Although sometimes taken for granted, our ability to communicate is truly a gift. Communication is far more than expressing our basic needs. Communication is how we learn about one another and experience life together. Communication breaks down the barrier of isolation and allows us to live in community by sharing our thoughts, desires and knowledge with one another. One of the many roles of a Speech-Language Pathologist is developing and rehabilitating language skills.
The development of language skills requires a team effort and the child’s parents play an extremely important role. Parents can help facilitate language skills by engaging with their child in play routines. Play is far more than just having fun; play is considered “the work of childhood.” Playing alongside your child and verbally broadcasting the events helps build vocabulary, models correct use of sentence structure and develops social and turn-taking skills. Play also encourages a child’s imagination and develops fine motor skills. While there are multitudes of iPad apps available, there is not an app that replaces the value of play.
When playing with your child, allow the child to take the lead. When the child says a simple phrase, expand the utterance as a model. For example, if the child begins bouncing a ball and says, “ball,” expand the utterance (“bounce red ball”) to increase sentence length and variety. Placing desired items in difficult-to-open containers or out of reach provides the child an opportunity to communicate, as he or she must ask for the desired object rather than just taking it. When helping your child develop language skills, it is important to remember that the process does not happen overnight. Children require repetition and appropriate models to successfully achieve age-appropriate language skills.
Excessive screen time hinders a child’s ability to learn language. By limiting screen time, the child is provided an opportunity to learn from the world around him or her and improve language skills by interacting with others. Recent research has recommended limiting a child’s screen time to less than two hours a day. Also, a child should receive 9-11 hours of sleep each night and engage in at least one hour of physical activity to promote appropriate cognitive development.
Even when a child presents with severely delayed expressive and receptive language skills, communication is still possible. SLPs utilize alternative methods of communication known as Augmentative Alternative Communication. AAC is supplemental communication assistance and is accomplished through use of technology (i.e. computers and tablets) or picture communication. When an individual learns to use an AAC device, some fear that the device will force a reliance on the computer or pictures rather than help the child speak verbally. Research shows that AAC does not diminish the individual’s ability to verbally express oneself, rather, it supports and assists in the development and growth of verbal output. When seeking professionals to implement AAC, there is no need to drive hours for an evaluation, as we provide this specialized care right here in Lima.
While most recognize that SLPs address articulation and language delays, we actually wear a variety of hats and work with individuals of all ages. SLPs help with safely swallowing to decrease the risk of food and liquid from entering the airway. We assist in cognitive rehabilitation of short- and long-term memory deficits, problem solving, organization, attention and auditory processing. In collaboration with an ear nose and throat physician, SLPs address vocal hoarseness and tension, improve vocal volume and overall vocal health.
At Lima Memorial our goal is to serve you by enhancing your overall quality of life. For more information on how we can help, please call the Speech Therapy Department at 419-226-5070.
Stacey Verhoff, M.S CCC-SLP, Lima Memorial Speech Therapy