Monday, 23 July 2012

Babble, babble, babble

Yesterday, I had a phone call from a friend who has a son just a few days younger than my 9-month-old.  She's a Speech-Language Pathologist as well and she was getting worried that her baby wasn't yet babbling with consonants (eg. bababa, mamama).  The P, B, and M sounds tend to be the earliest sounds that babies say because they are relatively easy to say (baby just has to put his lips together and vocalize).  All babies develop at their own rate, but we still expect them to achieve milestones at a certain time.  Even at such a young age, identifying issues can help avoid a delay or allow access to support early to reduce the effects of a delay. 

My friend's baby was quite vocal - making lots of vowel sounds and gurgles - but he wasn't doing much movement with his lips yet.  This can be an indication of some trouble with oral motor movements to produce speech.  We discussed the possibility of oral motor issues but her son didn't have any other indicators of this - he wasn't a messy eater and he could imitate blowing raspberries and do other oral movements easily.  My friend decided that she and her family would continue to give her son good models of babbling and encourage all his verbal attempts with the hope that he would start to catch on to babbling soon in order to move on to the next stage of language development - real words!


Friday, 20 July 2012

Wogurt and Woga

I'm so used to my 3-year-old using a "w" sound instead of a "y" sound that the other day when she said "Mom can I play with your yoga mat" she took me by surprise and I asked her to repeat herself.  She said again "Mom can I play with your woga mat".  Just like that, the y sound disappeared...or did it.  Speech sound development isn't all or nothing.  It's quite normal for children to begin producing a sound right some of the time...this is a sign that they're learning how to say it.  It's also  normal for a child to use a sound correctly on some words (eg. my daughter's always said "yes" perfectly) and to make errors on other words (eg. asking me for "wogurt" instead of "yogurt"). 

When you see correct sounds popping up in your child's speech where errors used to be made, consider it a good sign that they're on the way to mastering that sound.


Tricks of the trade

A friend of mine is expecting her first baby in September.  With this in mind, I've set aside my copy of "What to expect the first year" which I received from the good people at  As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I often get questions from friends and acquaintances about stuttering, speech errors and late-talkers.  I'm happy to share my knowledge with others, answer questions and give advice...if I'm asked.

My friend, the dietitian, is also happy to share her knowledge, answer questions and give advice when asked...and boy have I asked!  Here are some of the important tidbits I've learned from her:

1. My 3-year-old daughter is very tiny and I've now got a recipe for high-fat pudding as well as loads of suggestions for increasing calorie content in the foods we feed her (without adding extra calories to our own).  We've also looked at how much she's drinking between meals and how frequently her meals and snacks are (meals should be 4 hours apart and snacks should be offered 2 hours before a meal). 

2. My 9 month old has been slow to get onto eating food (particularly meat and vegetables).  My husband and I had planned to go away for an adults-only weekend in one month.  I had hoped to wean my son directly to homo milk (he refuses formula, but will drink homo milk), but after discussing it with my friend, we decided he's not getting enough iron to be drinking solely homo milk.  I've now got loads of suggestions for increasing iron in his diet but my husband and I made a decision in our sons best interest and rescheduled our trip for a later date.

3.  Did you know that children may need to be exposed to a food up to 30 times before they'll actually eat it!!!  My friend reminded me to continue offering foods to my son even though he rejects them.  He may eventually surprise me and start eating them.

I'm so happy to have a dietitian on hand to give me suggestions and reassure me occasionally.  I'm also very excited for the arrival of her little bundle and glad that we can pass some of our baby things her way.


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

My favorite preschool game

I love watching children learn basic concepts.  This week, my daughter has been learning the concept of 'in front/behind'.  As she walks behind me down the stairs, she says "Mom, you're ahind me" and I reply "No silly goose, I'm in front of you and you're behind me!"  No doubt that by  next week she'll have this one mastered.

