How do you know what to do with a speech error?
In a previous article we discussed the difference between speech and language and how to spot potential difficulties with each. It can be hard to know what do when your child makes a speech error, do you ignore it so as not to draw attention to it? Or do you correct them? These are questions that parents often ask. Here we will talk about how you can provide some feedback on your child’s speech while continuing to give them the confidence to say what they want to say.
5 ideas on how to give feedback to your child for a speech error
- React to what your child says, not how they say it! In the end, it is the message that your child is attempting to pass that is most important. Most of the time, they will be unaware that they have made an error and it can get frustrating if they are being corrected while they are trying to tell you something. Offering feedback just a few times a day, rather than every time your child communicates with you will ensure that they remain confident communicators.
- Model back the correct way of saying a word. For example, if your child says, ‘I love tarrots!’, repeat back to them ‘ yes, you love carrots’. This keeps the conversation going, acknowledges what they have said and offers invaluable listening practice for them.
- Sometimes children can say the sounds they need for a word but when they put it together it will get mixed up. Tapping and clapping it out slowly can be lots of fun and really help with the clarity. For example, ‘pisghetti’. You can split this up in to three parts /spa/ /get/ /i/. Sometimes we can create images for this too for example the word ‘needle’ If a child needs some help with this you can point to your knee and some dill! Creating images will help them to say the word in the future and can be lots of fun! If you are a fan of catch phrase then you will enjoy this strategy!
- When we learn, feedback is so very important. Without it we won’t know what we are doing that is not quite right and without constructive feedback it can be very hard to change our ways. This is the same for children when they make a speech error. So, finding ways to talk to your child about their speech in child friendly terms will give them the tools they need to start improving. This may be as simple as pointing out what you can see. For example, if your child says ‘s’ with their tongue outside their mouth, you can offer feedback by saying ‘I saw your tongue escape’, can you try that again with your tongue inside? Looking in a mirror together whilst doing this can be a great way to offer visual feedback too. Depending on what sound your child is working on, this feedback will change. If your child is seeing a Speech and Language Therapist, then talk about their speech sounds in the same way. For example, as /t/ is produced at the front of the mouth and /k/ is produced at the back, many Speech and Language therapists refer to the /t/ as the front sound and the /k/ as the back sound. If your child struggles to say /k/ but says /t/ instead, feedback might sound like this ‘Oh I heard your front sound, can you try again using your back sound? Depending on what stage your child is at in the learning process, they may need more practice listening to you produce both these sounds and telling you what they heard. It is important to make this a game as it may be something that your child will find very hard to start with. Take turns, make errors yourself and ask your child to listen and let you know when they hear a mistake. For a child friendly, fun way to offer feedback, look at The Monkey Tongue picture, available in the Speech email course.
- One thing that both parents and professionals find hard is knowing what to do when they just don’t understand. Try not to pretend that you have understood. It is likely that children will know you haven’t. Instead ask more questions, get them to show you if they can and obtain more information. This normally helps to fill in any gaps and puts you both on the same page.
Remember than conversations are about messages and exchanging information. Encourage this as much as possible in the presence of speech errors whilst offering subtle and fun ways for your child to learn!
Written by Carolyn Fox, Children’s Speech and Language Therapist
Squabbling siblings – we’ve all been there
Brothers and sisters – can be best friends and worst enemies, all within the space of 5 minutes. Throw a communication difficulty into the mix, and things can become more challenging and you have squabbling siblings. Your child might not have the language to clearly explain what they want, or what has gone wrong when they have a disagreement. Alternatively, the social skills of turn taking, sharing, negotiating and pretend play might be skills your child is still learning. Although these tips have been written with children with speech, language and communication difficulties in mind, you will see many of them draw on the parenting skills all Mums and Dads use!
Squabbling siblings mediation – Some basic principles
- Agree your family rules, at a time when everyone is calm and listening. For younger children, use the most simple language you can with pictures to explain them (See picture above) . Role playing together the behaviours you like to see, and praising this, will also help your child understand what’s expected.
