Akron child speech delays

Speech Delays Higher Among Ohio Kids Whose Early Years Were During Pandemic

Kids in Ohio (and across the world) who were born or spent some of their earliest years as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe are now showing signs of developmental delays. In particular, researchers are noting higher rates of communication and speech delays, motor skill delays, and behavioral delays. It’s been most widely noted among children who are now toddlers all the way up to preschoolers.

As Akron pediatric speech therapists, we have also seen an uptick in parents and caregivers expressing concern for children who are not meeting all the key developmental milestones identified as typical for other kids their age.

This emerging trend has been reported anecdotally, but also in an increasing body of research. An analysis in Ohio looked at speech delays among children in a dozen central Ohio neighborhoods. Prior to the pandemic, approximately 27 percent of kids ages 3 to 5 tested by a Columbus non-profit speech and hearing center failed the speech-language assessment. Post-pandemic, that number shot to 52 percent.

Some other examples include:

  • A study by pediatric neurologists published last fall in the British Medical Journal Archives of Disease in Childhood found that babies in the U.K. born between March 2020 and May 2020 had a more difficult time communicating at 1 year of age compared to those born between 2008 and 2011. Most babies by 9 months are pointing at objects, and by 1 year, are saying their first words. Of the older infants, 90 percent could articulate numerous words at age 1, compared to 77 percent of those born during the pandemic. The share of 1-year-old infants who pointed to objects also fell from 93 percent to 84 percent. The percentage who waved goodbye also dropped, from 94 percent to 88 percent. A quarter of the younger cohort had never met a child their own age by their 1st birthday.
  • Two studies – one by the Rhode Island Hospital and another by the nonprofit LENA Foundation – found that babies born during the pandemic vocalized less and engaged in fewer interactions compared to those born prior to the pandemic. Theories on causation ranged from lack of exposure (just generally being exposed to fewer human interactions involving face-to-face communication – play dates, library story times, daycare, family gatherings, etc.), increased caregiver stress, and excess screen time in many homes where parents had to work while also caring for their children. It’s also possible that early intervention screening was not at optimal levels for kids in many areas. (The Columbus non-profit speech & hearing center referenced early is one of many centers across the U.S. that weren’t conducting screenings face-to-face – or at all – during the better part of 2020.)
  • Researchers at Columbia University published a study showing that babies born in New York City from March to December of 2020 had markedly less developed social and motor skills by 6 months than babies born earlier.
  • Chinese researchers published their findings in the journal Frontiers in Pediatrics in 2021 showing substantially delayed fine motor skills among babies born in 2020, and communication & speech delays in kids who turned 1 at some point in 2020.
  • A study published last year by educators in the United Kingdom found an uptick in problem behaviors, such as hitting and biting, as well as trouble acclimating to large group socializations. This was particularly problematic among 4- and 5-year-olds who were between 0 and 2 when the pandemic first broke out.

Part of the reason these issues are so concerning – and should not be ignored- is because of what we know about early childhood development and the importance of early intervention. There is an explosive amount of brain growth, neural connectivity, and learning that goes on in the first three years of live, continuing usually until around the age of 5. If there is an issue, identifying and addressing it as soon as possible is associated with the best long-term outcomes.

This is why we urge parents and caregivers who suspect their child may be delayed with speech, language, communication, social skills, motor skills, or behavior skills to seek a referral from your child’s pediatrician for closer evaluations. It doesn’t mean there’s anything “wrong.” But the longer we take to address delays, the further behind a child can get. Intervening with speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, or sometimes ABA/behavior therapy as early as possible yields the best results.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Speech and Language Developmental Milestones, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

More Blog Entries:

How Cleveland Speech Therapists Help Treat Preschool Language Disorders, Dec. 10, 2022, Akron Speech Therapy Blog

preschool language disorders Cleveland

How Cleveland Speech Therapists Help Treat Preschool Language Disorders

Most babies and toddlers will understand what is being communicated with them long before they’re able to clearly communicate back. All kids develop speech and language skills at varied paces, but some struggle more than others with understanding what is being said to them (receptive language) and expressing their thoughts to others (expressive language). Children with these difficulties may be diagnosed with one of several preschool language disorders, which our Cleveland speech therapists help to treat.

