Welcome to the Children's Speech Therapy Corner

Welcome to a Corner filled with Information related to the Speech and Language disorders seen in Children. Information on assessment, intervention strategies, and the latest updates in research. You will also be able to interact with other professionals and parents.

Click here to check out my website:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Play in Autism To improve social interaction and comprehension.

Advance for Speech and Language
By Jason Mosheim
Posted on: July 19, 2010

Restricted play skills are one of the hallmarks of autism. Among the handful of reasons that children on the spectrum have trouble branching out in their play is that many lack ideation, which is necessary for understanding how to interact with new objects.

"Many kids with autism reject novelty," said Lisa Audet, PhD, CCC-SLP, assistant professor in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology at Kent State University in Kent, OH. "When something is new and they don't have a mental template or schema in their heads for how to engage with the object, they reject it." They prefer to play with only a handful of predictable items.

"Limited ideation results in them doing 'same old'-playing with the same thing all the time," she told ADVANCE. Comfortably stuck in one mode, they don't accumulate a well-rounded knowledge of basic concepts over time.

Many children with autism have motor planning deficits. They have difficulty using their hands to operate and explore toys in a way that most parents expect.

One boy who lacked fine motor skills and had difficulty using his fingers to operate cause-and-effect toys, like a See 'n Say®, only wanted to dump and throw objects, Dr. Audet recalled. His play skills did not evolve much beyond those motions because he didn't have good hand use. "As he got older, it looked more aberrant because you have a 10-year-old who's dumping and throwing like a 2-year-old," she said.

Older children with autism often display play skills that are similar to those of much younger, typically developing children. For example, 18-month-olds often derive great pleasure from filling containers or rolling a ball. Older children whose play skills closely match this age group may have language skills at about the same level.

Restrictive play also could be caused by anxiety. Children with autism often feel uneasy when they are presented with novel objects because they are forced out of their comfort zone. "They play with particular objects as a way of calming themselves, to self-regulate," Dr. Audet said. "Kids with limited ideation don't move to pretend play, where it becomes symbolic, and that parallels the absence of language, which is also a symbolic act."

Many children with autism also have trouble with turn-taking. The two types of reciprocal interactions to be on the look-out for are dyadic, between two people, and triadic, which involve two people and an object. Adults can teach dyadic interactions by singing a song that contains gaps for the child to fill with lyrics or sounds.

"We use strategic wait time and a lot of rhythmic information and melodic intonation to create predictability, which can be helpful in getting reciprocity around something dyadic," said Dr. Audet.

When children are engaged in sensorimotor activities that provide them with movement, such as bouncing or swinging, speech-language pathologists can seize the opportunity to assist them in maintaining the dyadic interaction and reinforce the predictability of a routine.

Only when a child is able to engage in one-on-one joint interactions can clinicians begin to facilitate triadic interactions. Unfortunately, many clinicians start with the triadic events when attempting to increase joint attention and reciprocity. "The triadic interaction can be difficult for kids with autism," she said, "yet so often we start there, especially if the child is older, and doesn't yet understand reciprocity."

To qualify for kindergarten, children need to be able to occupy themselves with a solitary, adaptive activity for at least seven minutes. When working with a child prior to school enrollment, speech-language pathologists and parents must keep this in mind in addition to other social aspects of play, including parallel play, trading and sharing, and cooperative play.

"If we're working on parallel play, we know that imitation is difficult for kids with autism," said Dr. Audet. One way to facilitate imitation is to imitate a child's natural play behavior. For example, a speech-language pathologist can join a child in the activity of filling and dumping when trying to introduce a new tool.

"If a child is putting corn in a bucket and then dumping it, we begin to model so he knows he has a partner," she explained. "In addition to imitating, we work on parallel play by modeling with our own shovel. We then offer the shovel to the child and wait expectantly. The child may pick up the shovel and imitate us. If they don't, we continue to present an exaggerated model of the behavior and continue to present the shovel to the child."

The speech-language pathologist is building on the natural play of filling and dumping and modeling the next level of play.

The first cooperative play skill to teach is sharing. The child has to relinquish control of an object, probably a highly preferred one.

Most children learn to trade before they learn to share. This is important to keep in mind when working with children with autism because they must never be left without anything to keep them occupied as they wait for their play partner to return a toy. Otherwise, they are likely to succumb to frustration and act out.