- For slightly older children, have clear rules about the kinds of problems they need to include an adult in (if someone is hurt, in danger, or the problem keeps happening), but also encourage them to try to sort out some of the simpler problems independently, or with you ‘refereeing’.
- Teach and encourage turn taking and sharing in activities when you’re able to stay and join in with the game. Simple games such as Pop up Pirate are great for practising taking turns with an adult present, who can then gradually slip away when the children have got the hang of taking turns.
- Work towards a joint reward. For example, children could win a marble to put in the jar every time they share a toy, or do a job around the house as soon as they’re asked, with a full jar of marbles leading to a family day out. This can be a way of bringing competitive siblings together.
Squabbling siblings mediation – In the heat of the moment
- If you have to intervene, listen to both/all children equally when they are telling you what happened. Give time for your child with a communication difficulty to explain what it is they want, or what has happened, so they don’t always get shouted over. Drawing what they say has happened, or allowing them to draw this (with simple stick men as above) may help them explain and understand.
- Modelling and role play – you acting like the child – may diffuse the situation, is good for showing how silly some squabbles are
- Some children won’t be able to explain what has happened straight away. You might instead try distraction – with fun, silliness, a movement break (think bouncing on the trampoline for one and a race around the garden for the other) – might be needed until everyone has calmed down a bit
- News reporter – a way of diffusing the tension, and explaining to your children what has happened. “Michael just stuck his tongue out at Selina, and that made her feel sad. It looks like Michael stuck his tongue out because Selina snatched the pen off him.” Hold your fake reporters microphone, and put on a silly voice!
Squabbling siblings mediation – Advance planning
Give your children something fun to do during known ‘melt down’ times, such as when you’re making dinner.
- Treasure hunt – hide an item for each of your children to find
- You want them to practise doing as many bounces of a ball/goes round with a hula hoop, they can count for each other, then come and tell you how they’ve done.
Joint challenges are another way of helping your children learn to play together. With some of these activities, try to supervise to start off with, then gradually play a less active part:
- Can they make up a silly song with some musical instruments?
- Can they make up a play with a small selection of toys, then perform it to you later?
- Can they make a tower of bricks or Lego taller than a certain piece of furniture?
- Two against one (or adults against children) – get your children to work together and ‘gang up’ on you! It could be a pillow fight, a relay race around the garden… Let them win in the end, but put up a good fight so they feel a sense of joint achievement.
It’s not always going to be ‘happy families’, but siblings actually teach each other important social communication skills, and can end up being a friend and ally in the end!
Written by Alys Mathers, Speech and Language Therapist
How can rhyme and song help?
We know how much young children enjoy rhyme and song (especially silly ones), and it’s a lovely way to bond and share time with your baby or child. But did you know you are also helping your child learn social skills, language, and even giving them the foundations of reading skills?
When you sing or do a fun action rhyme together, you and your child are both focusing on the same activity. This is great for developing joint attention skills (link to baby and young child theory of mind blog post). As this gorgeous video shows, even young babies enjoy sharing a song with you (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=iNT9T-csr0A). Use pauses like this mum does to see whether your baby or child will ask you to start again, or they may even start singing themselves! Many rhymes and songs also help develop turn taking skills, by giving toddlers or children a chance to join in with a repeated phrase or an action. Pause before you say the repeated phrase/action to prompt your child to join in (e.g. ‘we can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we’ll have to go…’ ‘through it!’).
Rhyme and song – vary the speed, volume or pitch
Other ways to keep your baby’s interest are to vary your speed, volume or pitch. Try:
- slowing down or speeding up part of the song (e.g. you can ‘row your boat’ quickly or slowly)
- making your voice louder or quieter than normal (e.g. by starting really quietly with ‘dingle dangle scarecrow’, then getting louder when the scarecrow jumps up!)
- singing higher or lower than normal (e.g. when the grand old duke of york’s men march up, you can sing in a high voice, and when they march down, you can sing with a low voice)
- using funny voices – older children also love singing songs ‘like a tiny mouse/a hippopotamus/Donald Duck might’!
