Tag Archive for: language development

Language Development in Children with Down Syndrome

Language development for children diagnosed with Down Syndrome can be challenging and confusing. Factors such as cognitive and motor delays, hearing loss and visual problems can interfere with language acquisition. It’s important that a child’s caregivers provide a variety of opportunities to increase language development.Down Syndrome Language Development

Using many normal everyday activities can enhance the child’s language and expose them to new concepts. The language you teach to your child will assist them in learning and generalizing new information.

The following are early intervention strategies that can be used to help children with Down Syndrome develop and increase their understanding of language:

Take advantage of language opportunities during daily routines:

  • Activities such as taking a bath, cooking, grocery shopping, changing a diaper, or driving in the car are a wonderful time for learning. Caregivers can consistently identify actions, label items, expand on their children’s utterances to facilitate vocabulary acquisition and overall language development. It takes a lot of repetition for children to learn and start to use words appropriately. Include a variety of words that include all the senses. “Does the water feel hot?” or “Can you smell the cookies?” When speaking, identify textures, colors, express feelings etc.

Read, read, read:

  • It can never be said enough how important reading is to children. When reading a book, it’s important to not only read the words on the page, but to talk about what is on the page, what the characters are doing or how they might be feeling. Make reading a book an interactive experience.

Incorporate play time with other kids:

  • Children can learn a lot just by interacting with other children as they are interested in and motivated by their peers. They imitate each other’s actions and will learn from them. Play time with other children will also help them develop social skills. Concepts such as sharing, taking turns, pretend play, creating, etc. can all be increased.

Play with them:

  • Children don’t know how to play with toys and games on their own, we need to show them. Get on the floor and play with blocks, balls, bubbles, sing a song, etc. During this time talk about what you and the child are doing (Ex: stack up the blocks, let’s blow more bubbles, it’s my turn) and expand on their utterances. Play time is critical for children to develop their ability to focus and attend to a task. When you are engaged together in a task, you are developing a special bond with your child and they are learning!

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

How to Get Your Baby Talking

A baby typically starts babbling, using speech-like sounds, between four to six months of age. Usually, the sounds p, b, and m are the first to develop. Additionally, in this age range, a baby is more Blog-Baby-Talking-Main-Landscapeinteractive with the parent or caregiver, laughing and vocalizing displeasure or excitement. Between seven months to a year of age, communication will expand and most babies are producing repetitive consonant-vowel combinations such as baba or dada, using gestures for communication, using vocalization to gain and maintain attention, and by one year of age a baby typically has one or two words or word approximations.

A parent or caregiver can support their baby’s language development or “talking” by encouraging all communication, interacting on their baby’s level, and making communication opportunities.

  • Match your child’s communications and interaction attempts, including repeating his/her vocalizations and gestures. By matching your baby’s vocalizations, you are communicating on a level that allows them to maintain communication turn-taking. Additionally target speech games and songs such as itsy-bitsy spider, peek-a-boo, and gestures such as clapping, blowing kisses, and waving hi/bye.
  • Talk through daily routines such as bath time, bedtime, get dressed, and feedings. You are providing your baby with the associated language during these daily routines. Talk through the plan for the day, what will you be doing, where you are going, who are they seeing, etc.
  • Teach your child gestures and signs to support language development.
  • Teach your child animal sounds (e.g., moo, baa) and environmental sounds (e.g., vroom, beep).
  • Spend time reading to your child and labeling pictures in books.
  • Reinforce your baby’s communication attempts by giving them eye contact and interacting with him or her.
  • Simplify your language during communication interactions with your baby.
  • Make communication opportunities within routines and daily activities.
  • Limit your baby’s exposure to television and/or videos. A 1:1 interaction between a parent and child is preferable to support turn-taking communication.

Remember there is a range of typical development. Not all babies will have their first words around one year of age!