Clinicians can teach trading by having children play with cause-and-effect toys such as cars or tops. "Give the kids different ones so they trade," she said. "They will get something similar but not exactly the same. Trading becomes important as a steppingstone to learning how to share."

Speech-language pathologists should be supportive so children will request help when needed. Nonverbal cues are a good place to start in providing children with the means to ask for help. Don't rush in to provide assistance whenever a problem arises, however. "Provide a mechanism for them to ask for help, whether it's a picture icon, a voice-output device, a hand-over-hand movement or signing," she said. "We let them know before they get too frustrated with an event that we're there to help. It's really important to read the nonverbal cues that are really subtle."

To spark spontaneous language in children with autism, speech-language pathologists can tap into their knowledge of normal childhood development. For example, typically developing children begin to speak in two-word combinations when they have approximately 75 words in their repertoire. Before attempting to elicit spontaneous speech and to get a sense of what expectations to set, clinicians need to ask themselves how many words are in the child's repertoire, if they are spontaneous words, and whether the words are approximations, imitative or echolalic.

Clinicians often advance too far ahead in treatment. "If children have 25 words in their repertoire and are echolalic, using a five-word sentence like 'I want more cookie, please' is a big jump if we expect that utterance to have true linguistic meaning," said Dr. Audet.

After determining the level of spontaneous language, speech-language pathologists can start building single-word vocabulary to help children reach the 75-word mark. "Begin to work on semantic relations, then reinforce those two-word combinations. When the child says, 'My cookie,' we say, 'Yes, Jimmy's cookie,' versus 'Tell me, 'I want more cookie, please,' and jumping to that rote utterance, which the child is going to comply with if he is echolalic," she said. "We sabotage ourselves if we reinforce echolalia vs. spontaneous language."

A child may need some echolalic chunks to ask for help, protest, or engage in adaptive behaviors, but that's only one prong, Dr. Audet said. The other prong is building up spontaneous vocabulary by reinforcing the use of single words and two-word combinations without making the child produce a complete sentence. "That's like a three-year developmental leap for a child who has a disability," she said. "We wouldn't expect that from a typically developing child."

For More Information

Lisa Audet, PhD, laudet@kent.edu

Jason Mosheim is a Senior Associate Editor for ADVANCE. He can be contacted at jmosheim@advanceweb.com.

Friday, June 25, 2010

First Iphone application for Speech Therapists.

Smarty Ears releases their first of many to come Iphone Applications for Speech and Language Therapists and parents of children with language and articulation disorders. Mobile Articulation Probes © was released to the public on January, 4th 2010.

MAP main image

PRLog (Press Release) – Jan 06, 2010 – Smarty Ears releases their first of many to come Iphone Applications for Speech and Language Therapists and parents of children with language and articulation disorders. Smarty Ears is a publishing company designed to infuse the use of technology in the field of speech therapy.

Mobile Articulation Probes © was released to the public on January, 4th 2010. MAP (Mobile Articulation Probes) is one of the first Iphone Applications in the field of speech therapy. MAP is a practical option for Articulation therapy and evaluation. MAP can be used for therapy as well as to collect additional information regarding a child’s articulation skills during assessment.

With this App Speech Therapists will be able to add an entry for all their students and keep track of their articulation performances. MAP provides accuracy scores for each session. MAP also displays which specific sounds/words were not produced accurately. With MAP speech therapist move to the next level of data tracking because there is no need to count errors on paper- MAP will do it for you.

MAP provides more than 400 words classified by manner of articulation as well as individual phonemes in all positions of the word. All you have to do is add new user, add new session, select which phonemes or class of phonemes you want to target, select which position of the word you are working on and begin session. MAP is the easy way to show parents their child’s progress in therapy.

MAP was designed by Barbara Fernandes,M.S CCC-SLP a Speech and Language Pathologists. She has obtained her Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech and Hearing Association.

Mobile Articulation Probes © is available in English. The release of the Spanish version is scheduled for January, 20th 2010.

For more information visit: www.smarty-ears.com

To purchase this application visit: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mobile-articulation-probe ...

# # #

Smarty Ears, LLC (c) 2009 is a publishing company that believes technology can help reduce the gap between language proficiency and language abilities.

For more information visit www.smarty-ears.com

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Play Routines In early language development.

