The ability to ask and answer “Wh” questions is an integral part of language development. Speech pathologists recognize that kids must first be able to understand questions before they can engage in an exchange of information. It’s the very foundation of conversation.
Most typically-developing kids will start to ask and answer “Wh” questions when they’re between 1- and 2-years-old. They’ll continue fine-tuning these receptive and expressive language skills into their school years. Children with delays, disabilities, injuries and other conditions may struggle with Wh questions. Our Fort Myers speech pathologists at FOCUS can help.
More than 20 percent of U.S. children are bilingual, a figure that continues to rise each year, particularly in a diverse region like South Florida. The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) notes that there’s a common erroneous assumption that bilingualism contributes to childhood speech-language delays. However, those who practice bilingual speech therapy note that often what can seem to speakers of one language as a delay or disorder can actually be common processes of a child who is learning more than one language simultaneously.
At FOCUS Therapy, several of our speech, occupational and ABA therapists are bilingual and even multilingual. This uniquely situates us to not only treat bilingual children, but to better recognize in the first place if the speech patterns a child is presenting are truly indicative of a speech-language delay or if they appear on track developmentally.
Conversation is something that flows naturally for many of us. But for some kids with delays and disabilities, conversational skills may be abstract and nuanced. One tool our Fort Myers speech therapists use to help practice conversational skills is through “scripts.”
Scripts can help kids learn how to appropriately initiate, maintain, extend and end social and conversational exchanges. These can be used to talk about special interests, participate in activities, engage in classroom activities and more. Conversational scripts take it a step beyond simple requesting and can help children recognize and understand the organization, guidelines and boundaries of everyday conversation.
As always, we tailor our techniques to the way each child learns, beginning with engaging topics about which they’re interested.
Children are born to learn through play. Playing speech therapy games at home with your child gives them a chance to practice the speech and language skills we’re working to help them develop in therapy, while also giving you a chance to bond with them.
Chances are, you’ve already played them together before, but there are a few ways you can tweak the games so that they’re still fun but even more effective at targeting certain skills like vocabulary, attention, memory, articulation, phonics, observation, deduction and expressive/receptive language.
We like these games in particular too because not only are they free, you can introduce them almost anywhere: On a road trip, at a restaurant while you wait for food, a rainy day at home or a sunny day at the park. And siblings can join in too!
Many children, when they are young and learning to talk, develop a stutter. Their brains are processing thousands of new sounds and words in the first years of their lives (aptly named a “language explosion”). As our Fort Myers speech therapists can explain, their vocabulary “explodes,” but the brain’s neural pathways are still catching up, and may have difficulty coordinating. This can be a factor in stuttering.
Sometimes, kids struggle with repetition of syllables, sounds and words. Others’ sounds are prolonged and some have so-called “blocks,” or speech interruptions. Some speculate there is a genetic component involved. No matter the specific type of stutter or the underlying reason, our Fort Myers speech therapists can help treat it.
Different Types of Stuttering
Stuttering is what’s known as a “fluency disorder.” As noted by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), someone who has a fluency disorder knows what they want to say, but has difficulty speaking in a way that is flowing, or fluid. They might say parts of the word or a whole word repeatedly. There might be an awkward pause between words. That’s stuttering, which is only one type of fluency disorder. There’s also “cluttering,” where one speaks rapidly and their words run together. Or they might say “um” with great frequency.
By Rachel Revehl, FOCUS Therapy Parent
Earlier this year, prior to the pandemic, one of our son’s speech therapists from FOCUS approached me with what seemed at the time an absurd idea: Would we consider allowing him to do some of his speech therapy sessions via teletherapy? He’d be a great candidate, she said. She also thought it might help us with our busy schedule.
That last part was tempting, but…
“Um, thanks,” I replied. “But, I just don’t think that would work for him.”
Seriously, how could it? He would NEVER sit for a full session without a therapist physically in front of him, I thought.
The FOCUS speech therapy team is flush with great ideas when it comes to using a deck of playing cards to get your child talking.
Card-playing is a popular past time because decks are small, portable and offer endless possibilities. Our speech therapists love cards too because they can be used during sessions (or at home) as a “communication temptation” for our patients. A communication temptation is any type of motivation we use to get kids engaged, talking and practicing the various skills we’re working on in speech therapy.
In addition to classic card games for kids (think Go Fish, Gin Rummy and Crazy Eights), it’s fun to make up games directly tailored to the skills of the children with whom we’re working. Here, we’ll outline some examples. Feel free to try them out yourself or make up your own!
Speech impairment is a common challenge for children with Down syndrome. This is one of the many issues our Fort Myers speech therapists address for our Down syndrome patients at FOCUS Therapy. We encourage any parent whose child has been recently diagnosed to contact our office to set up an evaluation for speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and possibly ABA therapy. The earlier we are able to intervene, the better the long-term progress and prognosis.
Speech is the ability one has to vocally communicate by articulating sounds and using language.
To understand why children with Down syndrome struggle in this regard – and how we can help treat it – we first need to break down some of the observable symptom clusters affecting multiple body systems that are common among children with this diagnosis.
In our many years of collective experience as speech-language pathologists, our FOCUS team has amassed lots tools to help us address children’s speech and language problems. We have loads of interactive games, cool crafts, brightly-colored books, fun toys and the technology that made us one of the first providers of online speech therapy for kids in Fort Myers (even prior to the pandemic). We also glean a lot of insight working with other professionals in a multi-disciplinary clinic.
But the most powerful tool we have? Parents!
Parent involvement in a child’s speech therapy is so, so important. Those who are committed to our process and make efforts to use our strategies at home are going to see their children make more significant, faster strides. That’s our personal experience, but there’s a lot of research to back us up on this.
We get it, though: Easier said than done. Parents these days are pulled in a thousand directions at once. This is only compounded if your child has been diagnosed with a developmental delay or disorder. There are appointments for doctors, specialists, therapies and school programs – on top of the everyday demands of work and other commitments.
It can be very tempting to simply rely on your speech therapy team to”fix” the speech problems. It’s true that we do (as we sometimes joke) “have ways of making you talk.” We bring to the table proven clinical strategies to help improve your child’s communication skills. But at the end of the day, parents are the rock star reinforcements.
All children develop at their own pace and in their own way, each displaying their own strengths. This is as true for speech and language development as it is for anything else. But while the traditional wisdom when it came to late talkers was to simply wait-and-see, medical professionals are increasingly urge parents to have their kids evaluated sooner than later. Our Fort Myers speech therapists encourage the same, knowing that while some kids really are late bloomers, a language problem becomes more difficult to correct the longer you wait.
Sometimes, this message can get a bit muddied when reports of some studies, such as one published by The American Academy of Pediatrics, are reported under headlines such as, “Late Talkers Do Fine as They Grow Up.” This ends up giving many parents a false sense of assurance. That study tended to show little to no lasting behavior or emotional problems associated with late-talking toddlers by age 5. However, it didn’t assess the language outcomes, so it’s a leap to say those kids went on to be “fine.”
Somewhere between 70 percent and 80 percent of toddlers who talk late will outgrow that language delay – but only if it is an expressive language delay (difficulties with verbal and written expression). Those with receptive language delays (understanding what is being said to them) may have a more difficult time. What our speech therapists want parents to bear in mind is that while many toddlers will outgrow a language delay, 20 percent to 30 percent will not – unless they have access to early intervention like speech therapy.