Every baby is a gift, even if the wrapping is a little different.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Being Responsive to Our Kids

The next area I want to cover from Play to Talk by James MacDonald and Pam Stoika is being responsive.

While this book is specifically for children who are late talkers, I think this particular area can be applied to all children.

Have you ever been working on your computer, watching TV, or concentrating on a project when one of your kids is trying to tell you something important? Do you just kinda listen? I know I do. I fail to fully concentrate on what my kids are saying because I'm distracted by what I'm doing.

Confession: I need to be a better mom and pay full attention to what my kids are telling me every time they want to tell me something. I absolutely do not want them to stop talking to me because I'm not being as responsive as I should be. If it's important to my kids, it needs to be important to me, even if I'm working on taxes or in the middle of an exciting scene in a book or trying to fix dinner.

Goal: Be more responsive to each of my kids so they know that I value what they tell me.

For kids who are late talkers the authors of this book suggest that in order to be responsive we should:

Respond immediately
Respond to anything safe the child is doing by making comments about it and keep the child interacting
Respond to any actions with a sound
Repeat words the child uses and add other simple ones
Imitate actions
After responding, wait for the child to take his/her turn
Respond as if the child's behavior is an intentional communication

I've been trying to do this with all of my kids, but especially with my son. I keep eye contact and wait for him to communicate to me what he wants. I try to keep a conversation going by responding to what he's interested in.  He's really been using a lot of signs, including "please" and "thank you," but I'm trying to move him into simple sounds to communicate.

I believe that the more responsive we are to our kids, the more likely it is that they'll want to communicate with us. As an aside, I absolutely believe that the foundation of communication we build when our kids are young is the foundation we depend on when they are teens. If our kids know that we want to talk to them and value what they say and we're responsive, they will talk to us when they are going through the tumultuous teen years (and that's when we really want them to talk to us).

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Be Matched

Another concept I've learned from Play to Talk by James MacDonald and Pam Stoika is matching my son's communication level.

I tend to use long sentences and big words. I love language (one of the reasons why I'm a writer) and I love to play with words. I tend to speak in complete sentences even to my young children. I do participate in "baby talk" with infants, but that's as far as it goes. I don't favor "baby talk" with toddlers.

I've realized that my son's speech delay means that he needs me to forget my "adult" language and look specifically for ways to match his skills. Instead of saying, "Oh, look at that soccer ball rolling down the field," I need to say "I see a ball."

I need to match him in what he says and in what he wants to talk about. I've learned enough signs to have simple conversations with him and when I do that, it seems to reach him better. He understands more complicated language but he doesn't respond as well to it.

I've now started commenting on things around us in one or two words or signs. Instead of giving him a complicated set of instructions, I give him one or two words so he can respond to me more easily.

The other day, he had a runny nose. Instead of launching into a long, detailed command to get a tissue I simply said, "Bathroom, tissue," and then I acted out blowing my nose. He scampered off and returned shortly with a tissue and blew his nose for me to watch. In that exchange, we were matched.

It's important for me to remember that there's a reason he has a speech delay and that I need to rethink my communication interactions with him as opposed to how I communicated with my other kids.

A recommended exercise from this book is to imitate your child for five minutes. This will help you learn what words/signs he can and does use.

Another suggestion is to be a "living dictionary" and teach the word of what my son is doing so he begins to learn new words. When he does an action, such as kicking the ball, I'll say, "Kick ball." He already knows "ball" and now he knows "kick." I watched him to see what he was already doing and then assigned a word to that action rather than trying to teach him a word first and then the action.

Matching him means to observe what he is already doing and then use words or signs that mean something to him in a way that he can understand them.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Play To Talk

My son has been in speech therapy for the last few months. Meeting with his therapist once a week is good, but what he does daily at home will have a much greater impact on his speech. For this reason, I have been reading books to help me help him move toward more verbalization (maybe I should say more recognizable words because he's very verbal, we just don't understand the words yet).

I've discovered an amazing book, Play to Talk, by James MacDonald and Pam Stoika. I urge anyone whose child is struggling with speech to read this book. It's excellent.

In an effort to better understand the concepts in this book myself, I'm going to be sharing them with you. As they say, the teacher learns far more than the student, so if I can explain these concepts in a coherent and cohesive way perhaps they will better cement in my mind and I will be a more beneficial teacher for my son and anyone who reads my posts will, hopefully, learn a few things as well. Of course, my posts will never substitute for reading this book.

One of the first pieces of advice is to teach your child to take turns. Conversations are about taking turns. Kids who do not have a speech and/or language delay learn this concept almost invisibly. It's amazing to me how much I took for granted with my other children. I never stopped to think about how things worked with developing speech, they just spoke. With my son, I am now discovering all of the steps necessary to begin speaking that my other kids just naturally and seamlessly took without my notice.

Some of the suggestions for taking turns:

Wait for the child to respond to what you've said or done
Don't dominate the exchange
Be patient
Give the child a clue that you expect him to respond

As a parent of a child who was expected to be delayed, I'm very anxious for him to speak (I really want to know what's going on in that little mind of his) and I need to remind myself to be patient. Sometimes, taking turns can be a long, drawn out process, but it teaches the child that conversations are about turns and give-and-take.

A technique I've used to help teach my son about taking turn is playing with a ball with him. Rolling, tossing, or throwing a ball back and forth has helped him learn how to take turns. I've also done this with a toy car, bus, or other toy. I've also taken turns with him in building with blocks. I try to look for opportunities to take turns with him, even doing it with sharing an ice cream.

I let him know that it's his turn by saying it, showing him the sign, or simply looking at him and waiting. He responds well to taking turns and he's even translated that to taking turns with toys with other kids--not every time, but most of the time he takes turns.

He also takes turns when he "talks" to me. He'll say something, usually garbled words, and then he waits for me to respond. I think this is a valuable strategy.

I'll continue to share what I'm learning in this book.