By Harriet Englander, MS, CCC-SLP
this article was taken from the ADVANCE magazine

I enjoy working with toddlers and observing their obstinate focus on one activity. When parents referred to a child's favorite toy or pursuit as a fixation, I began to wonder, "Is this a symptom of a speech and language delay, a behavior on the autistic spectrum, or a step in language development?"

When we go into the home, we want to show parents that talking to their toddlers about what they are doing, where they are going, and how they are going to get there during their daily routine is how they can help their children develop language. Parents and caregivers can help toddlers make good progress if they have consistent involvement in their routines of eating, dressing, brushing teeth, going out, and going to sleep.1

The toddlers I work with learn to produce language through shared attention during play routines. Why not repeat the same activity that the toddler feels comfortable with? Letting a child begin the session with a favorite toy or activity can lead to listening, labeling, commenting and communicating.

I began speech therapy with Peter when he was 2-and-a-half and his favorite activity was Thomas the Train. We sprawled on the floor together, putting down tracks and lining up the small cars. Peter could name "Percy," "James" and "Emily" early on, but his communication skills were slow to appear.

A few weeks after we began, we were ending a session on the front steps of his house, playing with small airplanes and waiting for his older brothers to get off the bus. I suggested he say "hi" to his brothers when they approached us. Peter did, and his 6-year old brother looked at me as if I were a magician. "Peter never spoke to me before," he said.

Peter's behavior seemed to be obsessive and uncommunicative, but he was beginning to make eye contact as I talked about what we were doing. He began to indicate preferences: these tracks instead of those, this train instead of that one. His mother watched the progress, and we discussed her busy schedule. She admitted that Peter spent a lot of his day in a car seat. I told her they didn't have to be silent in the car. She could talk to him about where they were going and what they were going to do. She began to ask him to indicate what he wanted to eat. Peter was dialoguing by age 3 and became a talker by 3-and-a-half. He soon was thriving in a pre-K program with rules and schedules, communicating easily and intelligibly.

Lois Bloom, PhD, reminds us, "A language will never be acquired without engagement in a world of persons, objects and events. The motivation for learning a language is to express and interpret contents of mind so the child and others can share what each is thinking and feeling."2

Devin was not yet 2 when I began to work with him. He had a basement filled with toys and liked his kitchen. We played kitchen every session. He allowed me to vary the play as long as the basic sequence remained the same. We had a shopping cart, canned goods, and a doll to sit in the cart for shopping.

We had a stove, pots and pans, and a rotisserie with noise and orange light to prepare the food. We had a tea set, plates and spoons, and a table and chairs to enjoy our "meal." Devin had a feeding problem, but once we established this routine, he began eating the raisins, fruits pieces and crackers that were part of our "meal" as long as we fed the doll first.

Devin developed his own feedback therapy. During our play routines, he pointed and named what he wanted. I clearly and slowly repeated what he had said, he repeated it, and I reinforced it. We completed his early intervention program in a year, moving from silence to single word utterances and jargon and then nearly full intelligibility. He communicated easily with his family.

Real words are embedded in the jargon of children when they begin to combine words. If we pay close attention to their utterance and know the content, we can deduce the meaning, repeat the word or words for them, reduce their frustration, and initiate real communication. If the parent is doing the same, it is a winning situation.3

Other 2-year-olds who needed to do the same activity over and over have done simple puzzles, pushed their miniature cars off a coffee table, and begun each session with the alphabet song. When these toddlers could not talk or communicate, they wanted to do what they could do easily. They created their own play routines. It was easy to do intensive modeling while going along with their preference. Repeating the activity they chose seemed to increase their motivation and led to overcoming language delays.


Woods, J.J. (2010). Getting into the family routine: Intervention strategies for early intervention. Long Island University, Feb. 5.
Bloom, L. (1998). Research perspectives: Language development and emotional expression. Pediatrics (Supp.: New Perspectives in Early Emotional Development), 102 (5): 1272-77.
Marshalla, P. (2005). Apraxia Uncovered: Seven Stages of Phoneme Development. Anaheim, CA: Marshalla Speech and Language.
Harriet Englander works in the Early Intervention Program in Port Washington, NY. She can be contacted at hmenglander@yahoo.com.

Copyright ©2010 Merion Matters
2900 Horizon Drive, King of Prussia, PA 19406 • 800-355-5627
Publishers of ADVANCE Newsmagazines

Friday, April 2, 2010

Baby Wordsworth Babies: Not Exactly Wordy

<i>Baby Wordsworth</i> Babies: Not Exactly Wordy

Tuesday, Mar. 02, 2010
Baby Wordsworth Babies: Not Exactly Wordy
By Alice Park
It's hard to avoid logging screen time of some kind on a daily basis, and that's true even in young children. Babies in the U.S. start watching TV early on, with educational DVDs and television shows designed to encourage early language development in pre-preschoolers.