An estimated 7 percent of Americans have some form of language disorder, according to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA).

Specifically with regard to preschool language disorders, these are usually identified when a child is between the ages of 3 and 5. Sometimes there is a specific cause, such as autism, cerebral palsy, hearing loss, intellectual disability, Down syndrome, etc. But in some cases, there’s no clear explanation. Language disorders can be treated by our Northeast Ohio speech therapists even if we don’t know the precise cause.

In identifying preschool language disorders, speech-language pathologists will assess whether the trouble is receptive or expressive – or both.

Signs of a receptive language disorder include difficulty with things like:

  • Following directions.
  • Answering questions.
  • Deciphering non-verbal language, such as gestures, nods, shrugs, and pointing.
  • Knowing now to take turns in a conversation.

Indicators of an expressive language disorder would include trouble with things like:

  • Naming objects.
  • Learning songs and rhymes.
  • Stringing together words in a sentence.
  • Using the correct pronouns in conversation.
  • Gesturing.
  • Asking questions.
  • Starting – and maintaining – a conversation.
  • Adjusting their speech for the time, place, and person settings. For instance, they might not recognize that they need to use a louder voice outdoors or that they should speak differently to the teacher than they would a peer.

Kids with preschool language disorders may also have a really tough time with early reading and writing skills, such as telling a basic story (beginning, middle, end), naming numbers and letters, or pointing to/identifying persons, places, or things in a book.

It’s worth noting that a language disorder is different than a speech or speech sound disorder (though it is possible for a child to have both). They’re closely-related – but distinct – skills. While language is the whole system of communication (words, symbols, written, spoken, gestured, use of body language, etc.), speech is the actual sound of spoken language. Speech is specific to oral communication, i.e., talking.

Speech trouble is often a matter of mechanics (coordinating use of the jaw, lips, tongue, vocal tract, etc. in a very specific way to correctly produce sounds). With language, there’s often some neurological component at the core.

Treatment for Preschool Language Disorders

If a child is showing signs of a language disorder, it is not a good idea to “wait-and-see.” Initiating treatment with a speech-language pathologist as soon as possible will have the best long-term results. The younger a child is, the more plasticity they have in their neural connections – and the easier it will be for them to forge new neural pathways that will help them overcome their language difficulties. Treatment can begin as early as 18 months (sometimes even before that, if the child has a condition like Down syndrome that is well-established at birth or soon after).

At Therapy & Wellness Connection, we provide 1-1 speech therapy for children who struggle with language, and we also offer regular small group sessions so kids get additional practice and reinforcement with their peers.

Most pediatric language therapy interventions involve consistent training of some specific language skill, followed by positive reinforcement. Kids often learn most effectively when treated within a social context. The intensity and duration of therapy will depend on the resources (and insurance) available, as well as the child’s specific needs, abilities, and age.

If you think your child may have a preschool language disorder, reach out to our dedicated team of speech therapists in Northeast Ohio to discuss the steps necessary to schedule a formal evaluation.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Preschool Language Disorders, ASHA

More Blog Entries:

Brecksville Speech Therapy Team on Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder, Nov. 2, 2022, Cleveland Speech Therapy Blog

Brecksville speech therapy

Brecksville Speech Therapy Team on Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder

Our Brecksville speech therapy team have successfully treated many kids with social pragmatic communication disorder. It’s a condition characterized by significant challenges with both verbal and nonverbal communication used regularly in social settings.

Social-communication trouble can be associated with other communication disorders, but social pragmatic communication disorder has been considered its own thing since 2013, when it was defined under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5). It’s also separate from neurodevelopmental disorders that are often associated with social communication skills (namely autism). As the Brecksville speech therapy team at Therapy & Wellness Connection can explain, that means someone with autism may have social pragmatic communication disorders, but not all do and not everyone with a social pragmatic communication disorder is on the autism spectrum. Someone on the autism spectrum with this condition would receive different supports and treatment compared to someone solely with one or the other.

