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Vocabulary Skills: Just how important is Expressive Language to school success?

Vocabulary Skills: Just how important is Expressive Language to school success?

vocabulary, language, expressive language

One of the most powerful predictors of a child’s ability to learn to read and succeed in school is vocabulary size or how many words a child is using at kindergarten entry (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1997; Duncan, Yeung, Brooks-Gunn & Smith, 1998; Snow, Burns & Griffin, 1998). Vocabulary strongly relates to reading comprehension, intelligence, and general ability.

​Do I need to worry if my friend’s children of the same age are using many words but my child has a lot less words?

From the earliest stages of language learning, children vary widely in their vocabulary size and rate of development (Fenson, Dale, Reznick, Bates, Thal & Pethick, 1994). Children vary widely in the rate at which they acquire words— some acquire new words slowly and speed up, other children start with a period of rapid word growth and continue at a steady pace.

​If children however continue to show delays in vocabulary skills than same age peers, it is important to talk to a doctor or obtain a screen from a child speech pathologist.

vocabulary, language, expressive language

​What are Vocabulary Skills? Is Vocabulary How Many Words a Child Knows or is Saying?

​Vocabulary can refer to both! Vocabulary includes both how many words a student understands when they hear or read the word (receptive vocabulary) as well as those they can produce in conversation or written work (expressive or productive vocabulary).

​Remember sometimes children can read many words but do not know the meaning of these words. The ability to say a word when reading is called word recognition vocabulary which is different to expressive language skills.

​Children with Language Difficulties often have Reduced Vocabularies – know and say as many words as seen in typical development.

​Typically developing children are generally able to work out the meanings of many words from context and everyday interactions. However, it is important to note that children with language impairments may not learn words as efficiently. Children with language difficulties may require more frequent and repeated exposure to truly learn a word. In addition, children with language impairments are less likely to learn words incidentally through book reading. These children may need the reader to highlight unknown words and explicitly explaining the meaning of many words.

The more words you know, the more you can read

​The more you read, the more words you will learn

For children starting school with a limited vocabulary, “more” reading does not necessary result in “more” vocabulary if the early vocabulary foundations are weak (Stanovich, 1986). Explicit teaching of new words if often required.

What Would a Problem with Expressive Vocabulary Look like in Children?

A child with vocabulary difficulties may show some or all of the following:

Expressive language difficulties:

  • hesitant language e.g. um, ah
  • non-specific words instead of using actual names or words e.g. ‘thing’, ‘this’
  • use of simpler words and a reduced range of words

Comprehension difficulties:

  • incorrect responses during class discussions
  • incorrect responses to comprehension questions about a written text

Reading difficulties, such as:

  • not remembering words read previously
  • difficulty choosing words in context
  • ​difficulty decoding words/ sounding out words
  • Vocabulary and emerging reading skills
vocabulary, language, expressive language

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Rowe et al (2012). The pace of vocabulary growth helps predict later vocabulary skill. Child Dev. 2012 Mar; 83(2): 508–525.

Non-Verbal Communication Development in Children: The power of the point

Non-Verbal Communication Development in Children: The power of the point

non-verbal, babies, communication, non-verbal communication

Who has been bossed around by the power of the point! Did you know that if children do not point from an early age, it can be a red flag for later social and/or developmental delays? A point to indicate something or someone specifically is a key non-verbal communication gesture that parents are recommended to look out for. This simple gesture is a foundation expressive language skill for babies and toddlers.

Children are typically pointing from 12 months of age.

non-verbal, babies, communication, non-verbal communication

The point has power!

A point can mean:
  • Look!
  • I want that!
  • Not that one, that one
  • I want you/ I need you
  • That is the same as we saw before
  • Oh, you want me to show you I understood you (Where is the dog?)
  • And SO much more
If by 12 months children are not using the point gesture for all of these social interactional communication intents, then it is important to see if you can boost or encourage this non-verbal communication skill.

Children’s hearing & vision should always be checked to see if there are any reasons for concern!

