Monthly Archives: September 2010

The Importance of Playtime in the Development of Speech and Language Skills in Children

We all like to play – children, adolescents, and adults alike. But did you know that the development of play skills is integral to the development of a child’s speech and language skills? Who would have thought something so fun could be so beneficial!
A play context, in fact,  provides primary communicative opportunities for young children. This means that play can increase a child’s exposure to many vocabulary items, different forms of language, the many uses of language, as well as opportunities to experiment with their own gestures, sounds, and/or words in a safe and comfortable environment. Yes, all that in one context! 
Given the important nature of play in the development of speech and language skills, take a peek at the following tips on how to select toys and create a rich play environment that will help with your child’s speech and language.
                                        
Toy Selection
1.)    When selecting toys for play, try to include the use of toys that allow for both realistic and imaginative play. This way, your child will have opportunities to engage in both concrete and pretend play – two very important forms of play! 
2.)   Toys should also be easy to hold, carry, and manipulate – especially for children who have motor difficulties. The importance here is that the quality of motor ability to manipulate objects appears to be related to early communication development.  
Play Environment
1.)    Play should always be fun and never work. Therefore, let your child lead the play. This means letting him/her engage in whichever activity, in whichever manner they so choose. Even if it means repeatedly putting play-dough back into the container without even molding any shapes — let them lead the play! Kids pay the most attention to what they have chosen and are interested in, not always to what we are interested in. 
2.)    Keep play a positive and pressure-free environment. Try to refrain from asking your child questions during play and instead talk about what is going on during play. Describe what you see, hear, feel, and smell. This will help keep any communicative pressures to a minimum and allow for a comfortable communication environment!


Written by: Mia Majorahn, speech-language pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada Ltd.
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I THINK MY CHILD HAS A STUTTER …. WHAT DO I DO?

Many children go through a period of normal dysfluencys during the preschool years as they learn to put sounds, words and sentences together.  Normal dysfluencys include word and phrase repetitions and hesitations.

Some children, however, develop speech that includes sound and syllable repetitions, sound prolongations, and silent blocks (getting stuck on a sound). This is considered a “stutter”. An estimated 4% of preschoolers in Canada stutter, with onset occurring usually between the ages of 3 and 6.

Early intervention is key to success.  If you are concerned that your child may have a stutter, it is recommended that you seek professional assistance from a registered speech-language pathologist.

As a parent or caregiver, it is important to know these general tips for communicating with children who stutter:

  • Focus on what is being said and not how it is said
  • Do not interrupt
  • Do not tell them to slow down or start over
  • Do repeat and rephrase what was said, but do not expect them to copy what you have said
  • Let them finish
  • Provide a relaxed environment for communication
  • Speak slowly
  • Simplify your language
  • Respond naturally to your child’s speech
  • Be patient and remember that a child who stutters is no less intelligent than his/her non-stuttering peers

For more information, please visit http://www.speechtherapycentres.com

WHAT CAN I DO TO PROMOTE PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS SKILLS IN MY CHILD?

Children generally begin to show early phonological awareness when they demonstrate an appreciation of rhyme. For children as young as 4 years old, focusing on rhyme is a good starting place.

Rhyming activities you can do at home:
 
Sing fun rhyming songs together, such as

Row row row your boat, gently down the stream
     Merrily merrily merrily merrily, life is but a dream

Emphasize the rhyming words by saying them slightly louder and longer. Tell your child that these words rhyme and that they sound the same at the end! After your child is familiar with this song, pause and wait for them to fill in the rhyming word (e.g. Life is but a _________).

Read rhyming books together (e.g. Dr. Suess books) and work together to pick out rhyming words. Make a list of all the rhyming words you can find using markers, crayons or chalk. Ask your child to think of another word that rhymes with those on your list (e.g. “fun, run, sun…can you think of another rhyming word?)

While singing songs or reading books together with rhyming words, pause and ask your child questions such as, “Do “hat” and “cat” rhyme?”, or “Do “dog” and “cat” rhyme?” to encourage rhyme identification. Your child can give a thumbs-up for yes and a thumbs- down for no. Once your child is able to do this with two words, say three words aloud and ask them to tell you which word doesn’t belong.

Make up “silly sentences” while riding in the car or shopping together using rhyming words. Begin a sentence and have your child try to fill in the end using a word that rhymes. For example, you could say, “the bunny is…” and your child can respond, “funny!”

Be creative and have fun! 

Written by:  Emily Dykstra, Speech-Language Pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada Ltd

Making Homework Fun – Using Computer Games to Make Therapy "Homework" Seem …. Not Like Homework

Acquiring speech and language skills takes extensive practice in both the therapy session and at home, too. When juggling schoolwork, meal time, family time, household chores, and down-time, it can often be a challenge to find activities to tempt children into practicing their speech and language homework. Luckily, if you have access to a computer, you have access to therapy materials!
In most therapy sessions, your Speech-Language Pathologist will likely work on a list of goals and then send several of these targets home for you to target with your child. Any turn-based computer game can be turned into therapy practice for drill activities. Hidden object/hide and seek games, puzzle games, and strategy games are usually the best kinds of games for practicing speech and language targets (e.g., practice your target, take your turn on the game). Action and timed games are usually not appropriate for drill therapy practice, unless you modify the rules (e.g., practice 10 speech/language targets and then you get 2 minutes of play on the computer). 
There are many games which are commercially available for a computer or handheld gaming device. In terms of free games, lists of popular online game sites can be found by running a simple search on the internet. These sites often have hundreds of free games to play, many of which are appropriate for speech and language practice. If you aren’t sure whether or not a game is appropriate, send the link to your Speech-Language Pathologist, who will be more than happy to check it out for you. As a warning, many of these sites make their money by showing you ads all over the screen – be sure to only click on the games and not the ads; otherwise you may find yourself buying all sorts of products you never wanted!
Choose a game which suits your child’s interests, because if therapy isn’t interesting, it just won’t get done. With some careful planning and consultation with your Speech-Language Pathologist, your kids will be begging you to let them do their homework!

Written By: Jessica Goldberg, Speech-Language Pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada Ltd.