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

Play Based Therapy – 5 Things to Consider When Playing at Home

  1. Choose toys and activities a child likes.blog-play-therapy-main-landscape
    • Use toys or objects the child enjoys to increase the likelihood that they will pay attention.
    • Read the child’s cues to determine when or if the attention is waning and provide them with options of other preferred items.
    • It is okay to have them complete “one more turn” before having them clean up.
    • Create a regular clean up routine after play time. Create or use a fun clean up song!
  2. Allow a child to take the lead in choosing toys- but this doesn’t mean you need to give them free rein all the time!
    • Offer acceptable choices- this is a happy medium between letting the child do what they want all the time and the adult determining what the child plays.
    • By providing choices, it gives an opportunity for the child to respond and communicate (and they feel like they are in control!).
    • If possible, choose activities that the child is able to move and does not have to sit still or at a table the whole time moving helps the child to be more attentive or focused!
  3. Imitate a child’s actions and use specific labels to address what the child is doing or attending to at the moment.
    • Over time, it is hoped that the child enjoys the repetition of the words and actions, then will begin to repeat an action he sees you complete (i.e. “Jump, Jump!” “You are jumping!)- Make sure you are face-to-face with the child, so that they know that you are talking about exactly what they are doing.
    • Simply state an object or an event name during the child’s play (i.e. “Ball” or “You found a ball”).
    • Try to stay away from talking too much or narrating too much information (i.e. It looks like you found something. What are you going to do with it? Are you going to bounce or throw it?) Depending on the child’s age, this kind of narration is likely above the language-level for the child.
    • Try to avoid asking the child questions!
  4. Use prompts to elicit attention with verbal visual cues (i.e. Look!)
    • Point to where you want the child to attend or focus.
    • Gaining the child’s attention is the first thing that needs to occur before they are expected to learn anything.
  5. Reinforce attention either naturally or artificially.
    • Pick reinforcements that are motivating for your child!
    • Reinforcing a child’s communicative attempts may include allowing them to play with a toy or finish eating a snack that he/she requested.
    • Depending on the child, stickers or suckers may be just the perfect reinforcement as well!


Mize, L. (2011). Teach Me To Talk! Shelbyville, KY: Teachmetotalk.com

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!


The Best Games for Language and Social Skill Development

Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good family game night? A little friendly competition, some yummy Blog-Language-Development-Main-Landscapesnacks and, of course, fun! As a pediatric speech therapist, I use games every day in my speech sessions. To be honest, I would be lost without them. Games are exciting, motivating, and best of all, they help children learn important speech and language skills without even realizing it!  There are many games that encourage the development of speech, language, and social skills. You can work on everything from learning how to take turns, to categorizing, making inferences, and oral narratives (i.e. story telling). Grab one of the following games for your next family game (and learning!) night!

These first few games are perfect for children who are just learning to play games as they are not language heavy. These games are great for promoting skills such as joint attention, turn-taking, cause and effect, commenting, and learning basic vocabulary and concepts (i.e. on, off, in, out, next). Some of these games introduce letter, shape and number concepts as well.

  • Sneaky, Snacky, Squirrel by Educational Insights
  • Frankie’s Food Truck Fiasco by Educational Insights
  • Frida’s Fruit Fiesta by Educational Insights
  • Hoot, Owl, Hoot by Peaceable Kingdom
  • Feed the Woozle by Peaceable Kingdom
  • Pop-Up Pirate by TOMY
  • Pop the Pig by Goliath Games
  • Zingo by Think Fun
    • There are many varieties of Zingo including numbers, letters, and telling time.

The next few games support turn-taking and overall social skills, but delve a little deeper into specific language skills.


  • Spot It! by Blue Orange
    • There are many varieties of Spot It, from Junior Edition to the special Frozen Spot It
  • Scattegories Junior
  • Speedeebee by Blue Orange
  • Rally Up by Blue Orange
  • HedBanz by Spin Master

Following Directions

  • Hullabaloo by Cranium
  • Cat in the Hat, I Can Do That! by Wonder Forge
  • Roll and Play by Think Fun
  • Ring It! by Blue Orange

Story Telling

  • Rory’s Story Cubes by Gamewright
  • Tell Tale by Blue Orange

Grab a game and have some fun!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!


Should I Be Concerned With My Child’s Speech?

As a parent, everyone wants the best for their child. They want their child to grow and Blog-Speech-Concerns-Main-Landscapedevelop appropriately, and flourish socially and academically. One component to success is your child’s ability to effectively communicate their wants, needs, and ideas. Which begs the question, when should you be concerned with your child’s speech and language development? In a world where no child is the same, one thing is for certain: early intervention is better than late intervention, and late intervention is better than no intervention at all. Look for these red flags early in development.