If children are crying or whinging for something, then manipulate their finger so they are pointing at the thing you have guessed they want.

At the same time as you take their hand to format this important non-verbal gesture, help them point while saying “you want that ____, show me___”.

Play a game saying – “look” and exaggerate your pointing each time you show them something e.g. the light, the flower, the puppy

If they vaguely reach out or half-heartedly point – reward them for “pointing” by getting excited that they “told you something” – “OH you want the cup!!” Good showing me “and move their hand again into a point to reinforce that is was the non-verbal gesture that was good!

For further ideas on how to boost early verbal and non-verbal communication development in children take a look at our “FOCUS on TODDLER TALK” – it has heaps of video of Dr Sandra McMahon, Speech Pathologist, PhD explaining & demonstrating in easy to understand terms early foundation skills for talking and learning.

non-verbal, babies, communication, non-verbal communication

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Take a look at our amazing new eProgram!

A Speech and Language Developmental Program that helps get your 

 Toddler Talking & Learning 

From First Words To Long Sentences

Toddler Talk has over 70 VIDEOS - Videos include: Video tutorials with personal voice over, video examples & explanations from Dr Sandra McMahon PhD, Video demonstrations of games and activities taken from actual speech therapy sessions. Video explanations of goals of each activity and explanations at three different ability levels.

With Toddler Talk Receive Resources.... Worksheets, printables, information printouts, scripts, resources.........

Toddler Talk is Available for you to start right NOW!: Delivered to you through the SpeechNet Portal. This educational Online eProgram is available to you right NOW 24/7!

Work through the program when it suits you no appointments needed. You will have full 24/7 access to the eProgram for 12 months from the date of purchase. Let's get started TODAY!

Why is my 2 year old not talking yet in sentences?

Why is my 2 year old not talking yet in sentences?

2 year old not talking yet, 2 year old, sentences

2 year old not talking yet in sentences even though saying lots of single words?  A large expressive vocabulary burst is typically seen when a child is between 18 months and when they become a two year old. Once approximately 50 spontaneously spoken words are reached, toddlers tend to begin talking in 2 and 3 words sentences. The 50 words however have to come from a range of word categories from things (mum’s bag), actions (mum eat), describing words (yukky) to social modifiers (Ta, here, me, Hello) for sentences to emerge.

Expressive language in the baby period  is known for the start of the first set of clear words that can be functionally used by the baby to Express themselves. Expressive language in the toddler period is then about expanding this spoken vocabulary and it is the beginning of children joining words together to portray more meanings than single words on their own can do. If a two year old is not saying 2 words in a sentence or phrase they may be at risk of being a late talker.

2 year old not talking yet, 2 year old, sentences

Some two year old children can have 50 or even 500 words but are still not using 2-words or 3 words in sentences. When this happens, it is important to consider:

Speech Intelligibility

Expressive language in the toddler period can be closely linked to early speech development. Some children find it difficult to build their sentences when people are not even understanding their single word attempts. Speech delays can impact on grammatical development which is an important aspect of expressive language development. For example, the /s/ sound is important for sentence development. The /s/ sound indicates how many (cat vs cats), ownership (Dad’s keys, tells us an action is happening “The boy’s running”). While two year old children might not be able to say the /s/ sound 100% correctly, they will often have an approximation of the sound to mark grammatical words.

Communicative Intent

One question to ask is whether the two year old or older child is using their spoken words for a range of social needs (e.g., asking questions, telling you things, commenting, rejecting, requesting objects, requesting actions). As social language builds the children need to develop sentences to help express their new ideas. If a child’s social language is not developing (e.g., early signs of autism) to age expected levels, they may not have the drive to build sentence skills.

The Type or Range of Words Being Said May Be Too Narrow

If a 2 year old or older children only say “thing words” (i.e. names objects such as nose, eyes, ball, cup, table, car) it is hard for them to formulate early sentences. You can express a meaning of ownership with two thing words (e.g., car key) however without action words, describing words, pronouns it is hard for them to build their expressive language skills. Just saying “ball” can not express as much even 2-word sentences (kick ball, my ball, bounce ball, big ball, where ball).