Rhyme and song – using actions
Using actions alongside spoken words helps children to learn new words, another great bonus of action songs and rhymes. Here are some of our favourites:
- This is the way we brush our hair/read a book/drink our milk (to the tune of ‘here we go round the mulberry bush, miming the action you are singing about)
- Heads shoulders knees and toes
- Dingle dangle scarecrow (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXbFK5ITBFs)
- I’m a little teapot
If your baby is too young to do the actions themselves, you can help them by doing the actions for them, such as in ‘Ride a cock-horse to Banbury cross’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckrqGJMriZQ). If you don’t know the actions to your child’s favourite rhyme or song, you could look on YouTube to see if someone else has made some up, or make your own up!
To learn new words, children need to hear them a number of times in different situations. Singing the same songs and rhymes regularly is a fun way for your child to hear the same words again and again. Once your child is familiar with the rhyme or song, you could try missing out a word at the end of each line, and see whether your child can remember the word, e.g. ‘Humpty Dumpty sat on the …, Humpty Dumpty had a great …’
Rhyming helps children learn about the sound structure of words. To know that ‘wall’ and ‘fall’ rhyme, a child has to break up the word into parts and know that they both end with ‘all’. Breaking up words into sounds and noticing when words have similar sounds (or sequences of sounds) in them is a crucial skill in reading and spelling (Goswami, 1986, 1988). Bryant, MacLean and Crossland (1990) found that children who were better rhymes at age 4 1/2 were better readers and spellers at age 6 1/2. For more information about the benefits of rhyme on reading, look at http://www.bookstart.org.uk/professionals/about-bookstart-and-the-packs/research/reviews-and-resources/the-benefit-of-rhymes
I hope this has encouraged you to share songs and rhymes with your child. Many libraries and children’s centres have rhyme or singing sessions for young children you can join, and http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/songs has more songs and rhymes if you’re looking to add to your repertoire. Remember, whatever your singing voice, your child will love to share songs and rhymes with you!
For superb songs and rockin’ rhymes:
- Add actions
- Repeat the same rhymes and songs to help your child get to know them and join in
- Vary your pitch, volume and speed to keep the song interesting
- Pause to see if your child can join in with repetitive actions, phrases, or fill in a gap
Written by Alys Mathers, Speech and Language Therapist
Question time with your children – developing language through questions
Children ask a lot of questions! Anyone with a toddler will have experienced the endless why questions and we know that keeping the dialogue going at these moments forms the platform for developing language.
Asking questions is one thing but what about answering them?
It is without a doubt easier to ask questions than answer them, for children and for adults! There are however great advantages to looking at what questions children can answer and using daily activities and experiences to nurture their abilities in thinking about the world.
Some Speech and Language therapists use The Blank Language Scheme to help support verbal reasoning skills. The levels of understanding questions provided by the scheme give an insight in to what level of questioning your child can process and answer and enriches the learning opportunities in activities like reading and talking about pictures.
What is the Blank Language Learning Model?
The Blank Language Learning Model by Blank, Rose and Berlin (1978) breaks down the development of abstract language and reasoning in to four steps.
Level 1 – Language used related to what the child can see and focuses on the concrete.
Level 2 – Language used still focuses on what is in front of the child but will ask the child to think about specific qualities of an object or person and describe it.
Level 3 – The language uses does not relate directly to what the child can see. At this level, the child is required to use their knowledge of the world to answer questions.
Level 4 – At this level the child is required to reason a problem solve.
The model is based on developmental norms in a child learning English. By the time a child is 5 years old, they would be expected to have skills at all the above levels.
Using the Blank Model to support my child’s language development.
The great thing about this model is that you don’t need extra materials or much planning. Simply being aware of the stages of the acquisition of understanding questions will help you to engage your child at the right level and support them to move on to the next. Below are some examples of questions you may ask your child in relation to a book or something you are both looking at or an activity you are doing together.