Starting in September my daughter's off to preschool so last week we pulled out my favorite preschool game from my stash of work activities (which are stored in my basement while I'm home on maternity leave).  My copy of Cariboo Cranium is a little worse for wear.  The key is broken so instead we must use a golf tee and the cards are bent and wrinkled, but its as much fun as ever.  This game has it all.  Brightly colored bouncy balls, treasure and the built-in opportunity to teach shapes, counting, numbers, letter identification and colors.  This has been our go-to gift for every 3-year-old birthday party we've gone to this year and my daughter is no exception.  She turns 3 in July and she'll get the modern version of this game, Cariboo Island.  Give it a try with your preschooler!


Friday, 8 June 2012

What to Expect...

I always seem to have a "What to Expect" book sitting on my bedside table as reference (whether I'm pregnant or surviving babies first year). I'm anxiously awaiting a copy of "What to Expect the Second Year" from the good people at  It'll take me awhile to read it and tell you about it, but in the meantime, check out their website, which has oodles of great information, including a section on toddler language development which was refreshingly practical and accurate! 


Thursday, 17 May 2012

The floppy baby?

I recently added a blog called "Speech Buddies" to my resources list and wanted to share this interesting article about hypotonia, which is a fancy word for low muscle tone.
Low muscle tone effects development in a variety of ways and the earlier it's identified and treated, the better the outcome.  I've definitely seen kiddos with low tone in my practice and I often suspect that muscle tone may be an issue when I see a child whose mouth is constantly open and there's lots of drool happening.  A child who appears like this doesn't necessarily have low tone, but its a reason to look into it.



Monday, 14 May 2012

Funny errors along the way!

My daughter will be 3 in July and she's very chatty!  It's been so entertaining to watch her learn language and see the funny mistakes she's made along the way.  A few days ago we were walking to the playground and she said "mom will you carry me, I'm getting a little busy", I was puzzled for a moment before I realized she was telling me she was tired.  I gave her the right word and we continued on.  Yesterday we were out walking again and this time she told my husband that she was "getting a little busy" once I explained what she meant, he told her that she was actually getting a little tired - she agreed that she was a little tired (not busy).  Most toddlers learn language so effortlessly that the mistakes are here today and gone tomorrow, it really is amazing to watch as their little brains learn.  I'm sure when I take my daughter out for a walk again this week, she'll ask me to carry her because she's tired...perhaps what I should really be thinking about is investing in a double stroller so that I'm not pushing a stroller and carrying a toddler!


Friday, 3 February 2012

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

I once had a professor who always said "Repetition is the branding iron of knowledge".  This always made me think of us students as cattle, and our professors as ranchers, searing their most important lessons to our skin.  I don't use that quote with the families I work with, but I do teach this principal all the time.  When children are having a hard time learning to say words, one of the critical things parents and caregivers can do is frequently repeat the important words in that child's environment in a natural way, and without putting pressure on the child to say the word.

When  my daughter was just over a year old, she wasn't yet walking and would frequently pull at the bottom of our pants and lift her arms up to get us to pick her up.  We decided 'up' was an important word for her to learn to say, so whenever she tried to get us to pick her up using her non-verbal communication (pulling on our pant legs and lifting her arms up) we would say "oh up, you want to come up"while reaching down to pick her up.  Eventually, with enough repetition and emphasizing, she started to crawl to our feet and say "uh, uh" which eventually became "up, up."  We didn't cause frustration in her by not giving her what she wanted, but just took the opportunity to model the word she needed over and over again.  Pick a word and give this strategy a try.


Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Place mats – who knew?

Like many of you, I consider meal times to be social times. I try very hard to always be at the table with my kids while they have snacks and meals. Even as young newlyweds, my husband and I made this a priority and we splurged on a beautiful dining room table. But with a toddler eating on this table several times a day it was starting to look pretty banged up and worn out. One day while wandering the aisles of the local dollar store I picked up a couple of placemats that I hoped would solve the problem. They did indeed solve the problem, but I got a lot more than I bargained for!