  • Difficulty following directions
  • Difficulty answering questions
  • Difficulty understanding gestures and nonverbal cues
  • Difficulty engaging in conversation
  • Difficulty identifying age-appropriate vocabulary and concepts
  • Frustration when communicating

Expressive Language

More specifically, children should be babbling between 6 and 8 months, with their first words produced around the age of 12 months. By 18 months, your child should possess an expressive vocabulary (spoken words) of approximately 50 words. Two-word combinations are expected around 24 months, with an expressive vocabulary growing to about 300 words. By the time your child is 36 months old, expect 3-5 word combinations (or more!), with most adult language structures mastered around 60 months (5 years).

Receptive Language

Children should follow basic commands around 12 months (“Come here”), and use gestures to communicate along with a few real words. They should be demonstrating comprehension of common objects and animals, by following commands involving those items or identifying them in books (puppy, cup, shoes, etc.) around 18 months of age. Look for your child to answer questions, ask questions, and talk about their day around the age of 3 years.


It is typical for a young child (1-2 years) to have some sound errors in their speech. However, by the age of 3, a child’s speech should be at least 75% intelligible to an unfamiliar listener, and more intelligible to familiar listeners. By age 3, a child should have the following sounds mastered: /b, d, h, m, n, p, f, g, k, t, w/. All speech sounds should be mastered by age 8.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!


reading to infants

The Importance of Reading To Infants

It is widely acknowledged that reading to preschool and school-aged kids is beneficial to their language development. However, is reading to infants just as important? The answer is yes! Reading to infants is important to their language and speech development. Not only does reading out loud to your infant benefit her brain development, but it also helps her learn vocabulary and the sounds of a language.

While you read to your infant, she will be taking in the sounds of her native language. Books with
rhyming words or repetitive phrases provide the most effective stimuli for infants to begin to parse out and recognize sounds in the language. As infants are read books, it also provides a perfect opportunity for them to learn vocabulary. As they hear the word “dog” and see a picture of a dog, they will begin to connect the picture and the word together. The more exposure infants have to books and pictures, the faster they will acquire vocabulary and make those connections. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. is a perfect book to read to infants as it includes repetitive phrases, bright colors and basic vocabulary.

Books for infants should also have certain physical characteristics. Books should be manipulative for the infant. Sturdy, cardboard books are great for babies to grab, turn and flip through. Bright colors and big pictures will also help the infant focus on the book and grab his or her attention. Reading with slow, exaggerated speech will also help infants easily parse the auditory stimuli, as well as keep infants entertained.

Other must-have books for reading to your infants include Goodnight Moon, The Hungry Caterpillar, 100 First Words and Baby Touch and Feel board books.

Click here for more on how to use books to encourage speech and language development in babies.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Developing Speech and Language AND Cooking a Pumpkin Pie

Developing speech and language AND cooking a pumpkin pie. Can you believe it?  Thanksgiving is right around the corner! Let’s talk for a minute about the staple of any Thanksgiving dessert table…the pumpkin pie. Many of us are looking for the perfect recipe, I know I am constantly searching! Before you jump straight into cooking, consider the following ways you can make this a fun activity that will help support your child’s speech and language needs.

Here is a list of ways you can make cooking a pumpkin pie
into a speech and language activity:


  • Direction following: Read through the recipe with your child and have him follow directions as you say them out loud. If your child needs extra support draw pictures in the same order that correspond with each step. For example, draw pictures of the ingredients, cooking utensils, etc.
  • Word recall: Read a list of ingredients out loud and have your child repeat a few, or all, items needed. This is a great way for your child to practice their listening and memory skills. If your child is able, you can ask them to recall items from a list a few minutes later or in steps. For example, if you’ve already used the pumpkin ask them if they remember what ingredient was next on their list.
  • Auditory Comprehension: Read the recipe out loud to your child and have them repeat the steps back to you (different from recalling the ingredients). This is great if your child is working on language processing skills. Your child may need to have the information broken down into smaller chunks, and this is okay.
  • Articulation: Find a few words within the recipe that have your child’s target sound or sounds in them. Ask them to use these words often throughout cooking and repeat them whenever they come up. For example, if their target sound is /k/ you can say, “Pumpkin, that has your /k/ sound in it, you try saying it!”
  • Fluency: The texture of pumpkin lends itself to a conversation about smooth versus bumpy. When encouraging your child to use fluent speech, you can ask them to use smooth speech versus bumpy speech with disfluencies.