How can I check if these skills are developing enough to support a Toddler’s Expressive Language Skills?

  • Speech Development - Check out our speech sounds checklists here
  • Communication Intent - This is covered in our Speech Therapy Based Online Program FOCUS ON TODDLER TALK! 
  • Number & Range of Spoken WordsThe spoken word counter has pictures and videos that you can show your toddler to see just how many words they have. This online checklist will add up the number of words across a range categories so you can see if your toddler is using a range of words they can use to combine into sentences.
  • If you are concerned about a child’s expressive language development it is important to talk to your doctor, paediatrician and/or a child speech pathologist.
2 year old not talking yet, 2 year old, sentences

Online Program

See how Focus on Toddler Talk can Start Boosting your child's Speech and Language today!

2 year old not talking yet, 2 year old, sentences

Contact Us 

Contact us and an experienced Speech Pathologist will answer. We are here to help!

2 year old not talking yet, 2 year old, sentences

Ideas for Home

Early Intervention Activities, Resources & Ideas for home. 

2 year old not talking yet, 2 year old, sentences

Checklists 

Developmental Milestones & Online Checklists 

2 year old not talking yet, 2 year old, sentences

Games & Toys 

Educational Games and Toys.  With Printables!

2 year old not talking yet, 2 year old, sentences

Books 

Educational Book resources with Printables 

You may also be interested in...

2 year old not talking yet, 2 year old, sentences

Take a look at our amazing new eProgram!

A Speech and Language Developmental Program that helps get your 

 Toddler Talking & Learning 

From First Words To Long Sentences

Toddler Talk has over 70 VIDEOS - Videos include: Video tutorials with personal voice over, video examples & explanations from Dr Sandra McMahon PhD, Video demonstrations of games and activities taken from actual speech therapy sessions. Video explanations of goals of each activity and explanations at three different ability levels.

With Toddler Talk Receive Resources.... Worksheets, printables, information printouts, scripts, resources.........

Toddler Talk is Available for you to start right NOW!: Delivered to you through the SpeechNet Portal. This educational Online eProgram is available to you right NOW 24/7!

Work through the program when it suits you no appointments needed. You will have full 24/7 access to the eProgram for 12 months from the date of purchase. Let's get started TODAY!

Barriers that some families dealing with disability face implementing AAC

Barriers to Success with any Augmentative or Alternative Communication System (AAC)

disability acc

Augmentative or Alternative Communication systems (AAC) are any means a child can use to communicate that is not using speech. Frequently families and communities of children with disability have to overcome barriers to the success of AAC. AAC do not have to exclude the use of speech but often act as stepping stones to functional speech.

​SpeechNet is committed to support your child to achieve the most functional communication system possible for you and your child.

Verbal attempts can always be coupled with AAC implementation. However, families, carers and educators need to be on the same page with the same HIGH level of commitment to achieve positive outcomes when AAC is implemented. Funding options such as NDIS funds can assist with the intensity needed to overcome barriers to success.

​Use of AAC needs to part of the child’s Every day and Every Communication for children with any form of disability or reason for significant speech difficulties!

​Communication opportunities that children without disability or speech disorder are exposed to is enormous and begins from birth. Language and verbal interactions occurs for many hours before they start to speak.

​Think about how many hours children have spent hearing and learning language even before they start to speak. They have heard and used the language even more before they enter school and have to use this language to learn. This is something for people supporting a child who needs an AAC system need to think very carefully about.

​If families or educators expect children to start using AAC systems soon after they are implemented, everyone will be disappointed.

Just like children need to be spoken to by an adult to learn how to speak, adults working with a child using an AAC system have to make it a part of their way of communication with the child.