As defined in the new DSM-5 (specifically DSM5 315.39 (F80.89) ), social pragmatic communication disorder involves persistent difficulties in the social use of verbal and nonverbal communication, as manifested by all of the following:

  • Deficits in communicating for social purposes (greeting someone, sharing information, saying goodbye, etc.).
  • Difficulty changing one’s communication style to match the context or needs of the listener. For example, a child would need to communicate differently in a classroom with a teacher than they would on the playground with a friend. They wouldn’t use formal language playing on a jungle gym, etc.
  • Trouble following the rules for conversations and storytelling. Some examples our Brecksville speech therapy team can note off the top of our heads would be things like turn-taking in conversations, rephrasing something that’s misunderstood, or knowing how to use a nonverbal signal to regulate an interaction.
  • Excessive talking or interfering with others’ conversations.
  • Trouble understanding things that aren’t stated explicitly or difficulty with ambiguous, nonliteral language (humor, idioms, multiple meanings, etc.).

Although the onset of these symptoms are likely to surface in the early developmental period, they may not fully manifest until social communication demands exceed their capacities. Ultimately, we may see this impact their ability to make and maintain friendships, participate in teach sports, and excel in academics.

The most common areas of difficulty are those pertaining to social interactions, understanding others, nonverbal communication, and language processing. A person with this condition might have trouble understanding certain tones of voice, effectively sharing their own ideas or thoughts, or interpreting what someone else is saying not only based on their words but body language, etc. They may not use nonverbal gestures like pointing or waiving. They might have trouble keeping track of the topic that’s being discussed or finding ways to use the appropriate words in a conversation.

The main difference between social pragmatic communication disorder and autism is that ASD involves specific characteristic behaviors (i.e., intense/obsessive focus on a certain topic, frequent repetitive behaviors, disruptive behaviors, sensory issues, etc.).

A child who is diagnosed with ASD but doesn’t have some of those restrictive, repetitive, disruptive behaviors may need to be reevaluated for social pragmatic communication disorder. It’s a condition most commonly diagnosed in children, but can be diagnosed in adulthood as well.

Brecksville Speech Therapy Treatment for Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder

Treatment for this condition focuses on improving functional communication that’s need to effectively navigate social settings.

Our speech therapists at TWC work to identify the issues that are most challenging for the child, discover their interests, and then find ways to utilize those interests to engage them in mastering these skills to overcome social obstacles.

We first work on practicing those skills in a clinical setting – maybe even engaging other kids and therapists to participate – and then working to help kids generalize those skills as they progress.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides ABA therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Diagnostic Criteria for Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder, Indiana Resource Center for Autism

More Blog Entries:

How Akron Speech Therapy Can Help With Auditory Processing Disorder, Oct. 27, 2022, Brecksville Speech Therapy Blog

Cleveland speech therapists

Why Our Cleveland Speech Therapists Teach Kids How to Make Inferences

As Cleveland speech therapists, we help kids of all ages work on a broad range of speech, language, and communication goals. One of the toughest of those is something called inferences.

When kids are first learning how to engage in conversations, we start by asking them literal questions or prompting them with fill-in-the-blanks for literal details. It takes some explicit, thinking skill instruction to teach kids how to answer inferential questions.

Learning to make inferences is important because they’re used frequently throughout the day. They’re often required in the text we read for school, but they’re also used to read our environment, as well as the people around us. Social situations often require that we make assumptions about what others are thinking or feeling – so that we can adapt our response/behavior accordingly. This doesn’t always come naturally to some kids, and that’s why it’s an important skill on which our Cleveland speech therapists focus in our sessions.

Cleveland speech therapists

What is an Inference vs. a Literal Question?