Level 1 – Think of this stage as the ‘Naming’ stage, a kind of ‘say what you see’ stage. Here you may ask your child to name an object e.g. ‘what is that?’ whilst sharing a book or an experience. You can also play matching games, where they must find another picture that is the same or something in the room that is the same.
Level 2 – So here the child still relies on what they can see but they must describe it more and pull on their ability to focus more on the object. For example, you may point to a few objects at bath time and ask, ‘what one do we wash our hair with?’ Or play games where they are asked to find two things that go together from an array of objects e.g. ‘pen and paper’. Other fun games may involve taking lots of pictures or objects that have different functions and putting them in to categories e.g. things we eat, things we wear, things we clean with. At this stage children will also be able to answer ‘who? What?, and where?, questions. So, after you have read a story together, going back over it and asking more specific questions will consolidate their skills at this level.
Level 3 – As a child will now be able to use their knowledge of the world to discuss events, you can ask them to retell stories or reorder them. Ask them how they made the painting that they brought home from school, focusing on the steps. Talk to your child about people’s feelings in real and pretend situations, share thoughts about what might happen next in a story.
Level 4 – The last level draws on your child’s ability to find solutions to problems and answer all the ‘Why?” questions that they have spent months asking you! For example, if you are cooking together, you can ask ‘why will the chocolate melt?’ (because we will heat it). Have fun together solving problems e.g. ‘what will we do if we run out of flour?’ or ‘what can we make with these ingredients?’
So, many of these questions are ones that we probably already ask our children. However, the model provides some background on the order in which you can expect your child to have success at answering them. So, if they are unsuccessful at one level, go back and try the level before. Once they have developed skills there, you can help them move forward!
Written by Carolyn Fox, Children’s Speech and Language Therapist
The summer holidays, bank holidays, and some (hopefully) sunnier weather are great excuses to take your Speech and Language therapy practice out and about. The park is a great place to start!
There’s a lot of great opportunities to practice communication skills, and no, it’s not just your child perfecting the phrase ‘I want an ice-cream!’
Working on Speech at the Park – 4 activities
- If your child is practicing a certain sound, take your pictures with you. Set challenges, such as ‘say a word for every bar of the monkey bars, then try to swing across’. Engage the competitive instincts of your child and maybe join in!
- Stepping stones. You could use hoops, a set of steps in the park, or even the paving slabs on a quiet path as your stepping stones. Take turns to say one of the child’s practice words – if you say a word clearly or with the target sound, you can jump onto the next stepping stone. Your child decides whether you said the word clearly/with the target sound, and you decide for your child! Have some sort of celebration or reward planned for the end of the stepping stones.
- Word catch. Every time you catch the ball, you have to say one of the target words. Change the word every few turns. If you say the wrong word, or drop the ball, you’re out!
- Play syllable I-spy. For children practising syllable clapping, or using this strategy to help make their speech clearer, you can play a different version of the classic game, but spying things with one, two or three syllables in their name. To make it easier, you can give the first sound as another clue once your child has made a few guesses
- One syllable – bench, tree, bird, swings, ball
- Two syllables – ice-cream, pushchair, pigeon
- Three syllables – butterfly, roundabout
Understanding of language – 3 ideas for the park
- Scavenger hunt! Tell your child 3 or 4 items to find (and possibly bring back to you). This could be sights around the park, e.g. a statue, a green bench, or natural items e.g. a long stick, a small green leaf, a daisy. This works on your child’s memory for spoken language, and if you add in adjectives such as long or small, you are also helping them understand basic concepts.
- Listen and do – ‘run to the statue, then hop to the green bench’, ‘walk to the slide, then jump to the swings’- your child is practising following instructions with 4 key words and burning off some energy! See the language e-mail course if you need a refresher on key words.
