In my experience, we Americans often put bilingualism on a pedestal:
The truth is that there is NO research supporting these opinions! Here’s what the research DOES say:
Although bilingualism doesn’t cause delays or problems, children who are immersed in a foreign language often demonstrate “normal phenomena” that might be interpreted as language delays. For example, many children who attend school in a new foreign language go through a “silent” or “nonverbal” period. Since they do not talk much at this stage, some teachers and other professionals unfamiliar with bilingual language development might wonder if the children have language delays.
This is where a bilingual certified speech-language pathologist (SLP) comes into play. Regardless of whether we speak the same language as the child or family (for which we would need a knowledgeable interpreter), bilingual SLPs are able to assess whether a child presents with a language delay/disorder or a language difference. A language delay/disorder impacts all of the child’s languages, whereas a language difference means that the child is making errors because he is learning English. For example, a three-year-old girl who only speaks 50 words total in English and Mandarin would have a significant language delay or disorder. But let’s say that the girl has a twin sister. The twin has 1,000 words in both languages and speaks impeccable Mandarin but has a hard time using past-tense verbs in English. This girl would have a language difference because the skills in her first language—Mandarin—are developmentally appropriate. She is making errors in English because she is still learning the language.
What should you do if you have questions or concerns?
Bilingualism, as well as typical and disordered language development, are all tricky subjects with many nuances. If you have questions or concerns that your bilingual child is not learning or using languages like other children their age, please contact a certified bilingual SLP, such as ChitChat Therapies. We are passionate about bilingualism and language development, and will help guide you in the right direction for your family!
Learning how to imitate words is a crucial step in communication development. Here's a simple but powerful sequence to boost your little one's language skills!
1). Get on your child's eye level and make eye contact.
We want our children to be making eye contact and looking at us when we talk with them. This can help increase their understanding, as well as allow them to see how we make speech sounds with our mouths.
2). Speak in super-short phrases (e.g., use 1 word with 1-year-olds, 2 words with 2-year-olds, etc.).
Children are better able to comprehend and imitate what we're saying when we speak with them at their developmental level.
3). Most importantly (and my favorite!): use "wait time."
We must give our kiddos time to think and respond. Count to 5-7 seconds in your head (yes, that long!) before you reply. This tip also teaches kids that communication is a give-and-take activity, and that their words are valued. Don't worry if the words aren't very clear: for young toddlers, we are more concerned about their attempts to talk rather than how clearly they are speaking. You can even start using this strategy as young as infancy--you never know when your little one will coo, smile, or babble back!
4). Then, keep up your conversation!
Continue talking or playing with your child, and use this sequence of tips throughout your day. The more practice you get, the easier it is for both you and your child.
If you have concerns that your toddler isn't making eye contact and/or imitating gestures, finger points, sounds or words, please reach out ASAP. If you live in Colorado, contact ChitChat Therapies or your local school district's Child Find department.
Although many of us have intentions of relaxing more and doing less every summer, it still tends to get crazy: graduations, weddings, family reunions, and vacations. Despite our busy schedules, summer can still be a great time for children to receive speech, language, reading, and feeding therapies. This is especially true with ChitChat Therapies since we come to you! Here’s a countdown of why therapy in the summer makes sense:
5). School’s Out!
Summer is the perfect opportunity for children to boost their skills. Whether your child just needs to work on a few speech sounds, has dyslexia or another learning disability, or is a “problem feeder” and just eats a handful of foods, summertime can give parents the chance to focus on challenges that they haven’t had time to address. Also, since school is out, it’s an ideal time for children with apraxia to receive the multiple intensive therapy sessions that they need.
4). Benefiting from Home-, Daycare-, or Summer Camp-based Services
ChitChat Therapies goes to families’ homes, daycares, and summer camps to work with children, as well as offers online therapy services. One huge benefit is that children learn skills within their natural environments, making it easier to generalize skills into their everyday lives. Also, you won’t miss shuttling your kids across town for an appointment!