As our Cleveland speech therapists can explain, literal questions are probably most easily described as the “Wh questions.” You know: who, what, where, and when things. The answers are to such questions are going to be literal, concrete, explicitly-stated and easily verified. Answering a literal question requires a child to recall or find facts that are in the text or that were just stated in a conversation.

An example of a literal question would be something like, “What color is the ball?” or “What is Jamar eating?” or “Where is the dog?” While kids with speech-language delays or disorders may have some difficulty answering these questions, they’re the easiest sort of questions because the answers are concrete and verifiable.

It gets trickier with inferential questions. One needs to utilize context clues to be able to use an inference to answer a question. It often involves answering the why or how of something. A lot of times, there can even be more than one correct answer. An inference involves a child looking at the text or picture, thinking about the context clues, matching that up to their own background knowledge or understanding, and then formulating a conclusion about what has happened or is happening.

For example, let’s say your little brother has chocolate on his mouth. There are cookie crumbs on the floor, and the cookie jar is empty. You can infer your little brother ate the last cookie.

In another example, the book explains that the thunder boomed loudly, and the author found her dog shaking underneath the bed. The reader recalls from their own experience that loud noises can be scary. The reader can infer the dog is scared of the thunder.

Why Teaching Inferences is Important to Speech Therapy

Students learn to answer questions as a core part of their education. The ability to answer questions – both literal and inferential – is also frequently key to many aspects of kids’ speech therapy goals., particularly as they get into 2nd grade and beyond.

Schools start with expecting kindergarteners to answer literal questions about a given text. Students need know how to answer literal questions first – and have a solid foundation of that – before moving on to the higher-order thinking skills required for inferential questions. In second grade, schools begin setting expectations to have students make inferences.

If a child does not have a solid foundation of being able to answer literal questions, that is where our Cleveland speech therapists will first focus our attentions.

Some examples of methods we may use to help children answer literal questions:

  • We may ask a where or a who question and provide several picture choices, allowing the child to give an answer based on the pictures
  • We may allow the child to draw their answer to a literal question.
  • We may provide a highlighter and start by having the child highlight the nouns. That often provides great clues about where we will find the answers to literal questions.
  • We may tip them off with “clue words.” For instance, if we’re asking the child to provide an answer to a where question, we want them to think about the fact that they aren’t looking for an object or name, but rather a place. We may even have a visual aid that shows where = place, who = person, when = time, etc.

When we start in with lessons on inferential questions, our Cleveland speech therapists must teach that they aren’t always going to find the answer straight out of the text. They’re going to need to put on their detective hats to solve the mystery answer. Some of the strategies we might use to help children learn to answer inferential questions:

  • Flag clue words. These are going to be words like “think,” “might,” or “probably.” Also, if they’re being asked how a certain character feels or why something happened the way it did, this is a good indicator that they’re being asked to make an inference. Other clue words are adjectives, given that they can help describe the person’s feelings or how an event occurred.
  • Graphic organizers, like sequencing charts, can provide a visual tool to help kids see a chain of events and make inferences about the how and why.
  • Whenever possible, we’re going to take advantage of visual aids like pictures, drawings, etc. Many kids are visual learners, and visual guides can go a long way toward boosting their understanding.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Making Inferences, Scholastic Teachables

More Blog Entries:

More Blog Entries:

Cleveland Speech Therapists Offer Activities to Encourage Kids’ Language, May 12, 2022, Cleveland Speech Therapy Blog

Cleveland speech therapists

Cleveland Speech Therapists Offer Activities to Encourage Kids’ Language

Cleveland speech therapists

May is Better Speech & Hearing Month, and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports 1 in 12 kids age 3-17 in the U.S. has a disorder related to voice, speech, language or swallowing. Our Cleveland speech therapists recognize that speech problems (difficulty being understood by others) are the most common among kids ages 3-10. Language problems (difficulty understanding others) ranked No. 2. More than one-third of kids with communication disorders has more than one.

As Cleveland speech therapists, we have decades of combined experience in engaging with children with speech-language disorders and delays, and helping to encourage their development on these fronts. But we also recognize that speech therapy is only part of the puzzle! The more consistent practice and carryover a child has across environments, the better these new skills are going to “stick,” and the faster kids will reach their speech therapy goals!

