LOOK WHO’S TALKING! Ganz, “but they can get their point across. When a 3-year-old says ‘Wook at the wabbit,’ understanding her is more important than whether the R and L are correct.” Ganz says to listen for more than whether the sound is spoken correctly. For example, even if the consonant at the beginning of the word is wrong, is there a consonant being articulated at all? Ganz also reassures that it’s not uncommon to see a 5-year-old who still makes some mistakes. When you can’t understand a child, Fisher says, “Take the pressure off and encourage her to try once more.” You can also give her the option to gesture or point so that her message is understood.
BOYS VERSUS GIRLS Ganz is the mother of three boys and she says though there are individual variances, if you look at normative data, girls tend to have larger vocabularies earlier. Girls also tend to be referred less often than boys for speech and language issues. However, Ganz is quick to stress that the outcome down the road does not tend to be significantly different. She explains, “A 2-year-old girl may have more words than a boy but they both still have a lot of words. A toddler girl’s speech may be a little clearer, but once she enters school, those differences tend to be minimized.”
STUTTERING “There’s a difference between what we call normal non fluency and stuttering and it is associated more with stage-of-language than age,” says Ganz. Normal non fluency can happen anywhere from ages 2 to 7. According to the Stuttering Foundation (stutteringhelp.org), “Approximately 5 percent of all children
go through a period of stuttering that lasts six months or more.” Most recover by late childhood, but The Stuttering Foundation reports that about 1 percent experience longterm challenges.
LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES When early language disorders don’t get treated it’s sometimes hard to know who will struggle later. Everyone knows a 2-year-old who didn’t have any words and grew up just fine. Ganz says, “We
WAYS YOU CAN HELP BUILD LANGUAGE
can’t always predict which 2-yearolds who aren’t talking are going to have later language issues or possibly learning disabilities.” Therefore, she stresses, “If there is a problem early on it’s most prudent to treat it.” If left untreated, Fisher says, “It’s definitely harder to fix errors once a habit is formed.” Lettersound recognition is an important part of literacy and when kids start to read and sound out words to spell, their speech errors may work against them. Kids with speech issues may experience psychosocial issues if teased by their peers or if unable to get their point across. “Nobody wants to repeat themselves three times,” says Fisher. A child may deal with high levels of frustration and decide it’s not worth it. Looking further into the future, uncorrected speech issues can make employment difficult if a person is not easily understood. “The biggest thing to remember,” says Fisher, “is you’re the expert on your child.” He stresses, “If you’re concerned, get a referral and talk to someone.” It doesn’t hurt to call and ask. “We’re a lot of fun,” says Fisher. “We don’t give shots. We have fun and we play with toys.” Bonnie Jean Feldkamp is a writer, wife and mom of three kids. Find her on social media @WriterBonnie, or on her website at writerbonnie.com.
1. Use Child Directed Talk. Sometimes called “Motherese,” this melodic, simplified language is something you can do when you talk to Baby. Ganz says the key is to keep her engaged when you’re talking. When you speak to her, simplify your language, slow down, change the inflection of your voice, but don’t change the articulation of the words being spoken. Speak your words correctly. Use correct grammar. When she says something incorrectly, let her hear you say it naturally and correctly. You can still have your nicknames for things based on his adorable errors, but also teach her the real words. 2. Experience screen time together. Yes, screen time should be limited. When a young child does have screen time it should be to watch quality programming with an adult. Treat screen time like you treat a book. Instead of static entertainment, it should be dynamic and prompt conversation. Point to things and ask questions; let her tell you what she likes about what she’s watching.
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3. Read to your baby. There’s so much more you can do with a book than read the words to get through a story. Let her skip pages and talk about the illustrations. Point, giggle, gesture and share in the experience of observation in the illustrations along with the stories and rhymes. Board books with few or no words remove the distraction of the words and let you talk about the story unfolding in pictures. 4. Learn a second language together. If English is not your best language, you may not be teaching your child proper articulation or grammar. Communicate in your stronger language, and learn the second language together. “Typically, kids do remarkably well learning multiple languages at the same time, says Ganz. ”They do develop language differently so their trajectory will be different.” Learning multiple languages while young is a benefit to her development.