Category Archives: Reading

TOTS START FIGURING OUT WRITING EVEN BEFORE ABCS

An  article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of 1/10/16 says that an experiment finds youngsters grasp that words have different meaning than their drawing. Some of the highlights indicate that scribbling is a vehicle for language and a precursor to reading. It is an additional way to consider reading readiness, beyond the emphasis on phonetics or being able to point out an “A” in the alphabet chart. A child calls it a family portrait when it may look like a bunch of grapes. It is a great open door into the world of symbolic thought, according to the researcher, Hirsh-Pasek.

Strategies to help young kids read and write are:
1) Run a finger under the text when reading to youngsters, otherwise, they will pay more attention to the pictures according to Brett Miller of the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development.
2) Show children how you write their names well before they can attempt it said Temple University psychology professor athy Kirs-Pasek.
3) Encourage youngsters to invent their own spellings of other words after their name to spur them to write more according to developmental psychologist, Rebecca Treiman of Washington University in St. Louis.
4) When youngsters scribble, don’t guess what they produced-ask, Hirsh-Pasek said. It’s discouraging if a tot is about to announce he wrote a story and mom thinks he drew a house.
5) Post a scribble they are proud of on the refrigerator and they will figure out patterns with their scribbles. That’s more instructive than merely pasting copies of apples onto a page to make a recognizable picture according to Hirsh-Pasek.
6) Give tots a pencil or pen instead of a crayon if they say they want to “write” instead of “draw” so it will look more like text, Treiman said.

Remember to read to your children.  That is the foundation to learn to read.

If you want to make a speech therapy  appointment,  please contact my website at  www.interactivetherapy.net.  I also have a facebook page and twitter page where you can a plethora of information.

Pam Hass, Speech Language Pathologist

 

 

 

 

Kids’ Brains Benefit from Praise

St. Louis Post-Dispatch 1/31/12 

Washington University study reports that positive reinforcement may increase brain size. by Blythe Bernhard bbernhard@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8129

If your child forgets his lunch or struggles with school work, a little more loving might turn things around. 

Supportive mothers who practice positive reinforcement seem to help their children’s brains grow, according to new research from Washington University.

Brain scans show that school-age children of nurturing mothers have a 10 percent larger hippocampus-the region of the brain that plays a role in memory, learning and stress response-compared to the brains of children whose mothers were deemed less supportive.

The take-home message for working and stay-at-home parents is to praise children more than you scold them, the researchers said. 

“Parents might feel guilty because they’re working, and we work a lot as well,” said Dr. Kelly Botteron, a professor of child psychiatry and co-author of the study. “But when you’re home in the evening and you’re trying to rush through homework and trying to get dinner ready, if you remember to say a a couple nice, really positive things… I think a lot of parents could do that and it’s a practical thing that has very little risk to it.”

It’s long been known that orphans and other neglected children who are placed in loving homes can improve their behavior and health.  And while a link between nurturing mothers and their offspring’s brain growth has been established in rats, the study is the first to show the same anatomical process in humans.

As part of their ongoing research on childh00d depression, staff members watched how two groups of 92 children ages 3-5 interacted with their caregivers (usually mothers) during a stressful task.  One group of children had symptoms of depression and the others were assigned to a control group.

For the task, the mothers were told to fill out a questionnaire.  The child was given a wrapped present but told not to open it right away.  The  eight-minute “waiting task,” as it’s known, has been used by researchers as a reliable indicator of parental nurturing skills.  The task is thought to simulate situations at home, such as a parent distracted by cooking dinner while the child needs to focus on homework.

Researchers who reviewed the taped interactions rated the mother’s responses to their children’s behavior.  Mothers received points each time they praised the child’s patience or offered encouragement to not open the gift.

The researchers acknowledged they’re not getting a complete picture of family life, especially if Mom was having a bad day.  But they are confident that the results of the MRI brain scans on the kids, performed four years after the “waiting task,” indicate that children who have more supportive mothers also have bigger brains.

Children with less supportive mothers had a hippocampus volume that was 9.2 percent smaller than the children of more nurturing mothers.  In children with depression, the effects of nurturing were not as positive, and the researchers think the disease process has a greater impact on brain development.

The researchers plan to run second and third MRI brain scans on the children, who are now preteens, to watch for brain development over time.

Although the study wasn’t designed to look at fathers, foster parents or grandparents, the researchers said the positive effects of nurturing can come from any caregivers, which can be reasonably stretched to include teachers.

“If you know your child is in a difficult situation, to reinforce to them that you know it’s a hard situation but they’re doing such a great job, that’s the kind of parenting we would try to encourage,” Botteron said.

The researchers were careful to point out they’re not opposed to disciplining children or giving them boundaries.