The question is, Do instructional DVDs actually help babies learn? To find out, researchers at the University of California at Riverside designed the most definitive study of the issue to date. The study used a DVD called Baby Wordsworth (part of the Baby Einstein series), which is aimed at teaching babies new vocabulary words, and assigned a group of 12-to-24-month-olds to watch it daily for six weeks. Turns out, the videos didn't work. There was no difference in language acquisition between children who were assigned to watch the DVD and a control group. (See pictures of kids' books coming to life.)

The results, published on Monday in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, are in line with several other studies. In fact, past analyses have found that infants who watch educational DVDs learn fewer words and score lower on certain cognitive tests by the time they reach preschool than kids who haven't watched the videos. These studies, however, were all observational — meaning that rather than assigning babies to watch videos or avoid them, scientists simply asked parents about their babies' viewing habits and then correlated that information with the kids' performance on tests of word acquisition and language skills later on.

This time, psychologist Rebekah Richert and her team did those studies one better. She randomly assigned two groups of babies to either a Baby Wordsworth or control group, then carefully tracked how many of the 30 target words highlighted in the video the babies were able to learn. The words were those that children would commonly hear around the house, such as table, ball, piano, fridge and chair. Parents were asked to evaluate how many of these words their babies understood and how many they could speak, while toddlers were tested separately for their recognition of pictures associated with the target words. Each of the 96 infants and their parents were followed for six weeks, and were evaluated four times in that period. While all the kids added new words to their vocabulary over the course of the study, watching Baby Wordsworth had no added benefit. (See the top 10 children's books of 2009.)

"We found that over the course of six weeks, the children watching the DVDs didn't learn any more words than children not watching," says Richert.

Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle, whose studies were the first to dispute the claim that educational DVDs improve babies' language skills, noted the importance of Richert's findings in advancing our understanding of how babies learn — or, in this case, don't learn — language. "The novel thing here is that this is actually the first experiment in the real world using these products to robustly test their claims," he says.

It's not entirely clear why the videos are so ineffective, but there may be two potential explanations. One has to do with the idea that such videos and DVDs overstimulate the brain. Researchers believe there is a critical window during early development in which language skills are acquired and developed; the sounds that babies hear and repeat in this time period are essential to establishing their language ability. And babies are better able to learn these sounds if they hear them from a live speaker (a parent) who engages with them directly and uses language in a repetitive, reinforcing way — where, for instance, an adult and the infant interact with each other and with a new object, as they learn its name. By contrast, a video that provides multiple and different stimulating sounds, but in a passive, one-way flow of information — perhaps overstimulating the brain to the point of paralysis — may fail to engage babies in learning. (This is why nonnative speakers of a language, even if they are fluent, find it difficult to reproduce the same sounds of a native speaker, because they were not trained to hear them as infants, says Christakis.) (See "The Year in Health 2009: From A to Z.")

Another reason videos inhibit word-learning may simply be that they replace precious parent-child time that could be spent learning the same words. If babies are watching a DVD, they are not engaging or communicating with their parents. In Richert's study, her team found that the most learning occurred when parents directly taught children new words by pointing at an object, saying its name and repeating it. In the final session in the lab, the researchers observed parents and their youngsters as they watched Baby Wordsworth together; the children's ability to learn words in these situations was enhanced. "What we are finding in our study is that the DVD itself is not a substitute for that kind of live social interaction," says Richert. "For children under the age of 2, social interaction is key to their ability to learning something like words." (See nine kid foods to avoid.)

Based on the evidence, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended for several years that toddlers under age 2 not watch videos or television, and Richert's findings support that advice. But she notes that it's not an all-or-nothing situation. "Given that media is becoming a consistent aspect of children's environment, there are ways that parents can use these DVDs," she says. "They can use them to sometimes teach children, but they should be aware that without being involved themselves, children aren't likely to learn." As enticing as new technologies may be in improving children's development, there is no substitute for a parent's attention and time.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Hello to all those who read my blog!(I know there are a few of you)
I have been away for sometime as my family and I have been busy caring for our newborn son Elijah Jacob Daniel and our older son Benjamin Roy Daniel.Elijah was born on the 13th of Feb 2010.
So updates on the blog are going to be slow !
Would love to hear from any of you and also any ideas you have for a post you would like to see or questions!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Guide to Communication milestones

Here is an exceptionally great guide to communication milestones prepared by LinguiSystems. It is comprehensive and easy to look up for all those Language and Speech Categories and to know at what age and details children learn concepts.


