I can’t understand my child’s words!

Ask an Expert

My child is finally beginning to use words, but I can’t understand anything he/she says…

At this young age, it is normal to not understand everything your child says. Generally, a simple way to determine your child’s intelligibility (or his/her ability to be understood by others) is to take your child’s age and divide by four.   This determines the amount (percent) of your child’s speech that you should understand (i.e. 2 years/4=50%).  This may change depending on context and complexity of what your child is saying. Additionally, unfamiliar listeners may understand even less of what your child is saying.

The focus of intervention prior to age three is to make sure your child’s language skills are near age-appropriate before solely focusing on  his/her intelligibility.  When it is appropriate to begin targeting speech sounds, make it fun!  For example, you can give sounds different names:

/p/- popper sound

/b/- bounce sound

/m/- yummy sound

/h/- laughing sound

You can also make fun noises throughout play activities that contain difficult sounds for your child:

  • scared noises (i.e.“ah” or  “ee” to work on vowels)
  • find animal noises that contain the sound (i.e. “baa” to target consonant or vowel sound)
  • sneeze sounds (“achoo”)
  • Practice sounds in silly places: in front of a mirror before bedtime or in the car

Head outside and enjoy the weather


Since it is finally getting warm out, it is a great time to play with water!  Set a water tray outside. Practice similar language concepts that you normally do, but get wet while doing it! find big and small items around the house that you can put into your tray, you can discuss the functions of different items that you put into your tray (boat swims and plane flies), you can also expand your child’s vocabulary by discussing when things are wet vs. dry.

The Must-Have Toy for Every Child

Toy of the Month: Mr. Potato Head

Toddlers love playing with the traditional toy so many parents played with as a child! Not only can you build a silly face, Mr. Potato Head helps teach body parts and facial expressions. For your older child, you can take it a step further and discuss the function of each body part.

Ask an Expert: Clinical Setting Occupational Therapy

How do occupational therapy services look different in a school than a clinic setting??

School-based occupational therapists observe, assess, and address the child’s strengths and needs within the natural school settings (e.g., classroom, lunchroom, playground) in order to support the student’s educational program. Services may be directed to the child and on behalf of the child in the school environment (e.g., training educational staff).

Hospital and clinic-based occupational therapists typically assess and address the child’s strengths and needs in a clinic setting in order to support participation in life activities. The focus in non-school settings may be more varied and may or may not address specific educational needs.

Craft Day: Paper Plate Bird Craft

This Paper Plate Bird Craft is so cute and easy.  It’s a great spring craft for kids to make!

For the paper plate bird craft, you’ll need:

White 9″ Paper Plates – 100 Count (or cardboard circle)

First fold the paper plates in half.  Put out a pallet of acrylic paints in assorted colours, and the kids can paint their birds however they wish. Next, we glued on the feathers, eyes and the beak.

For the tail, I grabbed several strips of the construction paper and I folded them in half, kind of fanning the strips out a bit, and we stapled those to the tail end of the birds.

Fold your bird back in half, and you’re done!

If your bird won’t stay folded, simply tape a piece of yarn or string to the inside, holding both halves of the plate together, while leaving about an inch and a half gap between them.

Now when you place your bird on a hard surface, you can “rock” it.


Rain Day: Splish-Splash!

Playing With Just Your Imagination:

Make the most of the rainy spring season – get outside and let kids jump, splash, and play in the puddles!  Encourage them to act like different water animals leaping from pond to pond, make “boats” out of items from nature to float in the water, or just have fun with some good old-fashioned puddle jumping!

Adding Therapy tricks to your Vacation!

Ask an Expert

We’re going on vacation, is there anything I can do to work on language with my child while we are gone?

Yes! In fact, the possibilities are endless! Almost anything you do can be turned into a language opportunity, from labeling things you see in your new environment, to bringing portable activities along with you. Here are some specific examples that are good for airplanes, cars, hotel rooms, or wherever you may find yourself on vacation!

  1. Books: Books contain endless opportunities to encourage language development through pointing to pictures, imitation of words, labeling pictures, etc. Bring favorites or new ones to engage them.
  2. Crayons and paper or coloring books: These can be used for labeling pictures or colors, requesting (“more,” “help,” “all done,” etc.), using imagination to create open dialogue and promote exchange of language between you and your child.
  3. Songs and Fingerplays: Use songs they already know or teach them some new songs and fingerplays to practice imitation of words and actions, e.g. “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” “Wheels on the Bus,” etc.
  4. Scavenger hunt! Wherever you are, there are bound to be opportunities for you to have your child look for something specific (such as an animal or car), something a certain color (if they know them), or other things in your environment. Have them imitate sounds, words, etc. or modify for whatever their goals are.
  5. Use your imagination! Whatever the trip entails, there are always ways to encourage language. Don’t forget to label what else you see throughout your trip to give them a language model of these new and exciting things in their environment!

April’s Featured Learning Toy

The Elefun Busy Ball PopperScreen Shot 2015-03-30 at 9.58.19 PM

The Elefun Busy Ball Popper by Playskool is a wonderful toy for engaging in joint attention, teaching turn taking, as well as promoting early language use. This is a great tool for teaching cause and effect, as your little one takes a turn putting the balls in and watching them pop back out! Encourage your child to request “more” verbally or through sign language before taking another turn. (*Therapist tip: You can turn the switch to off in between turns so that your child has to communicate with you for it to work again!)You can also support their expressive language use by adding words to your play: “Pop! Pop! Pop!” “Ready, set, go!” or “Go ball!”