“You should be supportive and nurturing, which is not the same as spoiling, and not the same as smothering,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Joan Luby, a professor of child psychiatry.

One local mom said it was exciting to hear that something she already believes in could have an effect on her children’s intellectual, and not just emotional, development.

“For a nurturing parent it’s both beautiful and frightening because many of us who spend a lot of nights wondering whether we’re doing everything we possibly can for our children, this falls into the category of one more thing to worry about,” said Danielle Smith of O’Fallon, MO, who has two young children and writes the blog extrordinary-mommy.com. “It sounds like a bonus to me, but I have to embrace the idea that what I’m doing is enough.”

Comment from Pam Hass, Speech Language Pathologist:  As we as caregivers and teachers of our children, in addition to being nurturing and supportive of our children, we also need to include our children in day to day conversations and make reading to our children a daily event.  Talking with  our children, listening  and responding to our children while they play or while we do our daily chores will help develop children’s language skills.  Reading to our children and talking with them about the story is very important in developing their language and cognitive skills.  

In my next blog, I will begin to list some language activities that families can do to stimulate both the understanding and expression of language.

Study Digs Deeper into Dyslexia

Reference:  St. Louis Post Dispatch August 4, 2011

Disorder has roots in failure to recognize the sounds of speech.
by Pam Belluck New York Times

Many people consider dyslexia simply a reading poblem in which children mix up letters and misconstrue written words.  But scientists increasingly have come to believe that the reading difficulties of dyslexia are part of a larger puzzle: a problem with how the brain processes speech and puts together words from smaller units of sound.

Now, a study published last week in the journal Science suggests that how  dyslexics hear language may be more important than previously realized.  Reasearchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found that people with dyslexia have more trouble recognizing voices than those without dyslexia.

John Gabrieli, a professor of cognitive neuroscience, and Tyler Perrachione, a graduate student, asked people with and without dyslexia to listen to recorded voices paired with cartoon avatars on computer screens.  The subjects tried matching the voices to the correct avatars speaking English and then an unfamiliar language, Mandarin.

Nondyslexics matched voices to avatars correctly almost 70 percent of the time when the language was English and half the time when the language was Mandarin.  Experts not involved in the study said that was a striking disparity.

“Typically, you see big differences in reading, but there are just subtle general differences between individuals who are afflicted with dyslexia and individuals who aren’t on a wide variety of tests,” said Richard Wagner, a psychology professor at Florida State University.  “This effect was really large.”

Sally Shaywitz, a director of the Center for Dyslexia and Creativity at Yale University, said the study “demonstrates the centrality of spoken language in dyslexia-that it’s not a problem in meaning, but in getting to the sounds of speech.”

That is why dyslexic children often misspeak, she said, citing two examples drawn from real life.

“A child at Fenway Park watching the Red Sox said, ‘Oh, I’m thirsty. Can we go to the confession stand?’ ” she said.  “Another person crossing a busy intersection where many people were walking said, ‘Oh, those Presbyterians should be more careful.’  It’s not a question of not knowing but being unable to attach what you know is the meaning to the sounds.”

Gabrieli said the findings underscored a critical problem for dyslexic chidlren learning to read: the ability of a child hearing, say, a parent or teacher speak to connect the auditory bits that make up words, called phonemes, with the sight of written words.

If a child has trouble grasping the sounds that make up language, he siad, acquiring reading skills will be harder. 

The research shows that spoken language deficiencies persist even when dyslexics learn to read well.  The study subjects were mostly “high-functioning, high-IQ young adults who had overcome their reading difficulty,” Gabrieli said.  “And yet when they had to distinguish voices, they were not one iota better with the English-language voices that they’ve heard all their life.”

Experts said the new study also shows the interconnectedness of the brain processes invoiced in reading.  Many scientists had considered voice recognition to be “like recognizing melodies or things that are primarily nonverbal,” Gabrieli said.

Voice recognition was thought to be a separate task in the brain from understanding language.

But this research shows that normal reading involves a “circuit, the ability to have all of those components integrated absolutely automatically,” said Maryanne Wolf, a dyslexia expert at Tufts University.  “One of the great weaknesses in dyslexia is that the system is not able to integrate these phoneme-driven systems” with other aspects of language comprehension.

Any questions or comments about this article are welcome at www.interactivetherapy.net!

