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

Language Milestones for Children with Down Syndrome (Birth to Five)

Birth to five years of age is a critical period for language development for all children. Each child progresses at his or her own rate, and each presents with his or her own strengths or weaknesses. The same applies to children with Down syndrome. However, children with Down syndrome tend to develop language skills at a slower rate than their typically developing peers. This blog will aim to answer questions regarding language development in children with Down syndrome by comparing language milestones to those of their typically developing peers.

While the milestones above are based on general trends, it is important to note that language development will vary for both typically developing children and children with Down syndrome. Speech therapy is recommended for children with Down syndrome, starting younger than one year of age to target feeding and oral-motor skills and after 15- to 18-months of age to target speech and language skills. Common early speech and language targets for children with Down syndrome include verbal turn taking, vocabulary acquisition, use of simple signs and gestures, following simple routines-based directions, use of age-appropriate speech sounds, and more.

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions about language development in children with Down syndrome, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

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

Reference: Layton, T. (2004). Developmental Scale for Children with Down Syndrome.

Photo Credit: yulia84 via pixabay.com

Employee Spotlight: Kelly Scafidi

What do you love most about being a social worker?

I love being able to help families navigate through difficult situations and stressful times, while providing comfort, support, and education about their child.

What is your favorite children’s book?

As a child it was Corduroy by Don Freeman, but now it’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss and The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister.

What do you enjoy most about living in Chicago?

I love that Chicago has something for everyone. For me, it’s the summer season- filled with long days of warm weather and sunshine. I like to take advantage of those days by spending them at the dog beach.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

Spending my summers at my family’s cottage in Wisconsin on the lake.

Mountain or beach vacation?

Both, one vacation is never enough!
Share a proud “therapy moment” with one of your clients.
There are so many wonderful moments that can happen during each and every therapy session. A favorite memory was watching a client who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, initiate a social, play interaction with a new therapist.

What is your hometown?

Chicago, Norwood Park.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like to be active, by running, biking, or practicing yoga. I enjoy traveling to new countries and learning about different cultures. When I’m not working, I usually enjoy spending time with my family and friends.

What is your favorite therapy toy?

Myself: I like to be as creative as possible and use songs, silly gestures, and whatever toys the child already has.

Share a fun fact about yourself!

I used to play the piano and Irish dance.

Kelly Scafidi, MSW, LCSW, DT
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Developmental Therapist

Sensational September: Family-Friendly Events This Month!

Family Festival: Swedish American Museum

Time:September 7th, 11am-4pm

Location:5201 N Ashland Ave

Cost:Free

About:This year marks the 50thanniversary of Swedish-American Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon. The festival will honor him and his culture, and will include face painting, crafts, games, raffles, and Swedish food. Some items will have a fee, but most is free!

Low-Sensory Early Exploration: Museum of Science and Industry

Time:September 8th, 8:30am-12pm

Location: 5700 S Lake Shore Dr

Cost:Free, preregistration required

About:The museum will offer the featured exhibits with additional accommodations for sensory needs: having fewer crowds and designated quiet spaces. It includes access to Farm Tech, the Idea Factory, and Circus exhibits.

Minecraft Party

Time:September 14th, 5:30pm-8pm

Location:Power Up Tech Academy, 2867 N Clybourn Ave

Cost:$25

About:An opportunity for kids ages 7-12 to meet other players and play on either private or public servers. The event includes supervision during the playing time.

Fall Fest: Lincoln Park Zoo

Time:Beginning September 27th

Location:2001 N Clark St

Cost: Free entry, attractions require tickets

About:A festival for the whole family, with attractions including a corn maze, a pumpkin patch, professional pumpkin carvers, animal chats, a Ferris wheel, and bounce houses.

Kristen McManus, MOT, OTR/L

Occupational Therapist

Photo Credit: Jugendweihebb via Pixabay

Employee Spotlight- Becky Clark

  • What do you love most about being a Developmental Therapist?

I love how Developmental Therapy allows me to look at the big picture to see how all the various areas of development and environment affect the others. I also enjoy the focus on a child’s social and emotional development in that bigger picture.

  • What is your favorite children’s book?

When I was a young child, it was The Berenstains’ B Bookby Stan and Jan Berenstain, much to my parents’ chagrin. Now in my sessions, I love using Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?by Bill Martin Jr. I guess there is a bear-theme in my reading choices!

  • What do you enjoy most about living in Chicago?

I enjoy Chicago’s diversity the most. It’s one of its richest assest. I also love how Chicago incorporates nature and green spaces into the cityscape.

  • What is your favorite childhood memory?

I went to a summer camp for many years in North Carolina, and each summer was a blast, but I especially remember the summers I went backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. I picked wild blueberries, pet wild ponies, and enjoyed gorgeous views.

  • Mountain or beach vacation?

Mountains, hands down!

  • Share a proud “therapy moment” with one of your clients.

