Make a Silly Face! Oral Motor Imitation: What Is It and Why Should You Target It?

Do you remember the first time your child made that cute little “raspberry” sound? What about the first time he or she blew a kiss of stuck out his or her tongue?  Did you know that these seemingly small (yet adorable) moments are actually important building blocks towards your child’s speech, language, and feeding development?

What are oral motor movements?

Just as we develop gross motor movements (e.g., walking) and fine motor movements (e.g., grasping), we also develop oral motor movements that impact our ability to speak and eat. While any movement made by your lips, tongue, or oral structures are considered an oral motor movement, the following are some specific movements that are beneficial for development as well as highly visual, thus increasing your child’s ability to imitate.

  • Opening mouth: The basis of speech, opening the jaw is imperative for both articulation (speech sounds) and feeding.
  • Lip pucker: “Kissy face.” Lip pucker strengthens lips, which helps with producing bilabial sounds (i.e., /p, b/) as well as controlling food and saliva.
  • Tongue protrusion: Sticking the tongue out helps with a variety of speech sounds (specifically lingual sounds).
  • Tongue lateralization: Moving the tongue from side-to-side helps with a variety of speech sounds, as well as chewing and swallowing food.

How does imitation of these movements impact development?

Imitation of movements, including oral motor movements, is a skill that toddlers master before words emerge. Some children are able to produce specific oral motor movements independently, but have difficulty imitating them on command. While oral motor imitation varies among children, once a child is able to consistently produce the movement independently, we would expect them to imitate it fairly consistently. Continuing to provide repetitive models of the movement you’re eliciting will go a long way in encouraging your child to imitate. If your child consistently has difficulty imitating movements that he or she can produce spontaneously and demonstrates difficulty with speech and language skills, an evaluation could be warranted to determine if he or she is demonstrating some difficulties with motor planning.

How can I target oral motor imitation?

It can actually be quite simple to practice oral motor imitation! The only two things you really need are you and your child; however, there are some tips and tricks to eliciting imitation. If your child is very young, simply engaging with your child by making silly faces is perfect! You can also add oral motor movements to books (e.g., pucker face when reading about a duck, etc.). If your child is an older baby, toddler, or school-aged, the mirror can be a wonderful teaching tool. While I typically prefer low-tech modes of practice, taking silly “selfies” or using apps with photo filters can also be a motivating tool!

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s ability to imitate oral motor movements, reduced oral motor movement, or concerns regarding speech, language, or feeding development, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Sarah Lydon, MA, CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

Photo Credit: Chayene Rafaela on Unsplash

Language Milestones: School-Age Children

As your child grows, their understanding of language, use of language, and ability to use language to interact socially with family and friends will continue to expand and become more complex. It can often be difficult to know what language skills you should be looking and when you should expect them to be developed. The chart below outlines general milestones for language development in regards to receptive-language, expressive-language, and pragmatic-language.  If you have any concerns regarding your child’s language skills, please contact your speech-language pathologist.

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about 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

Valentine’s Craft Ideas!

Valentine’s day is approaching, and love is in the air! Here are a few fun craft ideas for you to make with your littles while working on their language development!

Heart Man:

Supplies:

Red paper, white cardboard, black marker, googly eyes, scissors, glue

Instructions:

  1. Cut out one large heart and four small hearts from the red paper.
  2. Fold the white strips of paper like an accordion. Glue two strips for arms and two strips for legs.
  3. Create a face for your heart man! Glue two googly eyes and draw a mouth!

How to target language?

  1. Expressive language: Talk about body parts when making/gluing the eyes, mouth, legs, and arms.
  2. Receptive language: Following multi-step directions (e.g., “First, put on eyes, then draw mouth”).

Valentine Mailbox

Supplies:

Tissue box, wrapping paper, stickers, markers, candy and/or envelopes

Instructions:

  1. Cover the empty tissue box with wrapping paper.
  2. Decorate your tissue box with stickers, markers, pom poms, etc. Get creative!
  3. Deliver candy and/or Valentine’s cards to other mailboxes!

How to target language?

