Thursday, June 16, 2011

Teachers: Save That Voice

Teachers, singers and actors (and maybe politicians) could be considered professional voice users. Teaching can provide a lot of stress on the voice. Teachers often work in settings with poor acoustics and talk for hours during the day. One estimate is that 11% of teachers currently have vocal hoarseness. Excessive stress on the voice can cause medical problems such as vocal nodules and interfere with daily activities. There are a number of ways teachers can help protect their voices.
1) Be more aware of how you use your voice.
2) Drink enough water to stay well hydrated.
3) Use sound systems and amplification when possible.
4) Avoid screaming or shouting over noise.
5) If the hoarseness is due to a virus or other infection, a day or two of rest may avoid longer lasting hoarseness.

Children with Language Disorders - Reading and Writing

Children with language disorders may show many different patterns of language skills. Some children have significant difficulties with both listening and speaking skills, some children have stronger listening than speaking skills. Some children may have trouble with vocabulary, grammar, language problem-solving skills and social language. Other children may have more trouble with one or two areas. For children with receptive language impairment, a child is unlikely to recognize a printed version of a word they do not understand when spoken. If a child has poor grammar (word endings and sentence structure) they may not understand written sentences with unfamiliar features, and/or they may not be able to make use of sentence sequence to predict words in a sentence. Even children with stronger receptive language skills, a weakness in word-finding may make it more difficult for a child to retrieve the spoken word while reading the written word. Writing depends heavily on spoken language skills in retrieving vocabulary, generating sentences and using appropriate organizational patterns. Language intervention with children with language disorders should help support their progress in reading/writing skills.

Is it speech? Is it language?

When an SLP evaluates a child's communication, both speech and language are typically assessed. In assessing a child's speech skills, the focus is on production of sounds, fluency in speaking, and voice quality. So articulation disorders, voice problems and stuttering are typically considered to be speech disorders. In assessing language skills, the areas assessed include receptive language (listening) and expressive language (speaking). Skill areas examined include vocabulary, grammar, use of language in problem solving, and organization of spoken language. Problems in language use also typically affects written language as well as oral language. An SLP may also evaluate social language use, such as turn-taking in communication, appropriately initiating communication, interpreting facial expressions and use of social communication conventions. A child may be considered to have a speech disorder or a language disorder, or quite commonly can have both types of disorders. The evaluation results will guide the SLP in designing the treatment program

Monday, June 13, 2011

Helping Your Child's Fluency

If your child is showing some dysfluency (repeating sounds, words, phrases) that has lasted less than six months, there are ways to use a communication style that helps model and support more fluent speech.
1) Try to model slower and more relaxed speech for the child. You obviously want your speech to not be so slow that it seems abnormal, but speaking more slowing to your child should help reduce the feeling that he/she needs to speak quickly . Mr. Rogers from television is a good example of a relaxed speaking pace.
2) Setting aside some one on one time with a parent helps reduce a child's feeling that he/she needs to speak quickly to compete with siblings.
3) When a child asks you a question, add a brief pause before you answer, again to model a less hurried communication style.
4) Try not to be impatient if your child is repeating words and phrases - it is typically a sign that he or she is trying to manage a new surge in learning. Your patience will help your child work through this phase.

Stuttering and Normal Dysfluency

Many young children go through a period of development that is considered "normal dysfluency." They may repeat syllables, words and phrases when they speak. They may use fillers like "um", "er" and "uh". This tends to happen between about 18 months and five years of age. The children are typically not that aware of their speech dysfluencies. This often happens while children are rapidly expanding their use of language - or learning to use language in new ways. This type of dysfluency may disappear for a time and then re-appear while language use is changing.

Dysfluency patterns that might be considered stuttering, tend to involve more sound repetitions, "blocks" where a child might be "stuck" and can't keep their voice or speech going, and tension and frustration during speaking. These would be signs that a child might benefit from being seen by a Speech -Language Pathologist.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Word Finding

When a child or adult has word finding problems they will tell you that they know the word but just can't think of it at that moment. They feel like it is just "at the tip of the tongue". Here are strategies that can help a person think of a word they are struggling with.

Word Finding Strategies

1. Encourage the child to provide information on an object if the have trouble retrieving its name
"Tell me something about the thing you are thinking about"
The child might say "It's something that flies - it's a plane"
The child might say "It's black and whiter and like a horse - it's a zebra

2. Encourage the child to gesture how to use the object.
"You play it like this - it's a guitar."

3. Encourage the child to visualize/think of what the object looks like.

4. If you have an idea of word to be retrieved, provide choices.
"Are you thinking of lemonade, fruit punch or root beer.?"

5. Encourage vocabulary building which involves words and all their connections with other words.
If you are starting a story about a lion, you could talk about where a lion might live-zoo, jungle, desert - or what noises a lion makes- roar, snort, snore.
Encourage the child to help retell a familiar book by looking through the pictures - perhaps by taking turns.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

More preschool language development activities

Role-playing is a very rich activity to help children develop their language skills. This allows children to expand their understanding of everyday activities and to practice the dialogue and social communication used in these situations. Adults can model playing house, doctor, and/or store using dialogue, props, and dress-up clothes. The same can be done with a dollhouse and its props, acting out scenarios and making the dolls talk. These role-playing activities also can support the development of early storytelling skills.