Reading & Spoken Language

children's booksHave you ever thought that reading has anything to do with speaking? Many parents don’t realize that these are closely related. When parents read outloud, children hear correct pronunciation, grammar and phrasing. And it enhances children’s spoken language skills by exposing them to new vocabulary.

For babies, brightly colored books with real photographs are best. Parents can simplify the story, or even just point to the pictures, name them and turn the page.

For toddlers, parents can read short stories, with illustrations. Many children have favorite stories and love to hear them read over and over again. I recommend rhyming book such as “Fox in Socks”, and “Red Fish Blue Fish” by Dr. Seuss. In addition to being fun to hear, rhyming books help children develop their awareness of phonology (understanding how letter sounds are combined to make words) which will be needed as they enter school and begin reading on their own.

Preschoolers and school-aged children also benefit from reading with a caring adult. Make reading part of your bedtime routine and you will help your children develop their spoken language which will benefit them for a lifetime.

My favorite children’s book are

High-Functioning Autism & Social Skills

Children and adults with autism vary greatly in their strengths and challenges, but most persons with autism have difficulty with social skills. Frequently referred to as “mind-blindedness”, they have trouble knowing what others might be thinking. A person with Asperger Syndrome (sometimes referred to as high-functioning autism), may act oddly, hurt other’s feelings, or ask inappropriate questions without knowing it.

Students with high-functioning autism share symptoms with others diagnosed with autism, but their strengths allow them to function fairly well in school or at work. They don’t usually have delayed language development; they often have average to above average intelligence; and usually are passionate about one or two specific topics.  They don’t do “small talk” well, and often have trouble understanding the non-verbal aspects of communication such as eye contact, facial expressions and body language. They want to be involved with others, but lack the social skills of how to go about it.

But social skills can be taught, and learning them can make a big difference for children and adults with autism. social skills gamesA speech language pathologist can teach specific skills like understanding facial expressions and body language, self-monitoring, and how to be part of a group. Lessons involve recognizing indirect language (like hints or implied information) and learning to make guesses. Students may also learn about understanding and interpreting emotions, understanding intentions and how to solve problems.

For more information regarding teaching social skills for children or adults with high-functioning autism, visit Michelle Garcia Winner’s social thinking program.

See another post using ideas from Michelle Garcia Winner’s social thinking program here.

Read about why it may be difficult living with an Aspergers person here.


Improving Speech & Language Skills

How can parents help children develop their speech and language skills?

When parents talk to their babies, they naturally use short, simple phrases.

  1. If your toddler is not putting two and three words together, you may need to return to using short simple phrases.
  2. Avoid asking questions.
  3. It helps your child more if you comment on things.  Notice the things and actions around you and name them! You could say “You are swinging.” when at the park. “I like eating grapes” when having a snack, or “Duckie got wet” at bathtime.
  4. Be sure to pause and wait for your child to imitate. With modeling and expectant pauses, your child will start to develop expressive language.

Lots of talking and lots of listening will help your baby improve his or her speech and language skills.

Speech-Language-What’s the Difference?

So let’s start with a common question – What the difference between “speech” and “language”? I hear this question a lot, so let’s talk about it. As an SLP (speech language pathologist) I teach people ways to improve their communication. Usually it involves verbal speech and language, sometimes sign language, or pictures or words.  I even teach non-verbal language. I am a communication expert.

Now getting back to speech and language. Speech is the words (the sounds) we use, or what the speaker says. Speech is what the listener hears. So if a student or adult client cannot use his voice to make sounds or cannot use his mouth (teeth, lips and tongue) correctly to make sounds others understand, then we say that individual has a “speech” problem. Speech problems are things like articulation, stuttering, having a lisp, or having a hoarse voice from incorrect use of the speech mechanism.

Language has to do with understanding and using language (words, sentences, grammar etc.) Children who have trouble learning correct vocabulary, spelling or grammar have language problems. Adults who have had strokes, or head injuries from a car accident, can have language problems, and need help to learn language again after injury. Children and adults with autism will have problems with using language in a functional way. They may not talk at all. Or they may talk often about a single subject (maybe trains or computer games), and they not be aware that the listener does not want to hear any more. They may not be able to understand “nonverbal” language, like facial expressions, tone of voice or body language. When we work with children or adults with autism we help them improve social language and behavior, by having them practice the way others are expecting them to communicate.

Now let me say a word about accents. Every person has an accent. When people speak other languages you can usually hear an accent. That’s because the person uses the speech patterns from his first language when he tries to speak his second or third language. When someone has an accent, that is not considered a “speech problem”. It is a speech difference, and it is only a problem if an accent makes it difficult to understand. In this case a person may want to learn how to make his accent less noticeable. A speech language pathologist can help you with that!

Again WELCOME! I hope you enjoy reading here. Stop back often! Paula