  1. Expressive language: practice “mail”-related vocabulary, such as card, send, mailman, mailbox, write, letter, and stamp
  2. Receptive language: understanding pronouns (e.g., “put the candy in her mailbox” or “put a card in theirmailbox”)
  3. Pragmatic language: role play social exchanges as you deliver letters to loved ones

Friendship Necklaces:

Supplies:

Craft foam, yarn, scissors, hole punch, beads

Instructions:

  1. Cut a small heart out of the craft foam.
  2. Punch a small hole into the top center of the heart.
  3. Thread a 2-3-foot piece of yarn through the hole.
  4. Add the beads of your choice and tie a knot on the top!

How to target language?

  1. Expressive language: using prepositions (e.g., “on the string,” “in the heart”)
  2. Receptive language: following directions to put different beads on the string

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

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

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

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

Speech and Language Opportunities on the Road

Looking for some ways to work on your child’s speech and language while in the car?

Stuck in gridlocked traffic is not fun, but you can make it a little more interesting by working on your child’s speech and language skills while in the car! Below are some easy ways to work on your child’s speech and language development that do not require a phone, iPad, or any physical toy. Reduce the noise in the car and tune into your child during your next drive!

12 months to 24 months

-Sing songs! Some great songs to sing include Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Row, Row, Row your Boat, Old McDonald, Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Wheels on the Bus, BINGO, Baby Bumblebee,If You’re Happy and You Know It, andBaby Shark.” As your child gets older you can leave out words at the end of phrases (“…Twinkle twinkle little _____”) to see if your child can fill them in!

-Model environmental sounds like “wee, woah, uh-oh, vroom, beep-beep” while driving. Make your sounds exaggerated and silly to capture your child’s attention!

-Name things you see during your car ride! Label objects you see as you pass them by.

-Phrase “Ready, set, ____ (go)!” when you start/stop at a red light

-Make silly sounds as you drive to see if your child can imitate you

24 months to 36 months

-Continue to name things you see during your car ride! If your child labels something they see as you are driving you can expand on what they say. For instance, if your child said “truck” you can model “red truck.”

-Model simple location phrases such as “in, on, under.” For instance, “doggie inwater” or “car onroad”

-Target basic concepts:

-Model the words “open/close” and “in/out” as you open and close doors and get into or out of the car

-Model a variety of action words as you drive such as “go, stop, drive, park, turn”

-Look for and identify objects that are “big” vs. “small”

-Work on quantity concepts as you drive, such as onecloud vs. manyclouds in the

-Talk about the colors of cars around you

-Talk about the types of cars you see (e.g., semi-trucks, cars, construction vehicles)

3 years to 4 years+

-Play “I spy” to work on labeling and naming things that you see and drive past

-Model more complex adjectives and more advanced location concepts as you drive.

-Ask your child a variety of wh-questions while driving such as “Where are we going?, What are we doing?, When did we leave?, What are we doing when we reach our destination?, What is mom/dad doing?, What are we making for dinner? Why are we going grocery shopping, etc.” If your child responds with a single word see if you can give them two choices or model a longer phrase. If they use vague and non-descript language such as “this, that, right here, etc.” provide them with two choices to see if you can promote your child’s use of more descriptive language.

-Play the Grocery Storegame: Have an adult start. “…I went to the grocery store and I bought _____ (apples). See if your child can repeat the item just said and add one to it. For instance, “I went to the grocery store and I bought apples and stickers.” You can provide hints if you don’t think your child can recall what was said last. When it’s too hard start again from the beginning!

-If your child is working on speech sounds you can practice their sounds in the car! Pick several words with the target sound and say it every time you stop at a red light or every time you see a certain object or item such as a tree.

-Tell your child that you’re thinking of an object that starts with a certain sound such as “b.” See if your child can think of things as you drive that start with that letter.

-Promote appropriate grammar and sentence structure. If you notice that your child made a grammatical error model their sentence with correct grammar and sentence structure.

-Talk about letters or numbers you see on license plates

-Talk about categories (e.g., types of transportation that you pass, types of weather, types animals you see, etc.)

Questions or concerns?

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

Samantha Labus, MS, CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

Photo Credit:Sandy Millar via unsplash.com

Is My Child Stuttering? How to Identify Typical Disfluencies Versus Red Flags for Stuttering

As a pediatric speech and language pathologist, I often find myself listening as a child tells me, “my mom – my mom – my mom – my mom – likes green!” You may find yourself in a similar situation, waiting for your child’s response, as they repeat sounds, parts of words, whole words, or even phrases. Now, how much of that is typical? The information below will help you determine whether your child’s fluency is characteristic of their age and stage of development, or if there are red flags for stuttering present.

