Bilingualism: Can a child with language delays learn two languages?

As a speech-language pathologist and Early Intervention provider, I frequently work with families who speak more than one language. While there is plenty of research on the benefits of bilingualism on children’s language development and cognitive skills, there is often confusion regarding the impact of two languages on delayed language learners. This blog aims to address frequently asked questions by bilingual families to guide language use inside and out of the home.

Question: My child has been exposed to two languages since birth. Has this caused his/her language delay?
Answer: Bilingualism itself will NOT cause a language delay. In fact, research shows that bilingualism may lead to long-term advantages, such as increasing vocabulary and problem solving skills. Birth-to-three years of age is the critical period for language acquisition, meaning that this is the easiest time in childhood for children to learn a second language.

Question: My child has a language delay. I’m afraid that a second language will confuse him/her. Should I stop speaking a second language to my child?
Answer: Definitely not! It is encouraged that bilingual families continue to speak both languages to their child and that this is carried over across settings (e.g., school, playgroups, etc.). Children with language delays can learn to speak two languages if given the appropriate supports and opportunities.

Question: My child is two years old and not yet speaking. He’s exposed to both English and our native language at home, so this is okay, right?
Answer: While children simultaneously exposed to two languages may say their first words a bit later than monolingual children, they are still expected to learn language at roughly the same rate. If your child is two years old and not yet producing words, he or she should be referred for a full speech and language evaluation.

Question: How can I support bilingual language acquisition in my child?
Answer: Some families choose to have one parent solely speak one language and have the other parent solely speak the other language. Some families decide to have parents speak both languages and use them interchangeably. Either way is fine, but it is important to consider what feels the most natural for you and your family!

What’s the takeaway?
There is NO scientific evidence that living in a bilingual household will negatively impact the language development of children. Furthermore, children with language delays CAN learn two languages with consistent, rich exposure to both languages.

Questions or concerns?
If you have questions or concerns about the impact of two languages on your child, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Jill Teitelbaum, MS, CF-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

References:

Lowry, L., & Speech, H. C. (2012). Can children with language impairments learn two languages?. The Hanen Centre.

Photo Credit: 4dgraphic via unsplash.com

Planning and Sequencing for Success: A Guide to Understanding Praxis

Does your child have difficulties coming up with a plan for what they want to do, figuring out how they are going to do it, and then carrying out the task? If so, concerns with praxis may be a contributing factor. Praxis is complex and multi-step process that we often overlook, as it typically occurs on a sub-conscious level.

What is Praxis?

Praxis refers to the neurological process through which we plan, sequence, and complete the motor tasks we want to undertake. It can be through of as the way cognition directs movement actions. The planning and sequencing required for praxis are critical for completing everyday tasks such as walking, learning new routines, dressing, and even eating. For children experiencing difficulties with praxis, learning new movement patterns can be especially tricky. Challenges with praxis are referred to as apraxia or dyspraxia. These terms are often used interchangeably; however, dyspraxia is typically used to describe difficulties with planning and sequencing that are largely considered developmental.

The Four Elements of Praxis:

Learning new movement patterns is complex and involves many steps. The four elements of praxis are as follows:

  • Ideation: This involves your child generating an idea for what they want to do. For example, your child may see a bike and decide that his or her plan is to get on the bike to go for a ride.
  • Motor Planning: Motor planning involves your child figuring out how his or her body is going to carry out the plan. For example, your child may plan to stand on one foot, lift one leg, and swing it over the bike in order to mount it.
  • Execution: This refers to the body successfully or unsuccessfully carrying out the movement plan. For example, was your child able to successfully get on the bike, fall over, or get on backwards?
  • Feedback/Adaptation: This element of praxis involves your child reflecting on the feedback from the attempt in order to make changes in subsequent trials. For example, if your child got on the bike backwards, feedback/adaptation would involve your child facing the other way before attempting to mount the bike during his or her next try.

What Do Difficulties with Praxis Look Like?

