Tuesday, June 2, 2015
What we now know about language development
Having a child with hearing loss has taught me so much about language development than I ever thought I would care to know. It not only has helped us understand what Riley is going through with her therapy, but given us the tools to help Emerson develop language and reach her milestones as well. While I am in no way an professional in this field, I can tell you some of the things we have learned along the way.
1. Language is more than talking: There are so many different forms of language: spoken, sign, bilingual, non verbal, conversation and many more I'm sure I'm not aware of. On average, kids have to hear a word 500 times before they will start develop that word in their language. Language is also about having a conversation. When you ask a question, most of the time your voice goes up; Your tone of your voice determines how someone would respond. All of these things are taught at a very young age. Emerson is starting to babble and I talk right with her; she will start and I will jump right in. I make it a conscious effort to talk adult talk and not baby talk; it teaches her about taking turns in conversations.
If I were to give you one tip on language development it is this: whatever language you choose teach your child, it will be their first language. If its sign language, that's great, but remember it could be difficult to teach them English language after that. Their brain will think sign language (or Spanish or French) is their first language and it could be difficult to develop later (could be).
2. Talk: Any talk again. In fact you will talk so much that you can't stand your own voice anymore. If I'm making mac and cheese, my conversation could go like this: Mommy's making macaroni and cheese, stir the water, pour in the milk; milk is white. Shake the cheese, cheese is yellow. cheese is yummy. Smell the cheese, we love cheese. Pour the macaroni in cheese in the sink. Pour it in the pan...etc. I think you get the drift. Describing is all we do and it has helped so much. Sometimes we focus on the nouns in our language (truck, mom, dad, baby) that we forget the verbs, adjectives, and propositions that go into a complete sentence.
3. Hearing vs. Listening: This should actually be number one because it is the most important to us in our therapy. Hearing and language actually come from the brain, not the ear; the ear is a way to the brain so that is what we mainly focus on. I know riley can hear, the audiograms tell us so, but is she listening? I have to give her commands, like "throw the paper in the trash can", without cues of what she should be done. No pointing. If she can throw the paper in the trash can then she is listening. She understands what she should be doing. When we are in a crowded environments or she is babbling on and upset, we stop and I tell her to listen. She will put her finger to her ear and we listen. If she stops and takes herself out of the environment and concentrates on listening, she can calm down and hear what we are asking.
4. Receptive understanding comes first: This pigtails off the last one. If she can understand what the difference between milk and water, or if she wants to wear shorts or a dress, spoken language won't be far behind. We have to give her time to understand things before she can say them. A couple weeks ago we couldn't understand why she wasn't saying "mommy or daddy" but goes on and on about Emmy and the kids at daycare all day. We figured out that we don't say "mommy and daddy" as much as we talk about everyone else. I wont say "daddy hand me the spoon" or "daddy how was your day", in our everyday language so she isn't getting that. We can't assume she knows things that we aren't providing her with.
5. Repeat them instead of correcting them: Riley doesn't have language where a lot of people can understand her yet. So when she says something, I try to correct her by repeating. Ex: If Riley says "dada" or "Emmyson", I will say, "Yes that is daddy" (not dada), or "Emerson" so she can hear the correct way to say it. If I keep talking how she is, then she won't know the correct words for things. Sorry, no nicknames for toys here:)
6. Patience: Language development takes time. A child's first word is something that she can say, in context, without imitation. Emerson saying "dada" when she's crawling around the floor is not in context. If she drops her food and says "uh oh", then that's a word (or language). Riley has about 75 words now!! These are words that she can say without me saying it first. If I hold up an apple and she can say "apple" or some sort of approximation, then that goes on our auditory index as a word.
While we are no where near where we want to be, everyday I see new developments in Riley. I see how she understands so much more and is starting to put two or three word phrases together. She understands how to listen, and use her brain to make decisions based on hearing, not visual.