What is Disfluency

A disfluency is anything that interrupts the forward flow of speech. Within every person’s speech, children and adults alike, there are disfluencies present. As adults, we become acutely aware of these disfluencies during times of increased pressure, such as during an oral presentation or an interview. Even something as simple as taking a big breath, sneezing, or coughing can impact our fluency. Some types of disfluencies are typical, while some may be indicative of something more significant, such as a fluency disorder (i.e. stuttering).

So, what is typical disfluency?  

Typical disfluencies include repetitions of whole words (my – my dog is small) or phrases (can I – can I – can I go outside?). They also include interjections (um, like) and revisions (I went to the – I saw a chicken at the farm). With typical disfluency, the speaker does not demonstrate physical characteristics of difficulty, such as increased tension in their face or body.

Developmental Disfluency

Children may have periods of increased disfluency from two to five years of age, as these are years of significant expressive language development. Between these years, children often transition from using single words and two-word phrases to engaging in adult-like conversations. This is sometimes referred to as “preschool stuttering” and consists largely of the typical disfluencies outlined above. If your child is using mostly typical disfluencies in their speech, does not have negative feelings about their fluency, and does not appear to be physically struggling to complete their sentences, then it is likely typical and not cause for concern at this time.

Stuttering

If a fluency disorder or “stuttering” is present, it can lead to breakdowns in communication, which can impact your child’s participation across settings.

What are the red flags for stuttering?

  1. A family history of stuttering is present
  2. Your child is a male
  3. Your child is repeating sounds (b-b-b-ball) or syllables (break-break-fast) in addition or instead of words and phrases
  4. Your child is prolonging sounds (sssssoup)
  5. Your child has periods of time when they are trying to speak, but no words are coming out
  6. Your child appears to be tense or struggling while talking
  7. There are observable secondary behaviors present (i.e. blinking eyes, changing pitch or volume, grimacing)
  8. Your child has negative feelings regarding their speech
  9. Your child is avoiding speaking in general or speaking in certain situations
  10. Your child has been stuttering for over six months
  11. Your child has other speech and language related concerns
  12. Your child began presenting with significant disfluency after three and a half years of age

What can I do?

If your child is demonstrating some of the behaviors above, consider contacting a speech and language therapist who can provide your family with helpful tips and tricks to encourage fluency, or recommend therapeutic intervention as necessary. In the meantime, visit The Stuttering Foundation’s website for tips for talking with your child.

Questions or concerns?

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

Ana Thrall Burgoon, M.S., CCC – SLP 
Speech-Language Pathologist

Reference:

Coleman, Craig. “How Can You Tell if Childhood Stuttering is the Real Deal?” LeaderLive, ASHA, 26 Sept. 2013.

Photo Credit:Limor Zellermayer via Unsplash

Is Articulation Therapy Appropriate for My Toddler?

My toddler’s speech isn’t 100% clear, and his preschool teachers say that they have a hard time understanding him. Should I be concerned?
Let’s set the scene: Your child walks up to you and says “mohmik peas,” and at first you don’t have a clue what they are trying to tell you! But by using the clues in your environment and by observing their gestures, you eventually figure out that they requested “more milk please.” You were able to meet your child’s needs (getting them more milk) even though they did not produce all of the correct sounds in each word. So are their speech sound (i.e. articulation) skills something to be concerned about?

As your child produces new words and phrases you might be noticing that their speech is not 100% clear. Your child’s speech clarity, also referred to as intelligibility, is your child’s current production of sounds which impacts how others can understand them. Intelligibility for a two year old should be approximately 50% to an unfamiliar person. By three-years of age your child should be approximately 75% intelligible, meaning that you should understand at least seven out of every ten sentences that they produce. It is important to remember that as your child is learning how to talk they may not sound exactly like an adult would, and that’s typical! In general, your child should be using a variety of consonants and vowels at two- to three-years of age but there is variability speech sound development.

Speech sound development: What should I expect?
Not all speech sounds are alike! Some speech sounds are considered early developing sounds, while others might develop when your child is older due to the complexity of oral movements required to make that sound. Early developing sounds include: “p, b, m, n, w, t, d, h.” Later developing sounds include: “sh, s, z, l, r, th.” Later developing sounds may be substituted with a different sound at two- to three-years of age due to their motoric complexity.