I had a client diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and he had been working for months on regulating his body enough to engage with others in the room. I walked in one session and knelt down to say hello and he calmly walked to me, let me take his hands, then he kissed my forehead. It was the sweetest “hello!”

  • What is your hometown?

Archdale, North Carolina

  • What do you like to do in your free time?

I work once or twice a month at the Chicago Children’s Museum and enjoy working with different populations and ages. When I’m not working, I’m going for walks to my neighborhood beach or hanging out with family and friends.

  • Fun fact about yourself?

I have been to three continents other than North America: Europe, Africa, and Oceania. I would love to see a couple more!

  • Favorite therapy toy?

Songs and books!

Becky Clark, MS, DT
Developmental Therapist

Let’s Play! The Stepping Stones to Verbal Communicators

If you are a parent of a toddler receiving speech and language therapy, you may have noticed your child’s therapist playing games such as peak-a-boo, and wondered to yourself, “What do these games have to do with learning to talk?” While learning to talk is of course the ultimate goal in speech and language therapy, there are actually many skills a child needs to develop before they are ready to start talking. Some of these skills include joint attention, turn-taking, and responding to people and their environment, among others. One of the best ways to support acquisition of these pre-linguistic skills is to engage in social games with your child.

What are social games and why are the important?

Social games are people-based in that they are interactive games between you and your child rather than the use of toys. Examples include peek-a-boo, songs with corresponding actions, hide and seek, tickles, etc. Engaging in social games with your child will help to develop their interaction, communication, and social skills. Through social games, children learn to pay attention to others, anticipate what will happen next, and imitate actions. Additionally, through these games children learn important skills such as how to take turns and connect with others. These pre-linguistic skills are the foundation of verbal language. For example, a child who has difficulty using joint attention, which is shared attention with another person, will not have as many opportunities to learn about their environment from the people around them. Additionally, a child who is not using turn-taking will have difficulty understanding the back and forth nature of conversation. Through acquisition of these pre-linguistic skills a child becomes ready for communication and verbal language use.

How to play and what to look for?

You will want to engage in social games repeatedly so that your child learns the routine. For example, if you play peak-a-boo with your child play it over and over again and look for your child learning the game. You may notice that they have learned the game once they start to smile or laugh in anticipation of you saying, “boo!” Over time, you might see your child’s initiation skills emerging when they cover their eyes with their hands or cover themselves up with a blanket to request playing a peek-a-boo game with you. Eventually, you can try to pause after “peak-a…” and see if your child can fill in the word, “boo!” Once your child has learned the routine they will be able to anticipate what is going to happen next.

When thinking about your child’s language development it is important to remember that there are many steps that come before talking and children must master pre-linguistic skills before they can be successful with verbal language. So, when think you are just “playing” remember that you are actually teaching your child foundational skills to become an active learner and communicator!

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about the importance of social games and your child’s language development, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Claire Hacker MS, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist

Photo Credit: from Pixabay

Come Check Out Our New PlayWorks Therapy Clinic!

We have finally settled into our new clinic and are loving the additional space! Here is a sneak peek into the PlayWorks Therapy community!

Brittany Hill, MS, MSW, LCSW, DT
Director of Social Work Services
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Questions or concerns?

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

Awesome August: Events the Whole Family Will Love!

Make the most of summer in the city with these family-friendly events and activities!

Wiggleworms

Time: Friday, August 2ndfrom 10:00am-11:45am

Location: Lake Stage in Polk Bros Park, Navy Pier, 600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, 60611

Cost: Free and open to the public!

About: Come play along as Wiggleworms, the Old Town School of Folk Music’s celebrated early childhood music program, welcomes young children and their families to the world of music. Children sing, dance, learn finger plays and story songs, and explore rhythm instruments especially designed for little hands. Geared toward children ages newborn through four years.

Chicago Children’s Museum Free Day

Time: Sunday, August 4thfrom 10:00am-5:00pm

Location: Chicago Children’s Museum, 700 E Grand Ave, Chicago, 60611

Cost: Free admission for children under 15 years of age

About: Explore the exhibits at the Chicago Children’s Museum with free admission for all children under 15 years of age on the first Sunday of the month.

Family Yoga

Time: Saturday, August 10thfrom 10:00am-11:00am

Location: Unity Park, 2636 N Kimball Ave, Chicago, 60647

Cost: Free!

About: Join in for a fun flow that will focus on breath, movement, and family. Yoga is taught using dance, story-telling, partner poses, and having fun together! All ages and levels welcome.

Air and Water Show

Date and time: Saturday, August 17th – Sunday, August 18thfrom 10:00am-3:00pm both days

Location: Officially located at North Avenue Beach, 1600 N Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, 60613, but viewable along the lakefront from Fullerton Ave to Oak Street

Cost: Free!

About: Watch the talented pilots of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the Royal Air Force Red Arrows as they perform impressive stunts to wow the crowd.

Caitlin Chociej, MS, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist

Photo Credit: Yulianto Pointier via Pexels