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5 Activities to Promote Language Use in the Car

Are we there yet? Are we there yet? How much longer? Are these commonly heard phrases in your car? It’s summertime and a road trip is just around the corner.

Learn 5 activities for car rides that are not only fun, but a great way to encourage language skills on the go!

  1. I Spy: “I spy with my little eye…” Use this game to target the following skills:
    • Articulation: See if you can find objects, restaurants, stores, etc. that begin with the sound your child is working on in speech therapy.
    • Receptive language: Ask your child to find 5 items outside the car that belong to a certain category. For example, “Can you find 5 different animals?”
  2. Story Time: Making up silly stories can make for a fun ride! Ask your child to make up a story using ideas, activities, or characters he sees out the window. Be sure the story follows an appropriate sequence of events. This activity can also be a team game. Each person in the family takes turns adding a sentence to the story!
  3. Camping Trip: This is a game to get the whole family involved in your child’s language development. The game begins with one person saying, “I went on a camping trip and I brought…” The frist person states an item that begins with the letter A (apple). The following family member repeats the phrase and adds his own item beginning with the letter B (“I went on a camping trip and I brought an apple and a bouncy ball”). See how far down the alphabet you can get while you target auditory memory, attention, and phonemic awareness!
  4. Clue: This game is great for targeting receptive and expressive language!
    • Receptive Language: Tell your child you are thinking of an object. Provide “clues” (function of the object, category, attributes, etc.) to help them figure it out!
    • Expressive Language: Now it is your child’s turn! Let your child provide you with clues and see if you can figure out what object he is thinking of.
  5. Rhyme: It is rhyme time! Take turns picking a word. Work together or make it a race to see who can find the most objects outside the car that rhyme with the chosen word!

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A Checklist for Language Based Reading Difficulties

Learning to read is such a monumental milestone for children in early elementary school, but it can also be a source of stress for concerned parents or for children who don’t seem to “pick it up” as easily as others. Since reading is a fundamental skill which only increases in importance as students move on to later grades in school, early identification of at-risk readers is key to ensuring academic success for all children.

Listed below is a checklist which can be used to identify children (in kindergarten – first grade) who may benefit from further evaluation by a speech-language pathologist:

Speech sound awareness:Child with reading difficulties

  • Does not understand or enjoy rhymes (may have difficulty clapping hands/tapping feet in rhythm to songs or rhymes)
  • Does not recognize words with the same beginning sound
  • Has difficulty counting syllables in spoken words
  • Difficulty learning sound-letter correspondences ( the letter ‘b’ says ‘buh’)

Written language awareness:

  • Does not orient book properly while looking through books
  • Cannot identify words and letters in picture books

Letter name knowledge:

  • Cannot recite the alphabet
  • Cannot identify printed letters as they are named or name letters when asked.

Word retrieval:

  • Has difficulty finding a specific word in conversation, uses non-specific words (thing, stuff) or substitutes a related term
  • Poor memory for classmates names
  • Halting speech- pauses and filler words used (“um” or “you know”)

Speech production/perception:

  • Difficulty saying common words with difficult sound patterns (i.e. cinnamon, specific, library)
  • Mishears and then mispronounces words/names
  • Frequent slips of the tongue (says “brue blush” for “blue brush”)

Comprehension:

  • Only responds to part of a multi-step direction or instruction or requests multiple repetitions for instructions
  • Difficulty understanding spatial terms (in front, behind etc.)
  • Difficulty understanding stories

Expressive language:

  • Uses short sentences with a small vocabulary, little variety
  • Difficulty giving directions or explanations, little detail provided
  • Disorganized story-telling or event recall
  • Grammar errors (“he goed to the store”)

Literacy motivation:

  • Does not enjoy classroom story-time (wanders, does not pay attention when teacher reads stories)
  • Shows little interest in literacy activities (looking at books, writing)

If your child or a child you work with can be described by many of the items on this checklist, further evaluation of their language skills is warranted to ensure appropriate intervention is provided and continued literacy learning is encouraged. There are many professionals (teachers, reading specialists, and speech-language pathologists) who are trained to assist children in acquiring early literacy skills or supporting children who exhibit difficulty in this area. However, areas of expertise vary and depending on the needs of your child, the appropriate professional to help can be identified.

This checklist is modified from H. Catts’s 2002 publication in Languge, speech, and Hearing Services in Schools as presented in Rhea Paul’s Language Disorders from Infancy through Adolescence.

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Expressive vs. Receptive Language

Speech-language pathologists often throw around the terms “expressive language” and “receptive language” as though they are in everyone’s vocabulary. To clear up any confusion, here are definitions for these terms in simple language. language

What is Receptive Language:

Receptive language is the understanding of language “input.” This includes the understanding of both words and gestures. It goes beyond just vocabulary skills, but also the ability to interpret a question as a question, the understanding of concepts like “on,” or accurately interpreting complex grammatical forms (i.e. understanding that the phrase “The boy was kicked by the girl” means that a girl did the kicking). A child typically develops receptive skills first, so you can think of children as sponges who absorb the rules and use of language before they begin to express themselves using each of these skills. (To learn more about receptive delays, click here.)

What is Expressive Language:

Expressive language is most simply the “output” of language, how one expresses his or her wants and needs. This includes not only words, but also the grammar rules that dictate how words are combined into phrases, sentences and paragraphs as well as the use of gestures and facial expressions. It is important to make the distinction here between expressive language and speech production. Speech production relates to the formulation of individual speech sounds using one’s lips, teeth, and tongue. This is separate from one’s ability to formulate thoughts that are expressed using the appropriate word or combination of words. If you have concerns about your child’s development, consider both how they respond to directions you provide, as well as the words and word combinations they use. Give credit to the gestural cues and facial expressions that your child uses and reacts to as this is an early-developing and important skill. If your concerns persist, seek out the advice of a speech pathologist who can evaluate your child and determine if their development is on track, or whether therapy is warranted. And regardless of your child’s skill set, keep talking and interacting with your child – however they are able. Models are key in fostering the development of communication skills.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes PlainesHinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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