10 Common Myths about Speech and Language Development

Well-meaning parents and friends love to give advice about your child and how to support their speech and language development, but how do you know what’s true and what’s simply an old wives’ tale? Here we break down a few of the common things parents are told about speech and language development and give you the truth.   Talking in simplified ‘telegrammatic’ speech helps babies and toddlers learn to talk. Speaking telegrammatically means you use main content words, and telegrammatic speech usually contains no grammar, or grammatical errors (e.g. ‘he big’ instead of “he is big”, or ‘I jump’ instead of “I am jumping”). Some people think that this kind of talk will help a child’s language skills develop, because it gives them only the most important words to focus on and is very simple. Actually, the opposite is more likely to be true. Telegrammatic speech may actually limit a child’s language development as they are given a poor language model to learn from. They need exposure to good grammar in order to learn to use it! Also, the words, and parts of words, we use when speaking grammatically often provide cues to help your child figure out what you are saying (e.g. when your child hears a word ending in “-ing” they know you are using an ‘action’ word). Simplifying the way you talk by using shorter, simple sentences can be very beneficial for your child’s language development, but even the short sentences you use should always be grammatically correct.   If you use baby-talk you are stunting your child’s development Using baby-talk (as long as it is...

Foundations for Communication

As Speech Pathologists, there might be moments where the things we do in therapy sessions may surprise or confuse parents. To the untrained eye therapy sessions may look like we’re not accomplishing much, just having some fun playing together. This can be especially frustrating when you have come to speech therapy because your child’s not talking. The truth is that there are many key foundations to successful communication, and these foundations are necessary before other skills can be learned successfully. For example, if a child has difficulty paying attention, they will struggle to understand much of what is said to them simply because they haven’t attended fully to it. Similarly, if a child has difficulty understanding language, they will have difficulty learning new words and grammar skills. Most language is learned by hearing, and if you are having trouble understanding what you hear (or aren’t really hearing it because your attention is poor) you will struggle to learn to use it. Five of these foundations to communication are: Joint Attention: The ability to understand that we can pay attention to the same object as someone else. For example, your child is able to follow eye gazing, pointing, or other gestures from another person (a communication partner) which leads to both paying attention to the same object. Shared Enjoyment: The ability to share an event or feeling with another person. For example, your child sees something funny on TV, laughs and then looks at you to see if you also enjoyed it. Intent: The ability to use different forms of communication (verbal or non-verbal) to send messages to other people. This can involve using verbal (like saying “look”, “watch”, “come here”, etc.)...

Toy Tales

This simple idea is lots of fun, encourages imagination, teaches oral language and literacy skills and results in a special home-made book your child can treasure for years to come. All you need is a smart phone or a camera. The child helps to take photos of their favourite toy/s in little activity scenes such as eating breakfast, watching television, making a mess in the bathroom and sleeping on the couch. Be creative – you can search the internet and use “Elf on the Shelf” ideas to inspire your own scene creations if you want. You and your child can print the pictures out and stick them into an exercise book or display folder to tell a little story. Alternatively, you could tell the story while scrolling through the photos on your phone or camera. An app that can also be used to create these stories on your phone or iPad is Little Bird Tales. What adventure is teddy going on...

10 Tips for Supporting Language Development at Home

If you are concerned about your child’s language development the best thing you can do is see a Speech Pathologist. But perhaps it’s not possible for you to access support immediately, but you’d like to be doing something while you wait. Maybe you have a child who you feel could benefit from just little bit of extra help, even though their language is within the normal range. Whatever the reason, if you want to help boost your child’s language development, here are 10 tips for things you can do at home. 1. Talk every day. The most important thing your child needs to develop their language skills is to hear you talk. Spend as much time interacting with your child as you can. This doesn’t have to be playing or doing structured activities together. You can talk while you do just about anything – cooking, washing, getting dressed… Talk as much as you can. Try to limit the amount of time your child spends in front of a screen and substitute interaction instead. Most of my son’s first words came from doing housework together! 2. Get on the same level. When you are talking, it will help keep your child’s attention if you are on the same level. If they are playing on the floor, get down on the floor with them. If you are cooking at the bench, perhaps they can stand on a chair beside you. Having easy access to your face makes it easier for your child to watch and hear how you speak and will make them more likely to copy you. 3. Take a...