3). Learning to Explore and Enjoy Fresh Foods
Like many kids, I didn’t enjoy most vegetables. This is something I eventually grew out of, but did you know that many picky eaters never grow out of their restrictive eating habits? Children who are very picky eaters (commonly referred to as “problem feeders” in our field) often refuse to eat foods in entire categories, including vegetables. With all of the fresh produce and meats available in the summer, it can be a wonderful opportunity for children to explore new and delicious foods. Families can take their children to farmers’ markets to see, smell, touch, and taste different fruits and vegetables. (If you live in the Denver/Boulder areas, two of the best are the Boulder Farmers' Market and the South Pearl Street Farmers' Market). Children can also get more involved with preparing snacks and meals, a strategy that has been proven to help “problem feeders” learn and discover new foods. If your family is struggling with picky eating and/or your mealtimes are constant stressful battles, contact ChitChat Therapies. Seriously, the stress alone is reason to get professional help!
2). Playing & Moving Outside
Some of my other Colorado transplant friends have said, “You move to Colorado for the winter (sports), but you stay for the summer.” This has definitely been true for me! Lots of ChitChat Therapies’ summer sessions are held outside in yards, playgrounds, and even pools, working on skills that kids need to work on while also having fun. For example, if I’m working with a toddler who is just using a few words, I’ll ask the parent to gather some of the kid’s favorite toys (e.g., car, ball, bubbles). We’ll bring them outside and possibly work on the child requesting toys by modeling signs and simple words. Playing outside also involves movement and gross motor skills. Many therapists know that when young children are moving, they can be more likely to vocalize and talk!
1). Boost Skills before the Next School Year
One of the reasons I started ChitChat Therapies is to help address the gap of kids who need speech, language, reading, and feeding therapies but don’t qualify for school-based services. There are so many kids out there who don’t test at or below the 7th percentile, but whose skills are below average and need speech therapy. Summer is a wonderful time for children to work on speaking more clearly, developing reading skills, and learning to become a more adventurous eater.
The bottom line is that summer offers an abundance of opportunities, settings, and foods for children and families. If your child needs help with their speech, language, and/or picky eating, contact ChitChat Therapies today and take advantage of summer!
One of the biggest reasons I started ChitChat Therapies is to help dispel the myths and misconceptions around speech, language, and feeding development. Here’s one bit of misinformation that I hear a lot: by 2 years old, a child should have about 50 words. The truth is that a 24-month-old with “average” language skills has between 200-300 words. That’s a huge difference!
Another misconception is that children with speech, language, and feeding delays “grow out” of them. Yes, sometimes kids truly are late talkers and begin talking more as they get a little older. However, there are many parents who are told “wait and see” by their well-meaning friends, family, and even pediatricians. The parents then “wait and see” and are often frustrated and heartbroken when their children do not make progress without intervention.
If you are concerned about your child’s skills, I urge you to listen to your gut. It also doesn’t hurt to do a little informed reading, and/or contact a certified speech-language therapist. Here’s a short list of resources to help get you started:
-This handbook by Linguisystems has GREAT information about where children’s communication and feeding skills should be at, based on their age. (Note: much of the information in here is more geared toward SLPs. For parents of younger kids, the “vocabulary” and “answering questions” sections are very helpful and can be found on pages 18-19). Every child is different and develops at their own pace, but it’s good to remember that these skills are based on what the average child does at certain ages.
-If you live in Colorado, contact your school district’s Child Find department. Child Find assesses your child’s skills in all developmental areas for free. If your child qualifies for services, a therapist will come to your home and provide services for free until your child’s 3rd birthday. If your child presents with a moderate or mild delay and doesn’t qualify for services—but you still want therapy—you can look into private practices, such as ChitChat Therapies.
-Finally, ChitChat Therapies offers free consultations by phone and email. Even if your child is on the waitlist for a Child Find evaluation or ends up receiving therapy elsewhere, we are happy to answer any questions or concerns. (We understand that waiting is tough!) If you choose to work with ChitChat Therapies, we will travel to your home, private school, and/or daycare in Candelas, Arvada, Golden, Westminster, and Boulder. We also offer telepractice, or online speech therapy, for all of Colorado.
Hi! I'm Angie Wuelling, MA, CCC-SLP, bilingual speech-language pathologist and owner of ChitChat Therapies. I started this blog because I'm passionate about sharing information about speech, language, reading, and feeding development with fellow parents, speech-language pathologists, teachers, and other professionals. There's a lot of misinformation out there, and this blog is my small way of helping empower and educate others.
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