- Under or over? In or on? Challenge your child to find as many things they can go ‘under’ as possible, thinking creatively… they can go under the climbing frame, but can they also go under the slide, the picnic blanket, and is there a bridge they can go under too? Walk around together, saying ‘let’s go under it’ as you go under. Think of the rhyme ‘we’re going on a bear hunt’ and chant in the same way – you could read this story together before you go to the park. Once you’ve found everything you can go under, you can try finding things you can go over, on or in!
Use of spoken language – 4 things to do
- Drama kings and queens. Act out a story together, take photos, then tell the story to someone else when you get home. You could act out a favourite story, or make up your own. You could give your child a starter scenario to get the creative juices going – how about pretending they’ve landed on an alien planet, or just discovered some buried treasure…
- Take a toy. Explain to a younger child that this is the toy’s first time to the park, so they’ll need to describe the park to their toy, and maybe even explain what to do on the equipment. Include some pretend play of the toy joining in on the equipment or finding delicious things to eat, and you’re also working on play skills
- Give your child a turn to set you a ‘listen and do’ challenge (see above). The challenge for them is to explain clearly what they want you to do, using a range of different action words – and then correctly remember what they asked you to do!
- Cloud spotting. Lie back on a picnic blanket and practice describing what you can see in the clouds. Instead of just pointing out the dragon you can see, show your child the ferocious dragon with a pointy tail. If your child can see a banana, can they describe the banana as long, curvy, or spotty?
Written by Alys Mathers, Speech and Language Therapist
When I speak to parents these days, they often mention their child has a dummy like it is a guilty secret… Dummies can be useful in helping children comfort themselves, settle off to sleep, and can also give parents a little piece and quiet – what’s wrong with that? In fact, dummies can help some babies (particularly those that are premature or who have difficulties feeding) develop good sucking patterns.
However, the research is clear that dummies can affect communication skills, as well as increasing the risk of ear infections and dental problems. Children start to babble and experiment with sounds around 6 months, an important stage in speech development. Children who are using a dummy are less likely to do this – as this ‘child’ (actually Kathy Burke) says, “it’s like having a big carrot in your mouth, you can’t talk properly!” This is a great video – do watch it! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3k_gbicdYLg).
Our advice is to try to #dumpthedummy around your child’s first birthday. But how?
- The dummy fairy/elf comes to visit little children’s houses when they don’t need a dummy anymore, and ‘magics’ away their dummy in the night. The dummy fairy/elf often leaves behind a small toy, or at least a sense of wonder – a bit of glitter and gold paper stars maybe? Your child can leave their dummy for him/her somewhere special – at the bottom of a tree in the garden, on a windowsill where they might sneak in, maybe next to the fireplace (think Santa).
- Dummy baby. One friend’s little girl Lara loves her dolls, and understood that dummies were best for babies. She left her dummy by her bed one night, and in the morning she had a new baby doll – ‘dummy baby!’ Dummy baby had only come because Lara understood she was now a big girl, and that dummies were for babies like her new doll. Her new doll also acted as a comforter when she was seeking reassurance and would normally ask for her dummy – she gave dummy baby a big hug instead!
- Books are available (‘The Last Noo-Noo’ by Jill Murphy, ‘Florrie the Dummy Fairy’ by Anthony Crosbie, ‘Ben Gives Up His Dummy’ by Jenny Album) to help you explain to your child why they no longer need a dummy, and to help them accept leaving the dummy behind
- If going ‘cold turkey’ is too tricky, phase out the dummy until it’s only used at bed time. You could do this by using a sticker chart or other small rewards (such as marbles in a jar), at first taking away your child’s dummy when they are enjoying another activity (such as playing with toy cars) then rewarding them for having fun without their dummy.
- A ‘magic box’ for the dummy helped one little boy keep his dummy just for bed time. He was amazed how when he put his dummy in the box in the morning, it would disappear when he wasn’t looking, but then it would come back again at night when he was ready for bed.
Iris Speaks would love to hear your #dumpthedummy stories – share them on our Facebook page and on twitter at @iris_speaks.
Written by Alys Mathers, Speech and Language Therapist at irisspeaks.com – digitizing the delivery of speech and language therapy so you can access on your sofa.