So what’s the best way to practice these skills with your kids? Play!

“Your child’s most important job is to play. It’s through play that young kids learn and grow. So playing with your child is really the best way to help them sharpen those speech & language skills.”

Jaclyn McClymont, speech-language pathologist, owner and founder of Therapy & Wellness Connection.

Any play that engages your child is generally going to be good for encouraging speech and language (as well as positive mental health and interpersonal connection). That said, there may be some activities/games that are more beneficial than others.

Here, our Cleveland speech therapists offer a few of our simple favorites!

Pretend Talk on the Phone

Pretending to talk on the phone is great for teaching kids important words, family member names, and social skills like turn-taking. If they’re very young, you can work on the basics, “Hi!” “Ok!” “Yes.” “No.” “Momma.” “Grama.” “Bye!” Modeling speech & language doesn’t need to be super complicated for it to be effective. The key is to keep it fun!

Cleveland speech therapy kids

“Who’s on the phone? Is it Daddy? No, Ok. Is it Momma?”

“Did you tell Momma hi? Hi, Momma! Ok, bye!”

Sing Songs in Motion

The list here is endless, but to name a few:

  • Wheels on the Bus
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • Old Macdonald
  • Five Little Ducks
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes
  • Baby Shark (if it doesn’t drive you crazy!)
  • Hokey Pokey

Often, kids will copy the motions first. Eventually, they’ll wade in with a few of the words. Before you know it, they’ll have it all down to a T!

YouTube has some engaging videos to go along with these, and the extra visual may help too.

Look Through/Read Books

You don’t have to read a 40-page book. Most kids won’t sit through that anyway. But start with picture books. Think small – 3-5 pages. And you don’t necessarily have to “read” them all either. Look through the pictures. Point to various objects or people in the story. Label them. Talk about what might be happening.

speech therapist Cleveland kids

It will take time, but eventually you’ll be able to get through the whole book. Then you can start reading it. Rhyming or sing-songy books are often best for memorization.

Play Ball!

Kids love balls. They’re great not only for gross motor skills, but also for development of joint attention, turn-taking, and other key social skills.

You can work on words like roll, throw, bounce, catch, down, up, around, over, your turn, my turn, etc.

If you’re trying to encourage requesting, wait a few beats after you’ve gotten the ball for them to motion or ask for it returned.

“You want the ball? Say, ‘Ball!” or “Ball please!”

Narrate everything you’re doing.

“The ball went over the chair!”

Once they master some of the basics, you can start adding other adjectives.

“You’re playing with the big, blue ball!”

Play With Bubbles

Bubbles are so easy and simple, they’re sometimes overlooked – but they can be a source of ENDLESS fun and enjoyment for kids.

Help your child work on requesting the bubbles, model for them “more bubbles” and say words like, “up, down, pop, jump, catch, circle, over, under,” etc.

Speech therapy games

Bubbles are great at bath time year-round, but spring & summer are perfect for taking it outside, and giving them a chance to get some fresh air & soak up some Vitamin D!

Play With Pretend Food

Kids are crazy about pretend food. They love to play as if they are planning, preparing, and eating it. It’s been our Cleveland speech therapists’ experience that even when kids don’t have utensils or plates or cups or play-food, they’ll get imaginative and make do with what they have. So if you have pretend food – cool. If you don’t – no sweat. Kids’ imaginations are a wonder. You can use a block, a box, or even empty boxes or cans, cartons, etc.

You can model pouring food, cooking food, drinking, and eating. You can model words like, “Yummy! Great job! Hot! Cold! Yucky! cup, plate, fork, all done, mine, yours, good,” etc. You can also label different food items, and even put them into categories. “Apple is a fruit.” “Chicken is meat.”

Cleveland Speech Therapists Encourage Parent Involvement!

