Sunday, 23 June 2013

A choice we have to make

What was that word...?

Ever had the feeling that the word is "on the tip of your tongue"?  As soon as someone says the word, or something very close, we can remember it straight away.  Even though that prompt can happen a day or more later!

For those of you who have learned a new language, you will also notice that you are often able to understand more than you can say.

What's this?  What's that?

If you've been following my posts on encouraging development of language and teaching new words, you'll notice that I suggest to model simple language.  So often when we are teaching our children, we quiz them.  I know I'm guilty of that, and would also ask my children to repeat back words so that I could show others what they knew!  Sound familiar?!

When children are learning, they can't always remember the word, just like us.  It's not necessarily that they don't know it, it's just that they can't access it as their brain hasn't yet filed it in the right place.  We therefore need to scaffold their learning so that they can access the words more easily and reinforce those neural pathways consistently.  If  there is a neurological impairment (brain damage) this is really important as other links need to be established instead of the usual ones.

What do you want?

In order to support our littlies and this brain development, we can give them choices.  This reduces the load on their memories, they don't have to remember and recall the word on their own, and they can copy your mouth shapes for pronunciation.

What does your littlie have to say when you ask "what's that?" Does he reply "well actually mummy, it's an African elephant and I like it's big ears!", or is he more likely to say just one word back to you?!  Different types of questions require different responses and most of the questions we are likely to quiz our littlies with, only need one word answers! 

Sometimes when we've asked our littlies lots of questions like "what's that?" They start to use the word they've heard the most, so you might get a point and a "that" instead of the name! 

So, when your child looks up at the cupboard and you know they want a biscuit, show e.g. a biscuit and a cup and ask "do you want a biscuit or a drink?".  When your littlie wants a toy or pulls you to sit next to them, ask "do you want the train or the book?" Or "mummy sit or daddy sit?".

I always notice that the littlies will want both options initially, and reach to take both with each hand!  After a while you should notice that your littlie will look to the thing they really want.  after some time, they will reach for it, and then eventually start to attempt words. It is then really important to Stop, Look, Listen, and Translate what they have just said. 

Try anytime...
Is it a sheep...

Giving choices can be done throughout the day, and during any activity; 

  • Whilst reading a book and pointing to the pictures (is that a duck or a car?)
  • Whilst getting dressed (do your socks go on your hands or your feet?)
  • Whilst offering a snack (ok, you get the idea!!!)

....Or a cow?!
Question time

Just become aware of how many questions you ask your child throughout the day and stop to think; Do they know the answer? Can they remember how to say it?  

Once you've noticed you ask loads (because we all do!), perhaps try giving them a lovely big helping hand and give them a choice instead! 

I'd love to hear from you if you feel that by giving choices you felt your child learned new words more quickly? Perhaps your child kept saying your questions back before he learned a wider vocabulary? Perhaps you use symbols or pictures to support the choice making? Do let me know!


Sunday, 9 June 2013

Lost in translation

Having helped your child tune in and develop their listening skills (see Listen as you walk), and by slowing down to give your child a chance to try to speak (see Stop look listen )it's now time for you to tune in and acknowledge your child's attempts at speech...

"Mummy...mummy...MUMMY! You weren't listening to me!"

For those children who can't yet talk, or who haven't learned the importance of doing so, we need to encourage them and build their confidence that every sound (or gesture) is important and can be understood. They need us to translate, to bring them into the world of chats, communication and interaction. So we need to listen!

Have fun on those sound walks?? Hear some things your littlie said that you hadn't noticed before?

It's not always easy to translate for a non verbal child.  But context gives tons of clues, so watch what your littlie is doing, looking at, or pointing towards.  Don't worry if you're not sure what they 'said', better to have a guess based on what you see them doing than to stay silent.  It doesn't matter if you get it wrong, I have many times, but just think how rewarding it will be when your littlie smiles and confirms that you have got it right after all...

"Uh" he says with his arms outstretched... "Up, you said up!" You say.

Often children who are late to talk, are looking for reassurance that they are doing the right thing and are being understood.  By 'translating' you are not only showing that you've heard them, but that you understand and are going to respond straight away.  You are also providing the child with a template of the correct sounds to help them develop their pronunciation, as well as reinforcing the child's understanding of the word they are trying to communicate.

The same style of commenting and translating can be done with children who are using movements or gesture and who are unable to develop speech in the same way.  For example a reach towards something could mean "more" or if your littlie stiffens/stills to something, it could mean either "more" or "stop", depending on the context.

If you are trying to develop language, and your littlie is not using many spoken words, try to keep it simple and only say one or two words back to them.  

Try to make a conscious decision to listen to your child this week. Translate every sound they make that you think should have been a word.  What have they ended up telling you?  I'd love to hear...