There are other free downloads on wonderful articles and guides that are a great source.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

“The Brave New World of the Cyber Speech and Hearing Clinic,” The ASHA Leader, Vol. 6, Dec. 11, 2001

Just imagine ….
A future when patients log on to cyber speech and hearing clinics from the comfort of their homes. Three-dimensional and holographic imaging enable viewing situations similar to face-to-face contact. Parents or spouses of the patient will complete intake forms by answering questions of a computer-generated composite face and voice. The hearing evaluation will be completed in less than a minute. The patient will simply sit in the cyber center with headset and earphones snugly in place while the function and status of the hearing mechanism are tested. Clicks, tones, buzzing sounds, and the sensation of pressure changes will be the only things heard or sensed by the patient. The completed hearing evaluation report will be created including colorful graphic charts of the brain, external, middle, and inner ear.
Speech production will be acoustically analyzed. Each sound will be compared with norms for intelligibility and precision for the patient’s particular language. Each phoneme of the 10,000 languages and dialects of the world will have its specific acoustic parameters analyzed. Technology will permit analysis of the articulation of people suffering from brain damage and neurological diseases, and not only acoustically determine the precision and intelligibility of their motor speech, but also identify the site and nature of the peripheral or central nervous system damage. Although phonetics courses will still be taught, clinicians will rarely use their ears to make judgments about a patient's articulation.
A patient's pitch, loudness, emphasis, shimmer, jitter, spectral characteristic, voice onset times, and other parameters will be automatically assessed and analyzed in seconds. The computer will detect early signs of progressive neurological diseases such as ALS, MS, and Parkinson's disease, as early symptoms of these disorders sometimes show up as minor voice irregularities.
Tests for language delay and disorders will be automatically chosen and adapted to the patient's interests. For children, these interactive tests will use colorful cartoon characters that playfully ask questions and probe for responses. Talking dogs, rabbits, cats, and chipmunks will have the child remember, repeat, name, discuss, describe, and point, while the computer analyzes and categorizes each response. The child's cognitive, linguistic, and social-communicative abilities will be assessed using the latest tests. Phonological process will be identified as well as the speed and accuracy of motor responses and visual scanning times. Length of utterances and vocabulary will be computed in every possible way and charted in three-dimensional bar, pie, and line graphs. Everything from the patients’ cognitive-linguistic functioning to their metalinguistic awareness will be assessed by fun-loving cartoon characters. Aphasia, apraxia of speech, and fluency tests will be similarly conducted and structured around the patient's age and interests.
The oral facial examination will also be assessed via the Web. The talking cartoon characters will have children open their mouth widely and face the embedded camera. The computer will note salient facts about tongue, lips, teeth, and palatal vault using pattern recognition algorithms. Everything from tongue tremor to speed of ongoing oral-muscular movement will be assessed. A three-dimensional picture of the child's oral structures will be created and added to the ongoing report.
In the future, a simple click of the computer keyboard or voice command will load the appropriate treatment program for each objective listed on the evaluation and merge them into a comprehensive treatment protocol. Goals will be chosen from thousands stored in treatment banks. The treatment program will be specifically adapted to the patient's age, gender, education level, and interests. Daily suggestions and recommendations will automatically be sent to the patient's family, home health agencies, or teachers for their assistance in meeting goals. Via the Web, the clinician will regularly review improvement with parents, physicians, nurses, and teachers and adjust the treatment programs when required.

(Taken from the prologue to Telepractices and ASHA:Report of the Telepractices Team December 2001 with permission from Dennis C. Tanner’s article, “The Brave New World of the Cyber Speech and Hearing Clinic,” The ASHA Leader, Vol. 6, Dec. 11, 2001, based on the author’s original short story ,“Welcome to the Cyber Speech and Hearing Clinic,” in Communication Disorders: A Literature and Media Perspective to be published in 2002 by Allyn & Bacon.)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Helping your child to love reading

Taken from:

There are lots of fun ways to help your little one learn to love books and stories. And, surprisingly, not all of them involve sitting down with an actual book.