Remember, cooking with your child should be fun! Pick one or two of the above activities and gently incorporate it into your holiday fun. Don’t stress yourself or your child too much by making cooking into a structured learning task. These are some great ways for you to support your child’s speech and language needs while still enjoying some family fun!

Here is the recipe for a great pumpkin pie:


1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
1 (14 ounce) can Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 large eggs1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • (9 inch) unbaked pie crust


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Whisk pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, spices and salt in medium bowl until smooth. Pour into crust. Bake 15 minutes.
2. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking 35 to 40 minutes or until knife inserted 1 inch from crust comes out clean. Cool. Garnish as desired. Store leftovers covered in refrigerator

everyday items for language play

How to Use Everyday Items for Language Play




When you walk into your child’s therapy clinic, you see toys, games, slides, swings, bubbles, scooters….I could go on forever. There’s always an endless supply of things to keep children entertained, motivated, and mostly, to make sure they’re having fun while working towards their therapy goals. However, you don’t need fancy toys or equipment to work on speech and language! Purchasing and using toys as therapy tools can be costly, overwhelming, and even intimidating for many families. However, there are a multitude of items you can find in your own home that will work great for speech and language home practice. And the best part, these are things you most likely already have so the cost is minimal or even nonexistent!

Home Tools for Speech and Language Practice:


What can I do with them?
Make them into a sock puppet or even a snake.
How can I use them for therapy?

  • Identify body parts
  • Pretend play
  • Feed the puppet; label food items you feed the puppet and verbs such as “eat” and “chew”
  • Conversational turn-taking skills

Bubble Wrap

What can I do with it?
Pop it!
How can I use it for therapy?

  • Verbalize “Pop!”
  • Have your child request “more”.  Allow him to pop a few and then hold the bubble wrap; either say or sign “more”.
  • Focus on size concepts; “These are big bubbles! This one is small.”

Toilet Paper/Paper Towel Roll

What can I do with it?
Leave it as is or decorate it!
How can I use it for therapy?

  • Play “I spy” to label common objects around the house.
  • Use it as a microphone for imitation. For example, say a word or phrase into the “microphone”, then have your child try it!
  • Make binoculars and use them to follow simple directions with location concepts. For example, “Find the ball under the table.”


What can I do with it?
Get creative! Make it into a play house, mailbox, oven, etc!
How can I use it for therapy?

  • Work on basic concepts such as “in, out, on, off”
  • Hide objects under or in it; “Where did the ball go? Find the ball!”
  • Place item in the box, don’t let your child see it, and have them guess what it is by feeling and describing the item.

Milk Jug

What can I do with it?

  • Cut it to make it into a scoop
  • Make it into a shaker

How can I use it for therapy?

  • Scoop up/pour out various items; label verbs like “scoop, pour, fall” and concepts such as “full, empty”
  • Sing nursery rhymes and use the milk jug as an instrument; stop at various point throughout the song and have your child fill in the words. For example, “Row, row, row, your ____”
  • Fill it up with water, pour it out or water plants in the garden. Work on concepts like “in/out”, “full/empty”, “heavy/light”.

Markers/Crayons and Paper

What can I do with it?
How can I use it for therapy?

  • Identification of body parts; draw a head and have your child label all the body parts you need.
  • Practice speech sounds; make dots ( “dot, dot, dot”), squiggles (“sssss”), dashes, etc. Pair any mark you make with a sound.
  • Make cards for family members. Talk about concepts/location of items. “Put the heart at the top of the page!”

This is just a tiny sample of items you can find in your home that can be used for therapy. There are endless possibilities. Remember all those old bridesmaid dresses you’ll absolutely never wear again? Hello, dress-up and pretend play! Get creative and have fun!

Click here for 5 fun and easy ways to promotes speech language in the warm weather!


