Saturday, February 7, 2009

Top Ten Tips for developing language in children

Okay, here's the short version. I'm planning another post in which I describe my mother's Language Soup approach; that will be basically an elaboration on some of the items in this list. All of this (except for #10, of course) applies equally well to hearing children, but I think it's especially important for d/hoh children. Now, obviously I'm not an expert on any area of child development, and my practical experience with all of this is limited to exactly one child. Also, I'm not claiming that any of these tips are easy to carry out. Even some of the ones that sound easy (like #1) are surprisingly challenging and exhausting in actual practice. That said, I humbly offer up my Top Ten Tips:

1. Talk to your child. From day one. Even when you know he can't hear you. Yeah, it's a bit demoralizing sometimes, and it takes a lot of stamina. Do it anyway.

2. Pause and listen. Even when you know he's not going to say anything. It helps to teach turn-taking, and one day he's going to surprise you with a response.

3. Read to your child. As I mentioned in another post, we introduced books to Ben very early on. He usually wasn't interested, and he'd push the book away. But we kept at it, and by 3 months he loved books.

4. Narrate. "I'm putting the ball on the table. Do you see the ball on the table? Uh-oh, the ball rolled off the table. Where is the ball? The ball is on the floor. It is by the sofa. I'm picking up the ball. Do you want the ball? Here's the ball. I gave you the ball." (ad nauseum)

5. Use rich language. "The ball is under the orange blanket, which is hanging over the end of the sofa," instead of "The ball is there." "Can you help me by not throwing the diaper on the floor? That is unhelpful. No, we're not ready to get down yet," instead of "No -- stop that." My mother says that too many children show up in kindergarten having heard very little besides short commands and simple nouns.

6. Point and gesture. Make connections between the words you are using and the world around you.

7. Make connections. If there's a hippo in the book, get the hippo stuffed animal off the shelf and talk about it. If there's a line in a song about rain, get out the book that shows it raining on the bunny and talk about it. If your child is interested in the kangaroo, look for pictures of kangaroos online.

8. Praise and acknowledge anything that even remotely resembles progress, even if you know it was purely accidental.

9. Teach some elementary signs, like "more" and "all gone". The Baby Signing books by Child's Play (e.g. ISBN 978-1-904550-39-6) are great. Beware -- many of the trendy baby sign books actually have incorrect signs. Get an ASL dictionary so that you can check accuracy.

10. If your child wears hearing aids or a CI, use them during all waking hours. I'm sure you've heard that from everyone, and with some kids it's extremely difficult. Ben has occasionally had Issues, but for the most part he's a pretty compliant aid and CI wearer. These days he asks for them by pointing and saying "on". Very cute.

A good resource is the book Baby Talk: Helping your hearing-impaired baby listen and talk by Victoria J. Kozak and Betsy Moog Brooks, ISBN 1-931480-00-1. Okay, so that wasn't as short as I expected. I do tend to ramble on -- just ask my students. If you got this far, thanks for reading!


leah said...

What a great post! I got a good chuckle out of the "don't throw the diaper on the floor, that isn't helpful" bit. We also try to pair up a book or language activity with the actual object/experience. We've been reading "winter-ish" books lately and I brought snow inside and put it in the bathtub for the kids to play with (weird, but they loved it)!

Lucas'Mommy said...

Great post! Very useful reminders, thanks!

Madeline said...

Good advice!! I'll keep this in mind someday...way down the road...:)

Elsie Wilson said...

Yes, you do feel a little foolish saying the same things over and over, taking time to talk about the whole scene, comparing the hippo stuffed aninmal, drawn picture, photo hippo, little plastic model hippo, and be you so lucky to have a zoo, the real hippo. But, this is essential of children with HI as well as all hearing children! That's the "soup" idea: saturation! Yep, it worked with Julia...she is wordy! :-) But, these words are really worth the effort!
Great summary, sweetie!
Yo' Mama, Bamimi,
Elsie Wilson

susannah said...

This is a GREAT post! I think I'll forward the link to family and freinds too. Very concise but complete. Thanks!!

Connor's Mom said...

Great post! I'm a big fan of this approach-- I'm the mom in the grocery store that the other customers look at sideways because I've just described the entire produce section to my child. Also because I repeat everything I say three times. Auditory sandwiching, don'tcha know.


Connor's Mom said...

I've added a link to your blog on my page, by the way. I enjoy reading you, too. :)