Feb 05, 2019

Language, What is it?

Mother and child practice speech skills

Language is how we share ideas and get our messages understood. It’s how we make new words, provide meaning to our communication attempts. It’s what allows us to know what and how we should say things.

But not all children learn to use language at the same time or for the same reasons. Some children learn to talk early on, speak clearly, and have no problem being understood by others. Other children develop language skills late and have difficulties talking.

As a speech-language pathologist, the American-Speech-Hearing-Association (ASHA) is a resource I use and recommend for speech, language, and/or hearing concerns. According to the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association (2018), there are a few differences in the disorders or delays in children. According to ASHA, children with receptive language delays could struggle with answering questions, following directions, pointing to objects and pictures, or knowing how to take turns when talking with others. Children with difficulties talking, which is referred to as expressive language, could struggle with naming objects, asking question, forming sentences, using correct pronouns like “she” or “he”, or learning songs or rhymes.

As a parent, you can reach out to your child’s teacher if you have concerns with your child’s language development and they can connect your child with Grant Wood AEA to screen your child’s language. If your child is preschool aged or younger, you can contact the AEA directly to have your child’s speech and language development screened.

Additionally, there are strategies parents can use to try to promote and increase language development. Strategies could include, but not limited to the following ideas:

  • Wait time. Try not to complete sentences for your child. Allow extra time for your child to respond and/or think about what they want to express.
  • Try using visual cues or gestures to help your child communicate his or her thoughts.
  • Repetition works wonders. Practice and repeat the correct words that your child is struggling to share.
  • Imitation and modeling are the most basic and sometimes the most effective tool for correcting language. As a parent, be sure to provide correct language as a model after allowing them adequate time on their own.
  • Try providing an answer and then asking a question. For example, say: “Sarah was hungry. Who was hungry?”
  • Another option is providing forced choice or multiple choice answers like, “Did the bear eat honey or pizza?”
  • Use context to help your child build sentences and thoughts. For example, “Look I see a barn in the story, our story must take place on a farm.”
  • Help your child connect conversation to things he already knows. For example, “A pear is a fruit. We know it’s a fruit, because we know fruit has seeds.”
  • SLPs use a term called ‘parallel talk’, and it’s an easy tool for parents to use to expand your child’s language. It can also be a great way to demonstrate the correct use of pronouns. “I am picking up the toys”; “You are playing with dinosaurs”; “He is driving a car.”

Liz Donnelly is a GWAEA speech-language pathologist who works primarily with elementary-aged students. Learn more about GWAEA at gwaea.org

Reference cited above:

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (2018). Preschool Language Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/Preschool-Language-Disorders/