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you play – but that you’re engaged. The best thing parents can do for their kids day in and out is talk to them. Narrate what you’re doing. Narrate what others are doing. Talk about colors, shapes, animals, weather, foods, people, cars – anything that captures their interest and imagination.

If you have questions about how you can engage your child during playtime, our speech therapy team can help!

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Akron and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

The Importance of Play: How Kids Learn by Having Fun, Sept. 28, 2020, Healthline.com

More Blog Entries:

Why Our Cleveland Speech Therapists LOVE Repetitive Picture Books for Kids, March 19, 2022, Cleveland Pediatric Speech Therapy Blog

early intervention speech therapy

“Late Talkers” Who Get Early Intervention Speech Therapy Have Better Long-Term Outcomes

As speech therapy providers, we’re well-acquainted with the fact that “late talkers” can benefit from early intervention. And while there is evidence those who “catch up” continue to be at moderate risk for further speech-language deficits as they get older, research shows those risks even out, ultimately equaling about the same as those who started off with no speech delays at all.

How Do We Define “Late Talker”? 

The American Speech Hearing Association refers to “late talking” as “late language emergence.” It is defined as a delay in language onset when there are no other diagnosed disabilities or other developmental cognitive/motor delays.

It’s estimated 10-20 % of 2-year-olds are late talkers, and it’s three times more common in boys than girls.

Toddlers with late language emergence might have only expressive language delays (the ability to express ones’ self to others). Alternatively, they might have mixed expressive & receptive delays (trouble both expressing one’s self and understanding what other people are expressing to them). Kids with expressive language delays have trouble with things like articulation (how to say words correctly) and sentence structure. A child with mixed expressive and receptive would have trouble with oral language production and language comprehension.

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has a great Speech and Language Milestones Checklist to help you determine if your child’s speech-language is delayed. Our speech therapy clinic in Brecksville also offers free initial screenings, as well as comprehensive testing, as referred by a physician.

Children who are “late talkers” are going to be at risk for literacy troubles as well, and the condition can later show itself to be closely associated with other disabilities, such as social communication disorder, autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, learning disability, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Although some kids with late language emergence later prove to be “late bloomers” (who ultimately catch up to their peers without intervention), the differentiation is really only made after the fact. That’s why we recommend all “late talkers” get early intervention speech therapy.

Early Intervention Speech Therapy Helps Late Talkers Catch Up

Speech therapy has been proven to help children with speech-language delays “catch up” to their peers.

One study published in the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology revealed that kids who received early intervention speech therapy and caught up to their peers were no more likely than any other child to fall behind in language/literacy later in life.

The longitudinal (over time) analysis looked at nearly 3,600 pairs of twins who participated in an early development study. About 9 percent of the twin sets were language delayed at age 2. Of those, 60 percent had “recovered” or “caught up” by the time they reached four years. Those who “recovered” were matched with another 4-year-old participant who matched their same vocabulary, gender, and other characteristics – but who did not have a history of language delay.

What they found was that kids who appeared to have “recovered” by age 4 were at no higher risk than others for language outcomes as they got older.

Further, when a child’s language difficulties are largely resolved by age 5 or 6, their long-term outlook for language development is much better. We also know that early intervention speech therapy can be critical in helping children with late language emergence to “catch up” in the first place.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

What is Early Intervention? ASHA

More Blog Entries:

Does Baby Talk Boost Speech-Language Development? Feb. 1, 2022, Northeast Ohio Speech Therapy Blog

Cleveland speech therapists

Why Our Cleveland Speech Therapists LOVE Repetitive Picture Books for Kids

Any speech-language pathologist will tell you that pretty much all books are amazing tools for encouraging language development in your child. But when it comes to younger kids,  it’s the predictive, repetitive picture books that are best. This is especially true for kids who may be struggling with those speech and language skills. Why, though? As our Cleveland speech therapists can explain, the repetitive nature of these books helps reduce what we call the “cognitive load.” In other words, they don’t have to think so hard to figure out what’s being said and how to say it themselves.

