All parents dream of the day their child starts speaking. But as other babies the same age cross this milestone, some children are a little delayed, or aren’t talking on the same level.Today Kidz Venture sat down with Kelly a speech and language therapist who works at The Children’s Medical Centre who may have the answers you may be searching for.
The first speech sounds that children typically produce are vowels, and babies will play with a variety of speech sounds and non-speech sounds (growls, clicks, lipsmacking).
Q1. Kelly, where are you originally from and what bought you to Dubai?
I grew up in Manitoba, Canada on a small farm one hour from the capital city of Winnipeg. My husband had an opportunity to work for Emirates Airline, so we decided to move to Dubai in February 2012.
Q2. When did your passion for education/speech therapy begin?
My passion for education and for working with children was instilled at an early age by my parents. My father was a physical education teacher and my mother ran a home based daycare when I was growing up, so working with children runs in the family!
I first learned about speech therapy when some of my cousins required treatment during childhood, but really learned more about the profession as a young adult through a volunteer experience in a school during my early university days. I knew that I wanted to help others, and I liked the fact that you have the potential to help a wide range of people in this profession, so that’s why I decided to focus my studies this area.
Q3. When should a child start making sounds and speaking?
A child should be able to make sounds such as gurgling and cooing (and of course, crying) right from birth. The first speech sounds that children typically produce are vowels, and babies will play with a variety of speech sounds and non-speech sounds (growls, clicks, lipsmacking). First words usually occur between 9 months to 12 months of age, and are typically preceded by gestures such as pushing things away to reject them and social routines such as waving goodbye.
Q4. What role does hearing play in the role of speech?
Hearing has a huge impact on the role of speech and language development. Its impact on a child’s future is so significant that in many countries newborn hearing screenings are standard practice to detect any potential problems. If a child is not getting input through his auditory system, then this impacts the way that his brain processes the world around him and can impair social interactions skills, language development, and speech sound production.
Q5. Should parents monitor the amount of time children spend on iPads and electronics? Do they help or hinder their child’s speech?
In this day and age, parents often have a limited window of time to interact with their children. They need to remember that babies and toddlers only learn to communicate by interacting with people, not by watching a DVD or playing a game on the iPad. The primary goal with young children is to nurture interest in and interaction with those around them. Oral language grows out of this interest to do things like drawing the attention of others (i.e., saying “puppy!” when he sees a dog) , expressing wants and needs, (i.e., saying “bottle” to ask for a drink or “pee pee” for a nappy change) and influencing the behavior of others (i.e., saying “stop!” or “no!”). More face to face play time with your child and less screen time will help develop your child’s social emotional skills as well as lay the foundation for future interactions with others. Playing games with your child that involve people rather than screens also helps to develop gross motor skills which are the key foundation for future fine motor skills such as writing.
Q6. Why do children develop speech problems?
There can be a variety of factors that can influence a child’s ability to speak clearly. Hearing loss (either temporary or permanent), poor muscle tone or control, damage to the speech and language areas of the brain, difficulty with the coordination of movements for speech, physical differences in the structures of the face associated with disorders such as cleft palate or down syndrome, poor tactile sensory or spatial awareness of the lips and tongue (i.e. poor awareness of where your lips and tongue are in space), and poor ability to self-monitor can all impact a child’s speech sound development.
Q7. What is your advice to parents to address their child’s challenges in speech?
Be a good speech model. Provide feedback to your child in a positive way rather than a corrective way. For example, if you child says, “Mommy, look at the twuck”, you can respond by saying “Ah, yes it’s a big yellow trrrrrruck” and provide a model of how the word should sound, rather than saying, “It’s trrrrruck , not twuck, say trrrrruck.” If you are concerned about your child’s speech and it does not seem to be improving on its own, you can consult with a speech language therapist about your concerns. Several national associations such as the national Canadian association Speech Language and Audiology Canada (www.sac-oac.ca) or the American Association of Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists (www.asha.org) also have information sheets and general guidelines for parents about speech, language, and social skills that you can refer to.
Q8. What is your top advice to mums as a fun way to connect with your children?
Be prepared to get down on the floor and get dirty! Being on the same level as your child, face to face, provides the input your child needs to help engage them and teach them new things. Follow your child’s lead by playing with the toys or things they are interested in; imitate their actions with toys and then show them a new way to play. Add language and talk about what you are doing as you do it. Be expressive and above all enjoy yourself!
At Kidz Venture, we’re always on the lookout for signs to assist children with their development. If you’re worried about your child’s speech, pronunciation, or word use, please feel free to ask for our assistance.
Kidz Venture xo
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