“So you’re saying that not all speech sounds need to be mastered by three-years of age?” That’s right! At three-years of age it is possible that your child may be substituting different sounds in real words, such as “wed” for “red,” and this is age-appropriate! At the age of three, a “w” for “r” substitution would be considered a developmental error, or an error that does not require direct therapeutic intervention. The majority of developmental errors will correct themselves as your child’s language and articulation skills develop.

What are phonological processes?
Phonological processes are patterns children use to simplify their speech as they are learning how to speak. For instance, your child may be saying “back” for “black.” Each phonological process is considered age-appropriate until it persists past a set age of elimination (the age in which the majority of children no longer present with that specific error pattern). The majority of children will correct their own speech and no longer use phonological process substitutions as their language and speech sounds develop. (Please see resources listed below to view an age-appropriate phonological processes chart.)

Is your child ready for articulation therapy?
Articulation therapy uses a hierarchical approach to master target speech sounds. For instance, you may first practice the sound “f” in isolation, or by itself, and then progress to practicing “f” with a vowel such as “fee” or “foe.” Articulation therapy requires your child to have the ability to follow directions given by the therapist, tolerate a variety of cues to help support appropriate production of their target speech sound, pay attention to the therapist, and imitate what the therapist is saying. At two years of age, your child’s attention span is shorter than a three- or four-year-old’s attention span, and they may become frustrated by some of the direct cueing provided during traditional articulation therapy. One critical component of articulation therapy is avoiding negative practice, or practicing your child’s target speech sound the incorrect way. Your child’s therapist wants to avoid negative practice because they want to support and encourage the accurate production of the speech sound and not have your child continue to practice incorrectly. A child who is not ready for articulation therapy is a child who is unable to follow directions provided by a therapist, unable to pay attention to a therapist’s face, or is unable to imitate what a therapist is saying.

Should my two-year old be receiving articulation therapy?
If you feel like you understand your child approximately 50% of the time, but notice that there are some sounds that are not the same as an adult’s production they may be using age-appropriate substitutions and/or phonological processes. For instance, if your child is deleting the end of words (final consonant deletion) at two years of age this is considered an age-appropriate phonological process that is typically eliminated around three years of age. In addition, at two years of age children are still learning how to use language and are increasing their phrase length and vocabulary, which are both age-appropriate skills to promote and target with a two-year old. If at two years of age you feel like your child is not using a variety of vowels or consonants, or you feel like producing speech sounds is effortful, your child may be a candidate for a speech and language evaluation.

So what can you do to help support your two-year-old’s speech intelligibility? Your mouth is a great cue for your child! Several early developing speech sounds can be seen on the lips and this visual cue makes it easier for your child to imitate you. For instance, “p” and “b” both require your lips to come together before making sound. Children learn a lot by what they see, so hold objects and toys near your face to encourage them to look at how your mouth is making sounds. You can also talk slowly and prolong different sounds to help your child imitate new sounds they may not be using such as “mmmma-mmmma” for ‘mama.’

Should my three-year old be receiving articulation therapy?
If your child is three years old or older and you feel like their intelligibility is less than 75%, have difficulty producing early developing speech sounds, have a limited variety of vowels, or are using phonological processes that are no longer considered typical for their age, your child may be a candidate for speech and language therapy. If you have concerns regarding your child’s articulation skills, talk to your speech-language pathologist or schedule an appointment for an evaluation.

Some things you can try at home include:

  • Encourage your child to look at your mouth! Your mouth is a great cue for your child to look at as you model a new sound.
  • Model the word with the correct sound for your child to hear the difference. For instance, if your child says “bid” for “big,” you can model the correct word “big” after your child’s attempt.
  • Tap or clap out syllables to promote the inclusion of all syllables in a word. Tapping or clapping can help your child know the exact number of syllables in the word, which can facilitate inclusion of all syllables within a target word. A word is much easier to understand when all of the syllables are produced clearly and do not run into the next word in a sentence!
  • Give your child two verbal choices to choose from if you’re having a difficult time understanding your child. By providing your child with two verbal choices for them to imitate you know what they are trying to say, even if their sounds don’t come out just right!. Also, it may be easier for your child to imitate one of the two choices you give rather than produce the word on their own.
  • If you notice that their speech sounds are ok in single words, but are incorrect when they try to produce a full sentence, try to decrease the number of words in your child’s sentence and have the imitate it back to you. For instance, your child attempts to produce a four-word phrase such as “puppy drink more water,” however, there are multiple words that are challenging to understand. You can model a shorter, three-word phrase such as “drink more water” to aid with increased intelligibility.

