Tips for Parents on Learning at Home

Being a parent is a very special role.  Parents are responsible for teaching their children about life and how to live it fully.  This can be a very big job, especially if your child has communication difficulties.  Parents often need information about how to best meet the needs of their child.

Your child’s speech and languge pathologist can give you helpful information about your child’s speech and language development.  The speech language pathologist can also suggest specific activities to help your child learn at home.  In addition, there are a few basic guidelines on teaching and learning which can help you and your child succeed.

Tips for Parents:

1.  Let your child feel loved.  Touching, hugs, kisses, gentle words, or an approving smile will help your child feel relaxed and confident about learning.
2.  Remember that your child is just a child.  It’s important to keep your expectations appropriate to your child’s abilites.  Ask your speech language pathologist about your child’s language abilities.  That way, you won’t expect too much-or too little.
3.  Give your child approval.  Appreciate any success in learning your child accomplishes.  Compliments will encourage your child to continue to learn.  Let your child know that you accept both your child’s strengths and weaknesses.
4.  Help your child to feel important.  Take time to do things with your child.  Your child will appreciate your time and attention.
5.  Remember that learning can be fun.  Have a good time with your child.  If you do not enjoy what you are doing with your child, neither will your child.  Follow your child’s lead in f inding fun things to do.
6.  Talk to your child.  Talk often about what you are doing together.  Give your child time to respond.
7.  Really listen to your child.  Get down to your child’s eye level, and look at your child as you are listening.  Respond to what your child says. 
8.  Share your ideas and experiences with your child’s speech language pathologist.  Let her/him know about situations which may affect your child’s learning, such as illnesses or problems at home.
9.  Take an interest in your child’s schoolwork or therapy.  Help your child learn to be enthusiastic about learning.  Talk about school and therapy in a positive way.

Summary
You are your child’s first, and most important, teacher.  You set an example for your child of how to listen and talk with others.  You can make a big difference in how well your child develops communication skills.  As your child uses new skills in everyday activities, you can feel proud of your child’s success.

Even though this information is from 1988, it is timeless information.  These are basic building blocks for developing your child’s communication.  No amount of technology will replace what parents give their children as they go their day.

Pam Hass
Speech Languag e Pathologist

Reference
Margaret Schrader, M.S. CCC/ Speech Language Pathologist
Communication Skill Builders (1988)

Motor Experiences and Social Skills

An article in the Advance for Speech-Language Pathologists & Audiologists (sEPTEMBER 19, 2011) described a new way to think about development.  Early motor experiences can shape infants’ preferences for objects and faces, according to a new study.  The findings demonstrate that providing infants with “sticky mittens” to manipulate toys increases their interest in faces, suggesting advanced social development. 

When 3-month-olds were given mittens affixed with strips of Velcro, known as “sticky mittens”, a brief swipe of their arm made toys covered in Velcro stick, as if they had successfully grasped the object.  Parents demonstrated this by attaching a toy to the mitten.  The toy was removed and the infant was encouraged to reach independently for the toy again.  When another group of infants were fitted with aesthetically similar mittens and toys that did not have Velcro, they were only passive observers, as parents provided stimulation by moving a toy and touching it to the inside of the infants’ palms.

After two weeks of daily training, the active group showed more interest in faces than objects, while the passive group showed no preference.  Infants in the active group focused on faces first, suggesting strenghtening of a spontaneous preference.  The more reaching attempts infants made, the stronger their tendency to look at faces.  Motor experiences seem to drive social development.
A key question researchers hope to answer next is whether these early changes will translate into future gains for these children.  This new research could point in a new direction for research on social development in children.

Opininion by Pam Hass, Speech-Language Pathologist.  Kids begin pointing to indicate what they want or need or for joint attention to communicate between 9-12 months of age.  If this process can be boosted through training with the use of more motor experiences at a younger age, kids, who may have social delays or social disabilities, may benefit from this early training.  The research needs to continue in order for this to become evidence-based practice.  

Reference
Libertus ,K., Needham, A. (2011) Reaching experience increases face preference in 3-month-old-infants, Developmental Science, online, Sept. 9.