The length of our mealtimes has now doubled, while my daughter makes up elaborate stories about the characters on the placemats while feeding them bites of her meal. She assigns roles to each of us (daddy is Cindrella, mommy is Snow White) and we have a grand time playing our roles while enjoying our meals together. The Disney princess's placemat is my daughter's favourite, but we also have a zoo animal's placemat that we pull out once in awhile. What I've noticed is that my daughter is learning vocabulary like 'tiara' and 'jewelry' but I'm also watching her creativity shine while she creates stories from the pictures she sees. For $2.00 I opened up a whole new world of learning, without even trying. I'd say it's worth picking up a few children's placemats while you're shopping the dollar store.


Apps. and toddler language development

I must confess, I don't own an fact, I recently checked out an iPad app. that was recommended to me and I had to borrow a friend's iPad to do this!  We recently got a Blackberry Playbook and although there are thousands of apps. for the Playbook versus hundreds of thousands of apps. for the iPad, we find it serves our purposes just fine.

I've downloaded a few apps. for my 2-year-old daughter to check out.  The first was a very simple game where we popped bubbles on the screen.  She loved it, but it would have been more useful in helping her learn language back when she was about 18-months-old and needed to learn to say the word 'pop'.  Could I have got out a bottle of bubbles instead? Absolutely!  But let's face it, our kids are fascinated by those smartphones and tablets that us parents are constantly swiping away at!  Phones and tablets are certainly not meant to replace the fun activities that you do with your child, but there's no harm in letting them do a little playing with you.  They key is that it happens with you.  Just like with any activity - puzzles, bubbles or apps. for your device - if the goal is helping your child develop language, your interaction with them is critical!  Your enthusiasm and expression as well as the words you use are going to be the key elements to your child learning language during any activity.

Why why why? - Toddlers ask questions

Let me share with you a conversation I had with my daughter during a recent trip out of town:
E - What's that?
Me - Irrigation.
E - Why?
Me - To water the crops.
E - Why?
Me - So they can grow well.
E - Why?
Me - Because we live in a dry climate.
E - Why?
Me - (long pause) I don't know.

If you have a toddler at this stage, no doubt at some point during the question asking you've ran out of answers...and possibly patience!  Although the questions can drive you up the wall occasionally, they are an exciting sign of language development.  The ability to ask questions develops along with the develoment of that amazing little toddler brain - as your child learns more about the world, she develops more ability to ask questions about it. 

Some questions are of course easier to ask and understand than others.  Likely, the first question you heard from your child was a simple "What's that?" usually somewhere after 12 months. 'Where' questions are usually learned early as well but are used in a concrete way (eg. "Where's ball?" versus "Where do you want to go?"  "Who" questions often come next followed by "why" questions and finally "when" questions which are the most complicated and abstract questions for a toddler to understand.

Try your best to answer the barrage of questions your toddler asks and model appropriate question-asking for your child so that they learn the correct way to use questions.


Thursday, 19 January 2012

Babies reading lips??

Just the other day, there was a story in the news about babies reading lips while learning to talk.  Check it out:

Us Speech-Language Pathologists have been teaching parents about this for years. Encouraging them to be on the same level as their children (down on the floor if necessary) and face to face.  It's so interesting to see this skill at work with my 3-month-old.  Having mastered the coos and goos, I'm now thinking about the next verbal skill my baby should achieve - the babble (you know the one: bababa, mamama, dadada). I'm now constantly in his face making quiet "bababa" noises.  He gets so excited, kicking his legs, smiling and laughing with glee!  And there it is, his eyes flick from my eyes to my mouth...he's definitely watching what my mouth is doing. I'll have to be patient over the next few months while he figures out what his lips need to do to match mine but he will be babbling soon I'm sure.  Language development is incredible to watch!