Use books to bond

It's not all about reading the words. At this age it's more about enjoying the interaction with Mum or Dad. When your child sits in your lap as you read aloud, she doesn't just enjoy books, she also enjoys the security of your undivided attention.

Set up a ritual

A regular reading time establishes a calming routine young children love -- that's why the bedtime story is a time-honoured tradition. But don't forget that many other daily events also provide good reading opportunities. Once in a while try establishing a new ritual with a breakfast story, a bathtime story, a just-home-from-nursery story or even an "on the potty" story. Some toddlers (and older children) who are heavy sleepers are much better able to face the day when their parents "read them awake" rather than hustle them out of bed.

Choose appropriate books

Toddlers love board books, bath books and pop-up books -- any type they can hold easily and manipulate themselves. They love stories accompanied by bright, clear realistic pictures. And, of course, they love rhymes. That's not to say your two-year-old won't appreciate the stories her big brother chooses -- who knows, Harry Potter may end up being her favourite book! Just make sure she has access to simpler books as well.

Repeat, repeat, repeat

Stifle your yawns if you've read The Very Hungry Caterpillar every night for the past month and your child still asks to hear it again. Repetition is a hallmark of the toddler years. The reason children love to read the same stories over and over and over again is that they're so thirsty to learn. You'll soon find that your toddler has memorised her favourite passages and is eager to supply key phrases herself -- both signs of increasing readiness to read.

Ham it up

Lose your inhibitions when you read to your child. Growl like the Papa Bear in Goldilocks, squeak like Piglet in Winnie-the-Pooh. Kids love drama as much as adults do -- in fact, your youngster may love to pretend to be the scary wolf in The Three Little Pigs. Encourage her, even if it slows the story's progress. She'll get more out of the story if she's participating actively.

Follow her interests

Choose books about her favourite activities -- visiting the zoo, swimming, playing catch. Back up her favourite videos and TV programmes with books about the characters. You may be mystified by the appeal of Teletubbies, but if your child loves the cheery little creatures, she'll love the books about their exploits as well. Follow her lead, but do experiment with a wide variety of books. Your little girl who loves dressing up and dolls may, to your surprise, also be the one who asks to hear stories about dinosaurs and monsters again and again, too.

Go to the library

Even babies like library story-hours, and they're wonderful adventures for toddlers. Your child may well discover a new favourite when it's presented by the beguiling librarian with her soothing voice and perhaps some pictures or puppets to illustrate the action. And, of course, libraries allow parents -- and toddlers -- to take home countless stories without spending a penny.

Turn on the tape

Many wonderful books exist on cassette or CD. You can feed your child's eagerness to hear Puss in Boots for the umpteenth time, even though you need to go start dinner, by turning on a cassette, instead (with or without the accompanying picture book). You could also tape books and stories yourself, or ask a beloved friend or relative to do so. Hearing granny's voice reading a favourite story is a special treat.

Don't make books a reward

Don't tell your child she can listen to a story if she finishes her dinner. When reading is associated with systems of reward and punishment, it isn't a positive experience. Instead, pick times to read that feel natural, such as when you want your toddler to quiet down before her nap.

Dealing with a wriggler

Some wriggly youngsters just won't sit still through all of Spot's Birthday Party. Don't worry about it. Just leaf through something short for a few minutes (or even seconds) and then let them go. The next day you can try a slightly longer session. Some children will always be more interested in running around than in reading. If your toddler is the physically active type, she may respond best to the non book-related activities described below.

Make storytelling a part of life

While you're at the dinner table or in the car, tell stories -- standards like Goldilocks and the Three Bears are fine, or anecdotes from your own childhood or stories that feature your child as a central character. Make books of your child's drawings or favourite photos, and tell stories about them -- or ask her to be the narrator.

Point out words everywhere

Wherever you go, you can show your child that words are an important part of everyday life. Even the youngest toddlers quickly learn, for example, that traffic signs say STOP. Alphabet refrigerator magnets are staples in many homes. Other families label objects around the house, such as the shelves that house BLOCKS, DOLLS, and other toys. If your child is in playgroup or nursery, slip a daily note into her lunchbox. Even if she can't yet read CAT, seeing the word printed on a piece of paper, along with a drawing or sticker of a cute kitten, will be a high point in her day and help excite her interest in reading. If this seems too ambitious, try drawing a heart or smiley face with a simple "I love you", which will help get your toddler excited about the meaning behind words.


