Thursday, July 15, 2010

Language aquisition and YOU

For those who have visited my babywearing site ( you might have seen my link for Monkey Bars. I won't go into a full blown explanation of monkey bars, but what I want you to notice is that on that monkey bar page I have listed quite a few activity ideas that you can do with your little one. They are very very very simple, and aren't anything that you couldn't make up yourself. I simply posted them for those people who don't have the time to think about this stuff or don't feel like they can come up with ideas on the fly.

The biggest thing you will notice is that the activities all focus on talking with your little one and using key words to point out things in their environment. They are simple words, but to a little one that doesn't talk much, it's a treasure trove of new experiences! Hearing you say the words, seeing you point to things, getting that eye-to-eye contact with Mom and Dad, and learning the names of new things is exciting to an infant or toddler. You might even think that you sound silly talking to someone who doesn't talk back, but it's the best thing you can do and makes them feel super super loved!

If you wonder why I have such an interest in helping parents have conversations with their little ones, then I will share with you the fact that both of my children had speech problems growing up. Luckily, my 2.5 year old had the fortune of getting caught early on and he LOVED going to school once a week for speech therapy. To him, it was extra playtime with other kids and he got special one on one time that made him feel special. On the other hand, my 15 year old struggled a little more than his little brother, and I can remember how hard it was for me to try to convince everyone NOT to talk the same as he did. It's hard NOT to use the same nicknames that they do when they first start talking. I still catch myself saying "uv you too!" when my littlest says it. As a result, Michael's spelling suffered. You see, when the schools start teaching you how to sound out words, you can make a lot of mistakes when you say words differently than they are supposed to be. (Try spelling spaghetti when you've said "buskepi" for the last 4 years.)

So I thought I would share some of my experience and ideas with you if you are one of those parents that knows their child needs a little help, but just don't know how to help them. There's no tricks, really. Eye contact, slower speaking, and involving them in the conversation early on makes all the difference in the world! And if you are a babywearer, then you have another advantage because when you wear your child in front, they can see the words come out of your mouth even better!

First thing that might help you to know is when children usually learn certain sounds. Lexicons (sounds) are USUALLY learned in this order:

(emerging early)
P, M, H, N, W

(emerging around age 2)
B, K, G, D, T, NG

And emerging later on (around 2 and a half years or later) in order:
F, Y, R, L, S, CH, SH, Z, J, V, TH (thin), TH (then), ZH

Next, you need to realize that if your child doesn't say these sounds at the right age, that doesn't mean you have to worry. It might just be that they haven't had a reason to use those sounds yet because the things in their environment don't HAVE those sounds! If you want to teach them the "G" sound, try giving them a stuffed animal like an alligator or a dog. Find a book that uses words with those sounds. Or take time looking through the grocery ads in the paper once a week and point out foods that have those sounds to them.

Last, if your child still seems to be having a harder time than children his age, don't hesitate to ask their pediatrician! They will know resources in the area that can test your child (don't worry, they'll have fun) and let you know if your child is eligible for free services in the area. There's always help.

I hope some of this information was helpful to you! I know that I would have loved to have known that everything my child needed was already in me when I was a new parent. It's hard to be confident in yourself when you are getting advice from every different direction. Just rest assured that you can't ever teach a child something they won't use. Don't hesitate to talk to them, even if they can't talk back yet. They really are listening, even if it doesn't look like it. ;-)

and the Speech Pathology and Audiology Clinic at Kent State University

Great resource!

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