With repetitive picture books, kids get the chance to engage by filling in the words, phrases, and character’s names as the content of the book becomes more familiar – which is easier when it’s simple and repetitive. Bonus points if it rhymes. Repetitive texts are predictable. Lots of kids enjoy predictability because knowing what to expect provides a sense of calm.

When we’re reading to children, it’s a form of engagement and they want to participate. Non-repetitive books can be great too, but studies have shown that with those, kids will try to participate by answering reader questions or imitating the reader’s words – skills that can be really tough for them early on, particularly if they have conditions like childhood apraxia of speech, autism spectrum disorder, or speech-language delays. Repetitive picture books decrease their frustrations, which can boost participation, turn-taking, comprehension – and fun!

Pictures are a necessary component for children’s books because they help introduce new vocabulary in context, aiding comprehension.

Our Cleveland speech therapists use these types of books to target all types of goals, including the skills needed for receptive language (understanding what’s being said), expressive language (using language to express yourself), articulation (proper pronunciation of the words), and fluency (the continuity, smoothness, rate and effort in speech production). If a child has trouble producing certain sounds, the frequent practice provided by repetitive picture books can do wonders.

speech-language development

Does Baby Talk Boost Speech-Language Development?

Over the years, there’s been some debate about whether “baby talk” helps or hinders speech-language development for infants and toddlers. Before our Brecksville speech-language pathologists weigh in, it’s important to note there is a key difference between “baby talk” and “parentese.” Both are often cutesy and sing-song-y, but baby talk typically involves nonsense words (“shoesie-woosies” or “toesie-woesies”), while parentese involves exaggerated sounds and simple words and grammar (“Goooooo-dd morn-iiiiing!” and “haaaa-ppyyy!” and “brr-iiiiiight!”).

For all our differences across languages and cultures in the world, parentese is one near universal when it comes to teaching children to communicate. That is to say, parents and caregivers appear naturally drawn to use this speaking style around small children, perhaps because it’s proven so effective in getting a baby’s attention. It’s one of the first tools we offer to help babies learn to verbalize.

Extensive research shows that parentese – which has roots in “baby talk” – is actually critical for helping children learn language. Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with baby talk, at least really early on, parentese takes it to the next level with conscious attention to intonation and gestures. It’s also grammatically correct, even if simplified.

Brecksville speech therapy

Brecksville Speech Therapy Communication Boosters for Kids Under 5

Helping small children learn to communicate is something parents innately start virtually from the moment a child is born. But our Brecksville speech therapy team knows that fostering strong speech and language skills sometimes requires acting with a bit more purpose. Even if you have zero concerns about your child’s ability to communicate, there’s no harm in thoughtfully working to boost your child’s social skills and vocabulary.

As speech-language pathologists who work with young children in the process of acquiring and developing language, we have accumulated many effective techniques that help kids not only in learning to talk, but mastering broader language and communication skills. Here, we’re sharing some of the basics you can use with your child at home, in the community, and during everyday interactions. This is useful for kids with typically-developing speech and language, as well as those for whom such skills are a bit more challenging. Brecksville speech therapy for kids

Non-Verbal Communication

Talking isn’t the only communication skill on the table. In fact, it isn’t even the first. Babies communicate by crying. As they get older, they make eye contact, use body language, and point. Words eventually become the easiest way to convey specific wants, needs, and dislikes, but that comes later. As parents and caregivers, when we recognize, encourage, and positively reinforce those language precursors, we promote healthy speech-language production.

Interesting and of note: Language development and play are very closely related. Kids first start saying their first words around 12 to 13 months, and it’s not a coincidence that this is around the same time that symbolic play begins to emerge. (Symbolic play would be something like holding up a piece of fruit and pretending it’s a phone.) When you participate in that symbolic play, you’re encouraging her language development and helping to expand his/her capacity to represent things both mentally and symbolically.