Children from families who talk at the dinner table have larger vocabularies, according to researchers at Harvard University in the States. Talk with your toddler, and don't be afraid to use complex words and phrases. Encourage her questions and explanations. Toddlers are curious and wonder endlessly about the world, so don't be shy about trying to explore her interests with her.

Demonstrate your own love of books

Your child wants to imitate you. If she sees books all around the house and knows that you like to settle down with one whenever you have a moment to yourself, she'll learn that books are essential to daily life. Showing her your own love of reading is more powerful than making your child sit through a rigid story time.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Gene Discovered in Childhood Language Disorder Provides insight into reading disorders.

Gene Discovered in Childhood Language Disorder Provides insight into reading

The recent discovery of a gene associated with specific language impairment (SLI), a disorder that delays first words in children and slows their mastery of language skills throughout their school years, offers new insight into how our genes affect language development [Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, 1(4): 264-282]. The finding is the result of a collaborative team effort headed by Mabel Rice, PhD, a University of Kansas professor and NIDCD-funded scientist.
The gene, KIAA0319, appears to play a key role in SLI, but it also plays a supporting role in other learning disabilities such as dyslexia. The finding is important for children with SLI and their families, and it is also likely to improve the classification, diagnosis, and treatment of other language, reading, and speech disorders.

SLI affects an estimated 7 percent of 5-6 year olds. Yet it is often overlooked as a diagnosis because children with SLI typically don't have severe communication problems or an obvious cause for the impairment, such as hearing loss. "These children are less likely to start talking within a normal timeframe," said Dr. Rice. "They may not begin to talk until they're three or four. And when they finally do talk, they use simpler sentence structure and their grammar may seem immature." Language impairments such as SLI also appear to increase the risk for reading deficits.

Often childhood language difficulties are seen as only a mild problem, or something kids eventually grow out of, but Dr. Rice says that's not true. "It persists. We know they don't catch up and their limitations in language continue as they move forward in school and then out into the workplace."

Because SLI tends to run in families, scientists suspected that genes played a role. But tying the presence of a specific genetic mutation to SLI, or to any inherited language impairment for that matter, had eluded researchers until recently.

A total of 322 individuals took part in the study, selected from a large pool of children, parents, and other family members participating in an ongoing investigation of the long-term outcomes of children with SLI. Each individual in the study was put through a battery of tests to assess speech, language, and reading skills. Standard diagnostic tests-the same tests that speech pathologists use to diagnose language and learning disabilities-were used to establish measurable behavioral traits that can act as symptoms of SLI, much as how fever is a symptom of the flu.

Using saliva samples to collect the DNA, the team identified a group of candidate genes-genes that previous studies indicated might have an association with speech or reading disabilities-and looked for mutations that corresponded with SLI's behavioral traits. Dr. Rice and her team scanned millions of letters of genetic code looking for mutations that family members have in common.

They discovered that mutations in one of the candidate genes for reading disability, KIAA0319, had a strong effect on the language traits that are characteristic of SLI, traits that can also be present in dyslexia, some cases of autism, and speech sound disorders (conditions in which speech sounds are either not produced, or produced or used incorrectly).

The next question, according to the researchers, is what does this gene do to affect how we learn language? "It could be a gene that's necessary in the development of the cortex, the area of the brain where we do most of our language processing," said Dr. Rice. "Or maybe it's a gene that's important for setting up neural pathways that are responsible for allowing language to emerge on time. It could be a gene, or one of a family of genes, that sets the stage to make language happen."

Dr. Rice contends that these findings lend support to the idea that difficulties with reading and understanding printed text may be coming from the same genes that influence difficulties in learning language. If this is so, she says, early detection and diagnosis will be the key to helping children with SLI close the reading gap between themselves and their peers. Interventions targeted to the preschool years, she adds, when neural pathways in the brain's language regions are still plastic and open to change, can give preschoolers the chance to develop their vocabulary and language skills in play settings and improve their ability to communicate once they enter school.

Even better, this discovery takes the shame and blame out of SLI. In the past, parents were often blamed for their child's disability and told that they hadn't read to them enough. Children with SLI were called lazy or accused of not working hard enough. Now, with the evidence that SLI is caused by a genetic mutation, parents and children know that talking on time or speaking correctly isn't something that youngsters with SLI can will themselves into doing.