happens next?" and wait. You could also keep cooking with the props. Make it look fun and I bet your child will want to join in with you again. Then you might be able to get the book back and comment about another picture in the book. not get caught in the trap of asking questions with a book!!! Yes, I know you do this :) but it will not help your child add words or enjoy books more. Here is a simple trick to avoid getting into the question trap. Comment about what you are seeing in the book instead of asking questions.

Example: We open a page and we want to say "where is the ball?", but instead you point to the ball and say "I see a ball", or "ball" or "red ball" and then wait.... Instead of saying "what is Pooh doing?" you say "Pooh is eating, num num". Try to keep the focus on interaction and taking turns and not on "quizzing". If your child grabs a book and randomly points to a picture say "oh, you found a duck, quack quack".

Here is another fantastic and fun thing you can do with or for your child. You can make a simple book of their favorite things. Just rip pictures out of magazines, mount them on a piece of paper, maybe slip them into a plastic sleeve and put in a 3 ring binder...and you have a very exciting book. If your child loves trains, you can fill this book with trains. If your child loves animals, fill it with animals. You can also find pictures of your child's favorite characters and make a book just of that. This is very low tech but your child will love it and it makes them enjoy books more and will pop more language.

It is important for you to look at books in two different ways. This post was all about using books to pop language. But I don't want you to give up reading books for just enjoyment. If your child loves snuggling together and listening to you read to them, then please keep doing this. It is important in so many ways. And if your child isn't interested in having books read to them yet, maybe by making books fun and interactive your child will want to use books more during the day and eventually enjoy the reading time together.

Enjoy this week....bring out your books, props and just have fun.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Week 17 Labels

I wanted to mention a couple other thoughts about sounds coming in before I switch off this topic. One thing to notice is that your child will substitute an easier sound for a harder sound...for example wabbit for rabbit (the w is an early developing sound, the r is much later), basketti for spaghetti (b easier than sp), yuv or wuv for love, tookie for cookie, pone for phone, caw for car, etc. When you are listening to your child's words, look at the substitutions that they are using and see that typically you will hear an earlier developing sound for the later developing sound.

Also, when you put two consonants together the production gets much harder, for example poon for spoon. So bl, br, tr, cl, sp, st, str, spl, tr, etc. in a word are even harder to produce than the words with a single your child will substitute an easier sound for the blend. And usually that will be just dropping off one of the consonant sounds in the blend. This is very typical.

I want to chat a bit about labels. In the world of schools, therapy, media, everyone seems pretty "label" crazy right now. I know that labels do help with getting insurance coverage and are very useful for that. A label is also good for getting more information about what your family is dealing with. These are good things about labels.

But as a parent and family, labels are hard...they hurt! We never want our child to struggle in life and when a professional puts a label on your child it is pretty traumatic. So, let's be realistic about evaluations and labels.

When your child has an initial evaluation by a therapist, they will come up with scores and standard deviations and possibly some labels. In speech therapy your child may have a receptive language delay or disorder (they have trouble understanding language); or they may have an expressive language delay or disorder (they have trouble using words or stringing words together or with grammar), they might have an articulation disorder or delay (they are hard to understand because they say their sounds incorrectly), then there are words like apraxia, autism, PDD, spectrum disorder, Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, etc. etc. What I want you to think about is that your child is not their diagnosis. Your child is still that wonderful little person that brings you joy and remember, is right where they are supposed to be. They may be having some troubles and we need to help them get to the next step, but they are not an autistic child, or a Down Syndrome child, no, they are a child with autism, or a child with Down Syndrome or a child with a speech and language delay. They are a person first, not a label.

Also, when I evaluate a child and I am sharing the results with a family I always let them know that this is just a snapshot of your child...for this a new setting with a new person. The numbers and percentiles and standard deviations are not in stone. Hopefully with lots of chatting with the family and interacting with the child, we get a good enough picture to determine if there is an issue that we can help with. And then we can decide what the next step needs to be.

So, as hard as it is to hear a label or results of an evaluation remember to put it in perspective. You know your child the best and you know what their strengths and weaknesses are. Use the information you get to find out more information and use it to make a plan to help your child get to the next step.

But always remember, your child is your child first and foremost!!! And they are to be loved and cherished and played with and kissed and snuggled and enjoyed to the fullest.

Have a great week!!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Week 16 How to Use Those Easy Sounds to Pop Words!!

Today is all about easy ways to get your child "popping" simple words. Last week we were looking at when sounds come in developmentally. Today we are going to take that idea one step further.

Let's look again at those first sounds that come in...the ones that we only need our lips and some air and voice to create. P, B, M, N, H, W, yes, those are the ones. If you notice that your child can produce any of those sounds, we are going to jump on that and form some words...WOO HOO!!

First off picture yourself on the floor playing with your child. Let's do the car scenario again. So, we are on the floor and we are playing with cars. And now we want to pop some, what do we model??? Try words like "up", "beep", "bus" but don't worry about the "s" sound, "wow", "me", "mine", "more" don't worry about the "r", "boom" when you crash the cars together, "no", etc. etc. You can even try for some two word phrases like "oh no!"; "my bus", "no mine".

Now we are tying lots of ideas together and it's working!!!! We are using a simple one word model of a word that has easy sounds in it. We are using animation, we are having fun, we are waiting and giving our child a chance to imitate, and you know what, we are hearing words or word approximations! Amazing.

What about the next set of sounds like "D,T,G,K"? How about "go", "two", "down", "car" remember, don't worry about the "r". And if your child is already using the easy sounds from above you might be hearing some two word phrases like "up car", "go up", "my car", "go away", "bus down", etc, etc.

Isn't it exciting how easy this can all build on each other? Take a minute today and jot down some words with the easy sounds in them for you to try this week. Also, take the time to jot down all the words, signs, word approximations that your child is saying and put it on the refrigerator. So many parents say to me, my child isn't saying anything, but when you actually start noticing what is coming out of your child's mouth you may be very surprised. The list can be very reassuring.

Let me know how this goes. Talk to you next week.