Create Communication Opportunities

There are many ways parents can create opportunities to encourage their little ones to practice key communication skills. Some of those include:

  • Putting desired objects slightly out-of-reach. Instead of simply handing your child the milk you know they want, place it just out of reach of their high chair. Wait for them to ask for it, or at least signal their desire (point, make eye contact, etc.). Reinforce their communication by saying back to them, “You want the milk? Ok, momma will give you the milk.” Same thing for much-loved toys: Put them just a bit higher up (but not so high they can’t be seen.)
  • Pretend to be forgetful. Kids LOVE this game. You have lots of routines your child has probably already gotten used to – morning, afternoons, dinner time and bedtime. Let’s say you’re preparing her breakfast. “Forget” to pour the milk. She’s going to “catch” you being forgetful/changing the routine/what’s expected. This is a great way to initiate conversations with young kids.
  • Pause during predictable activities. Same concept as “forgetting,” but you’re waiting for them to fill in the blanks. You can start with a favorite song your child loves. “Mary had a little -” and then wait to see if she fills in the blank. That prompts her not only to use her vocabulary, but also practice the back-and-forth turn-taking of language.

Other Helpful Strategies from our Brecksville Speech Therapy Team

Speech and language are skills every child develops at their own pace, but the goal should always be to help them master the next level – while also boosting their self-confidence and keeping it fun!

Other techniques our Brecksville speech-language pathologists use:

  • Imitation. If the child is babbling or making nonsense noise, make another playful sound in response. Imitating a child’s sounds and actions – and later words – shows them that they have the ability to be heard! It also helps them begin to grasp the turn-taking element of language. Eventually, they’ll work their way to more complex communication skills.
  • Interpretation. If a child points to a toy, they are communicating that they want it. Our speech therapists take this to the next level by interpreting their non-verbal communication with a response like, “Truck! You want the truck.”
  • Expansion & recasting. If the child says, “white ball,” we respond by saying, “Yes, that’s a big, white ball.” If a child says, “monkey jump off bed,” we recast that grammar by responding with, “The monkey did jump off the bed.” We’re using intonation and stress to underscore the words on which we want the child to focus.
  • Comment and description. Rather than direct your child during playtime, play a newscaster. Give them the play-by-play. “You’re moving the yellow truck around the track.” “You’re putting the brown horse in the barn.” “You’re throwing me the ball!” This not only helps boost a child’s vocabulary, it’s going to help them organize those thoughts while they’re playing.
  • Contingent responses. This is important, but it’s often one of the toughest. It involves responding right away to any and all attempts at communication. That includes not just words, but gestures or other efforts to get your attention. Kids need to know that not only is communication in general important, but so specifically is their voice.
  • Labeling. You can do this with infants who aren’t talking yet as well as small children – label everything around them. Everything from the rain in the sky to the fruit on their plate to the dog you pass on the street. Label everything.
  • Labeling your praise. Rather than just saying, “Nice work,” get specific. “Nice work picking up your blue bunny and red ball,” or “Great job saying more milk please.” Not only does this boost language, it encourages expected behaviors and manners.

If you have any concerns about your child’s speech-language development, our Northeast Ohio pediatric SLP team can help!

Additional Resources:
More Blog Entries:
How Brecksville Speech Therapists Treat Kids With Aphasia, Nov. 3, 2021, Brecksville Speech Therapy Blog
Kids social communication Brecksville speech therapists

How Our Brecksville Speech Therapists Help Boost Kids’ Social Communication

Social communication is the way we use language in social contexts, encompassing social interaction, social cognition, pragmatics and language processing. Our Brecksville speech therapists recognize that while many of us take the “rules” of these exchanges for granted, they can be tough for children with developmental delays, disabilities, and other challenges.

Most language is social. Social communication skills include the ability to:

  • Vary one’s speech style.
  • Recognize the perspective of others.
  • Understand – and appropriately use – rules for verbal/non-verbal communication.
  • Use the structural elements of language.

There is a fairly broad range of norms accepted across cultures, families and between individuals for social communication, but these skills are critical for effective back-and-forth conversations in a social situation. When a child struggles with verbal and non-verbal communication for social purposes, this may be diagnosed as social communication disorder.