Speech and Language

Last year some of Bernie’s staff members had the opportunity to attend some training related to speech development. Although we have handed this out before, we thought that it might be beneficial information to pass out again.

To give you a better understanding of speech and language development as a whole, it was broken down at the training into the categories of expressive language, receptive language, and articulation.

Expressive language deals with what a child is able to express, for example how they tell stories, how they talk to you, how complex their sentences are, how many grammatical errors they may have, vocabulary, etc. Two words to describe expressive language are syntax and semantics. Syntax is the study of the rules in a language as well as the patterns of formations of sentences and phrases from words, and semantics is the study of meaning of words, phrases, and grammar in a given language.

Receptive language is what the child is able to understand, for example following directives, knowing opposites, understands spatial relationships (under, next to, inside), basic concepts (empty, low, missing, different), can identify objects by their use, understands concept questions (what, who, where, when, how, why), etc. Another way to say receptive language is language comprehension.

Some things to look for:

Between the ages of 3-4
-begins using complex sentences
-uses mostly nouns, verbs, and personal pronouns
-asks how, when, and why questions
-labels most things in the environment
-understands most preschool stories
-can follow a two-step direction

Between the ages of 4-5
-speaks in complete sentences
-uses comparatives (taller, tallest)
-uses why, how, what do, does, and did in sentences
-can name items in a category
-understands time concepts
-can follow a three-step direction

Articulation deals with how the mouth and other speech organs produce sounds. Children’s speech is an ongoing development process which is not fully mastered until 9-10 years of age. There are very common sound substitutions (for example, W sound for an R), and sound omissions (tar=star, dem=them). Please refer to the handouts that we received at the training for a reference as to what age sounds should typically be mastered by.

Being exposed to language at all times is how a language is acquired, and this learning begins at home. To enhance speech and language at home, there are three parts to language learning core principles that are commonly used in schools: repetition, visual/multi-modal supports, and practice. Repeating yourselves and what your child says may be a bit trite at times, but this is an excellent way for children to hear sounds and phrases that they are able to digest not only once, but multiple times for their brain to hard wire that information. Visual and multi-modal supports are a way for a child to understand language using all of their senses. Examples of this are using puppets while reading stories, singing songs, dancing, etc. And lastly, practice is exactly what it sounds like! Allow opportunities for your child to tell you about everything they do; from brushing their teeth to asking for help. Children learn vocabulary all the time and they need a model of words to describe their surroundings, how they feel, what they like, pretty much everything in their world.

When engaging with your child, don’t forget to give them “pause time”—allow them some time to answer questions rather than feeding them words to answer with. Repeat simple phrases targeting word order—“I like to eat graham crackers. I like to eat apples too.” Use different verb tenses in your own speech—“I am eating carrots. Look, he ate carrots. She will eat carrots later.” Being a good language model is the start to your child’s speech and language acquisition.

We hope this information is helpful to you, and if at any time you have concerns about your child’s speech or language please talk to a teacher. Since we have partnered with MMSD for the 4K program there are resources that are available for our use.