Evidence indicates people who are largely non-verbal need to be presented a minimum of 200 opportunities a day to interact (Caulfield & Carillo, 2010)

disability acc
Funding support for AAC (NDIS plans)

​People who use or need AAC will need to have a plan which details their needs both for equipment and services

​The plan should encompass assessments needed relating to high and low tech, or aided and unaided systems, trials and training. Often people with AAC needs may need to try several different systems and types of equipment to get the best system for their specific needs.

​Families of children with disability need to determine the specific devices that can be funded by sources such as NDIS. The plan needs to include

  • assessment time (e.g. observation of child’s communication/use of devices in school, home, clinic)
  • the intervention time to set up systems and begin implementation
  • training of the person in the communication system and training and practice for them and the people in their lives in the communication system.
  • Purchase of devices within the NDIS approvals
SpeechNet staff are happy to discuss the expressive language development and needs of your child whether they will need an AAC system or speech development skills.
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Chewing & Eating Problems Middle School & High School

Chewing and Eating Problems in Middle and High School.

eating, high school, middle school

If a child has had a chewing and eating problem or won’t eat lunches in primary school, the issues may well continue on in the middle school or high school years.

​Sometimes the issues become more of a concern as children enter high school when large growth spurts are expected and peer reactions become more important to the child. If they are only eating soft foods or have sensory feeding issues it can be hard for them to socialise or fellow students may “tease” then how long it takes for them to eat anything. This is why many high school students with eating problems will see a speech pathologist that works with this age group. Older high school children with history of disability or diagnosis (e.g., Down’s syndrome or autism may in fact be in a readier state to benefit from oro-motor or eating therapy.

“Eating disorders” can be something different.

A Speech pathologist generally works with eating problems as opposed the more commonly known “eating disorders”. Eating disorders include anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. These are serious mental illnesses with onset commonly during the early high school years. They require specialized treatment and a Medical consult is strongly recommended if any such concerns arise.

Eating Problems in High School can be sensory.

Sensory issues can include strong reactions to tastes and smells that can reduce a person’s ability or willingness to eat foods. Even noisy or disruptive environments, such as eating malls and school yard areas in impact on some high school students making eating a problem for them. Moving from primary to high school environments may be stressful for some children. Some children that have been able to stabilise their sensory issues in the known primary environments may no longer be able to cope in the new high school environments. If there are other stresses (social and learning) their sensory issues may also heighten.

​Children on some medications (e.g., hyperactivity medications) can lose appetite and this coupled with slow or restricted sensory food choices may make it difficult for them to consume sufficient nutrition to maintain health and growth.

Eating Problems in High School can be related to Oro-motor or Chewing Concerns

High school students have reported that it can take them up to 1.5 to 2 hours to complete a meal. High school students frequently have large study and extra curriculum commitment. Meals that are taking extra-ordinary amounts of time to consume (to meet the growth spurts of an adolescent) can cause stress on the family and impact on achievements.

Persistent Immature Chew

If a child or high school student is taking a long time to eat they may not be chewing effectively. This results in what is called a delayed oral phase of the eating process. If an up-down movement of the jaw is still being used then it can be impossible or very difficult for a child to grid up food in order to eat it. In this vertical chewing pattern, the jaw moves up and down in a vertical motion. Since the tongue and jaw are connected, the tongue will follow suit, also moving up and down (“tongue pump”). They may not have established the more mature a rotary chew movement. This is where the chew moves slightly side to side as well as up and down to grind foods.

Reduced ability to form a food bolus

Another issue often seen in older high school students with feeding problems is restricted tongue movements. They may not be moving their tongues to side (later tongue movements) to gather food into a small ball (bolus) to get it ready for a swallow. The food remains scatter all over the tongue and mouth requiring several swallows to clear every mouthful. This can extend mealtimes to the point that it is not functional for the student or family. They may also just say the like a particular food. These foods may be the ones that are easy to eat.

SpeechNet Speech Pathology within the Brisbane Feeding Clinic is experienced in working with the older high school student with feeding problems. They can provide assessments to determine if there are any underlying sensory or oro-motor difficulties that can be addressed to assist with meal-time management.  Contact us today we're here to help!

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