Resources:
Visit Mommy Speech Therapy to download the phonological processes chart!

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

Samantha Labus, MS, CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

Reference:

Fabiano-Smith, L., & Goldstein, B. A. (2010). Early-, Middle-, and Late-Developing Sounds in Monolingual and Bilingual Children: An Exploratory Investigation. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology,19(1), 66-77. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2009/08-0036)

Sander, E. K. (1972). When are Speech Sounds Learned? Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders,37(1), 55-63. doi:10.1044/jshd.3701.55

Photo Credit:Ryan Fields via unsplash.com

More Than Words: Building Social Communication Skills

Does your child have difficulty playing with other children? Do they prefer to play alone or demonstrate challenges in making friends? This blog will discuss what pragmatic (social) communication is, review the signs of a pragmatic language delay or disorder, and provide strategies for encouraging pragmatic language development in your child.

What is pragmatic language and why is it important?

Pragmatic language or social communication refers to the appropriate use of language in social situations. It is not only what we say, but also how we say it. This includes being able to understand and use nonverbal cues such as body language and facial expressions. Pragmatic language is comprised of various important skills for successful communication, including eye contact, turn-taking, initiating and maintaining conversation, and understanding and using humor, among others. Children may have difficulty with one or more of these skills. It is important to support the development of your child’s pragmatic language skills so that they can learn to express themselves, understand others, and build relationships with family and peers.

Signs of a pragmatic language delay or disorder:

  • Preferring to play alone for an extended period of time
  • Limited eye contact while talking and/or playing
  • Difficulty taking turns
  • Limited initiation of conversation or play
  • Difficulty maintaining a topic of conversation
  • Difficulty participating in pretend play activities
  • Difficulty understanding or expressing emotions
  • Difficulty understanding another’s point of view
  • Difficulty interpreting tone of voice or body language
  • Difficulty making inferences
  • Difficulty using appropriate greetings
  • Difficulty adapting language to different listeners (i.e. talking to a friend the same way as to an adult)
  • Difficulty adapting language based on environment (i.e. talking the same way on the playground as in the classroom)
  • Not providing background information when appropriate

Strategies for building pragmatic language skills:

  • Pretend play:Engage in pretend play activities with your child, such as playing house, pretending to bake cookies, or pretending to be a veterinarian. Pretend play facilitates growth in cooperative back and forth play, ability to act out social situations, and ability to understand another’s perspective.
  • Turn-taking games:Turn-taking is a fundamental skill of communication as it teaches the basic back-and-forth exchange of a conversation. Through turn-taking games children learn to wait when it is someone else’s turn and they learn how to identify when it is their turn. Turn-taking games could be as simple as rolling a ball back and forth or taking turns blowing bubbles. You could also play simple turn-taking board games with your child to support development of this skill.
  • Story time:When reading a book with your child, try to make it interactive. Based on their age and language skills you could ask them to describe the pictures and what they see. For older children you can ask questions such as, “How do you think he feels?” or “What do you think she will do?” Prompting your child to answer these types of questions will help your child to make inferences, learn to understand another person’s perspective, and have a better understanding of emotions.
  • Be a good role model: You are your child’s best teacher. Model appropriate social communication skills such as making appropriate eye contact, using appropriate greetings, asking on-topic follow up questions, etc. Help your child to use these social communication skills when talking to family, teachers, and peers.
  • Facilitating peer interactions:Children need practice in order to learn to share, take turns, and play cooperatively with others. Setting up play-dates that you can be present for is a great way to facilitate peer interactions and relationships. You can encourage your child to communicate with their peer by prompting them to initiate conversation and play ideas. In addition you can encourage them to maintain play and communication with their peer by prompting them to ask on topic questions and make on topic comments.

Questions or concerns?

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

Claire Kakenmaster, MS, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist

Photo Credit: Image by HaiRobe on Pixabay