To start the discussion:

A speech language pathologist is often involved with a child’s articulation and/or phonological disorder at earlier ages before a child starts to read.  One cannot predict if a child with an articulation or phonological disorder will have a reading/writing problem.  It behooves us as educators and speech language pathologists to monitor a child’s development in reading and writing for those children who may be at risk for dyslexia because of difficulty in perceiving, processing and producing sounds in speech.  If anyone is doing research on predicting dyslexia based on articulation/phonological disorders, please let me know.  It would be a worthwhile study.  It would be good to know if  those of us working in the field of speech language pathology could lessen the degree of dyslexia before a child learns to read/write or even prevent it. 
Pam Hass, Interactive Therapy Inc

Food Additives and Dyes: Links to Attention Problems

Reference: Learning Disabilities of America May/June 2011 Newsletter

Healthy Children Project

Article by Maureen Swanson
Healthy Children Project Coordinator

At the beginning of April, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee decided that there is not sufficient evidence to support a link between artificial dyes in foods and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  The committee failed to recommend any ban or regulation of dye additives in food products.  They did call for more research.

There are seven primary food dyes used in the United States: Red #3, Red #40, Blue #1 & #2, Green #3 and Yellow #5 and #6.   There are two limited use dyes: Orange B used in hot dog and sausage casings, and Citrus Red 2 allowed only for coloring orange peels.  The dyes are used to make foods, candy and drinks more appealing, especially to children.  European countries already have banned some food dyes, including Blue #1 and Yellow #5 and #6.  In many cases, manufacturers now use natural colorings for food products in the European market.

According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, Yellow #5 may be more likely to cause problems with attention and behavior than other additives.  Yellow #5 is found in beverages, candy, ice cream, custards and other foods such as macaroni and cheese mixes.  The FDA requires manufacturers to label foods that contain Yellow #5 in the list of ingredients.

Many parents and teachers have their own anecdotal evidence that food dyes and preservatives seem to contribute to a child’s hyperactivity, behavior or attention problems.  LDA often takes a position that it is better to err on the side of caution when it comes to children’s health and learning.

If you want to avoid food dyes and preservatives for your family, summer is a great time to change eating and food shopping habits.  Foods to avoid include brightly colored, processed foods, which are most likely to contain one or more food dyes.  Another good rule of thumb is that if you cannot understand or pronounce the ingredients in a food product, you shouldn’t eat it.

To quote Michael Pollan, well-known author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “Food Rules”, one of the best ways to ensure a healthier diet is to “Eat Real Food.”

By real food, Pollan means fruits and vegetables, grains, dairy and meat that have not been “processed” with other ingredients into packaged foods.  In summer and early fall, farmers markets and backyard gardens make this kind of eating much easier.  If possible, load your plate with locally grown fruits and vegetables.

To have healthy, locally grown produce available year-round, one option is to can fruits and vegetables.  Another way to preserve some fruits and vegetables is to freeze them – this works well with blueberries, corn, beans, peas, rhubarb and many other fruits and vegetables.  For a “how-to” guide on freezing fresh food, see the charts at the following website: http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/nutrition/dj0555.html

While European governments seem more willing to take precautionary measures to protect people, especially children, from the possible harmful effects of food dyes, the FDA’s recent ruling means that in the United States, we have to take our own precautionary measures.

Developmental Benefits of Reading

Reference: ADVANCE for Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists, April 4, 2011

Infants are auditory learners.  When parents talk and read to them, babies learn about communication and how to interact with others.  “Spending quality time and bonding with an infant are always important, no matter what the activity is,” said Hannah Chow, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.  “But with reading the benefits increase.”

Reading to children at a young age encourages a passion for books and learning, improves vocabulary, stimulates creativity and imagination, and improves a child’s concentration which improves attention in school.

“Although reading books to children is wonderful when infants are small, it’s not so much what you read, but how you read it” said Dr. Chow.  Parents can read the Wall Street Journal to their babies as long as they use voice inflection and interact with them while reading.  “It’s a wonderful chance to just be together,” she said.

The reading material becomes more imporant as children age.  Infants and toddlers enjoy staring at people, especially babies, so books should be colorful and simple, with lots of pictures.

“Most toddlers don’t want to sit still while an entire book is read, so reading part of the story lets them wander off and explore for a while and then return to the story a little later”, Dr. Chow said.  The experience just needs to be purposeful and a part of their routine.

Children should be allowed to pick which book they want to read, she said.  “If it’s the same one over and over again, just keep reading it.  Kids learn from repetition.”

Parents should try to have books with them at all times as they are always available to children whenever there is down time, such as riding in a car or sitting in a waiting room.

The most important part of reading as an activity for young children is the quality time spent with parents, Dr. Chow said. “Parents should interact with their kids while reading, asking them questions about the words or pictures.  It’s fascinating what kids are interested in and the amount of detail they can remember.”

Children mimic their parents’ behavior, she noted.  “If reading is a priority to parents and they see them picking up a book instead of turning on the TV, they will most likely do it, too.”