Children with dyspraxia may:

  • Appear to struggle with coordination or look clumsy.
  • Require more practice than their peers to learn new movement tasks.
  • Seem to struggle with sports.
  • Demonstrate difficulty following multi-step directions.
  • Experience low self-confidence when comparing themselves to peers.
  • Benefit from frequent hand-over-hand assistance when learning new tasks.
  • Appear to be disorganized.
  • Seem to demonstrate difficulty initiating tasks or knowing what to do with novel objects.
  • Demonstrate delays in developmental milestones such as crawling or walking.

What Is Required for Successful Motor Learning?

A variety of building blocks are required for successful planning, sequencing, and execution of motor tasks. Muscular strength, coordination, postural control, and body awareness all play a role in learning non-habitual movements. Moreover, sensory processing, or the ability to register, interpret, and respond to environmental stimuli affects praxis. Executive functioning, or the higher-level reasoning and organizational skills, additionally affect your child’s ability to plan for and problem-solve issues that may arise during trial and error. A skilled occupational therapist can help target where in the process your child may be struggling and implement a treatment plan for improved motor planning and sequencing skills.

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s planning and sequencing of movements, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Natalie Machado, MS, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist

References:

Biel, L., & Peske, N. (2009). Raising a sensory smart child: The definitive handbook for helping your child with sensory processing issues. London, England: Penguin Books, Ltd.

Case-Smith, J., & Clifford O’Brien, J. (2015). Occupational therapy for children and adolescents (7th ed.). Canada: Mosby, Inc.

Photo credit: Photo by Jordan Sanchez on Unsplash.

October Outings: Family-Friendly Fall Fun!

Lincoln Park Zoo Fall Fest

Time: Fridays-Sundays, September 27-October 27th and Monday, October 14th from 10:00AM-5:00PM

Location: Lincoln Park Zoo

Cost: Free general admission; Fall Fest attractions cost $3 for 1 ticket, $27 for 10 tickets, $51 for 20 tickets

About: This year’s festival features ticketed attractions throughout the zoo, including a Ferris wheel, corn maze, corn pool, fun slide, inflatable obstacle course, and more. Guests can also enjoy animal chats, musical entertainment, a pumpkin patch, professional pumpkin carvers, and fall-themed enrichment for the animals!

Family Fall Fest 2019

Time: Saturday, October 19th from 10:00AM-12:00PM

Location: Liberty Bank for Savings, 2392 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647

Cost: Free

About: Come experience some great fall fun including a free reptile exhibit featuring snakes, turtles, and lizards, as well as music performed by a band from the Old Town School of Folk Music. Also enjoy glitter tattoos, face painting, a balloon artist, pony rides, a petting zoo, and much more.

Wicker Park Kidical Mass- Halloween Ride — Chicago Family Biking

Time: Sunday, October 20th from 9:30-11:00AM

Location: 1425 N. Damen Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622

Cost: Free

About: A slow, easy-going group bike ride for families and kids of all ages to encourage family fun and fitness! This ride will tour the Wicker Park neighborhood and end in the new Walsh Park. Costumes and Halloween decorations are encouraged!

Roscoe Village 5K, Fun Run, and Halloween Parade

Time: Sunday, October 20th from 8:00AM-4:00PM

Location: Hamilton and Roscoe, Chicago, IL

Cost: $50/person for Roscoe Village 5K; $20/person for the Fun Run (There will be a family discount of 15% when you register for 3 or more people before October 10th.)

About: Costumes are encouraged for all in attendance. Whether you are a serious runner, or just love to celebrate Halloween, the event will bring together running enthusiasts, school supporters, neighbors, and party-goers of all ages. Bring the family for crafts, a photo booth, food trucks, music and dancing, costume-contests, activities, and much, much more!

Lincoln Park Zoo’s Spooky Zoo

Time: Saturday, October 26th

Location: Lincoln Park Zoo

Cost: Free

About: Wear your costumes and head to Lincoln Park Zoo for family Halloween fun with a wide variety of kid-friendly activities, trick-or-treating, and arts and crafts, in addition to a Haunted House and Fall Fest rides.

Therese Brown, MS, CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist
Student Education Coordinator

Photo Credit: Laura Humble via freeimages.com