The Development of Gestures in Communication




Communication encompasses so much more than just talking. Our body language, intonation, gestures, and facial expressions say just as much as our words. The importance of gesturing has long been underestimated in the field of speech-language pathology. However, gestures are one of the very first forms of communication, and recent research has suggested that gestures may pave the way for future developments in language. Iverson and Goldin-Meadow (2005) found that children who first produced a gesture + word combination were also first in producing two-word combinations.

A gesture is defined as an action, or movement of part of the body, especially of the hands or the head, used with the intention to communicate an idea or meaning. While gestures are typically made with our hands, they can also include facial expressions, such as lip smacking, to indicate eating and body movements, such as arching of the back, to indicate refusal. Here are some general guidelines for gesture development from an infancy to two years of age.

9-12 Months

  • Requests objects by pointing or reaching with hand
  • Gains attention by making physical contact (i.e. grabbing leg, pulling on adult)
  • Reaches to be picked up
  • Performs an action to indicate wanting something to happen again (i.e. banging on the table after you bang on the table)
  • Anticipates and initiates social games like peek-a-boo by covering face with a blanket
  • Waves bye
  • Imitates clapping
  • Shows and gives objects to adults

12-15 Months

  • Gives objects to adult to request help
  • Demonstrates functional use of objects. For example, brushes hair, stirs with a spoon etc…
  • Hugs stuffed animals
  • Claps to show excitement
  • Dances to music

15-18 Months

  • Shakes head “no”
  • Points to get you to do something. For example, points to a door to indicate “open” or “out”
  • Smacks lips to indicate “food”
  • Points to object upon request, (i.e. “Show me your tummy!”)
  • Points to objects for adults to name or label
  • Indicates all done by putting hands up or shaking hands

18-24 Months

  • Makes funny faces, silly sounds, sticks out tongue to gain attention
  • Representational gestures emerge. These include shrugging shoulders, putting hands up to indicate, “What’s that?” or “Where did it go?”
  • Blows kisses
  • Slaps palm for “high five”
  • Clarifies verbal messages by pointing to objects they attempt to verbally label

Gestures are crucial for language learning. They help children to communicate their wants and needs months before they are able to do so verbally. Children learn communication through listening, observing, and imitating the world around them. The best way you can support your child’s language development is by engaging with them each and every day. Play, talk, gesture, sing, laugh, and enjoy your time together!

Click here to view our speech and language milestone infographic!

First Sounds and First Words | What to Expect from Your Baby

Talking. Some of us don’t like to do it and some of us do it too much. But one of the most exciting things for parents is to witness their child’s first words. Babies learn to talk throughout their first two years of life and believe it or not, there are speech and language milestones that are achieved in the first few months of life. Here is a general outline of the speech and language milestones your child should be achieving from birth to 2 years.

Speech and Language Milestones from Birth to 2 Years:

Birth to 3 months

• Variety of cries to indicate needs – hungry, in need of a diaper change, or upset
• Coos, sighs, gurgles, and makes pleasure sounds
• Recognizes voices
• Localizes to sound by turning head

4 to 6 months

• Uses /p/, /b/, and /m/ to babble
• Vocalizes excitement and displeasure
• Listens to and imitates some sounds
• Responds to changes in your voice

7-12 months

• Babbles using long and short groups of sounds
• Uses a song-like intonation pattern when babbling
• Babbling has both long and  short groups of sounds such as “bababa upup tata”
• Has 1 or two words, though they may not be clear
• Uses communicative gestures such as pointing, pulling, and waving

12-18 months

• Uses nouns almost exclusively
• Uses jargon to fill gaps in fluency
• Combines gestures and vocalization
• Says more words each month, by 18 months child has a vocabulary of approximately 20 words

18 to 24 months

• Uses many different consonant sounds at beginning of words
• Expressive vocabulary of 25-50 words
• Imitates many words
• Uses some 1-2 word questions – “What’s that?” “Mommy?”
• Puts two words together – “more cookie” “no book”
• Language explosion typically occurs around 18-24 months; vocabulary grows to 150-300 words by 24 months

Further Reading

For more on Speech and Language Milestones: Birth to Age 1, click here.
For more on Speech and Language Milestones: Ages 1-2, click here.