Summer is in full swing here in Portland and many of you, including me, are probably taking a break from speech therapy...hopefully enjoying days by the pool, trips to the zoo, hiking, biking, all the things. While taking a break from the traditional therapy allows your child a break from the structured routine required during the school year, you'd be surprised by how many opportunities for language development pop up during your summer fun days. So much so, that a couple summers ago I took a couple of my students with language delays on weekly summer field trips around the Portland Metro area. It wasn't technically therapy, but they probably developed more meaningful language skills during those summer trips than during our weekly therapy sessions throughout the school year. Promoting language during activities when your child is highly interested and engaged makes your child more primed, motivated and ready to learn new language concepts. There are 8 basic language strategies that I encourage parents to use in order to promote language. You likely use these strategies already everyday, but research shows that the more frequently and purposefully you use them, the more it leads to language development in young children. Initially, I encourage parents to focus on 1 strategy at a time. Focus on increasing how often and when you use that strategy, and observe what your child's communication response is. The first language strategy is asking open-ended questions.
LANGUAGE STRATEGY #1: ASKING OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS
STRATEGY # 1:
Asking open-ended questions: This is something people do all the time, but being aware of the positive language implications can help us to be more cognizant of how and when we use this strategy throughout the day. An open-ended question is simply a question that allows the receiver to respond in a variety of different ways, thus providing increased opportunities to use rich language. For example, asking, “Is the bear blue?” can only lead to 2 responses (yes or no). Asking, “What color is the bear?” allows for practice with a more varied response and even better, “What does the bear look like?” provides a wonderful opportunity for using new language. Before heading out on your next summer adventure, remind yourself to frame your questions as open-ended questions. If your child is working on spatial concept in therapy, focus on asking WHERE questions. If your child is working on basic vocabulary, focus on asking WHAT questions. In therapy, repeated practice is key. See if you can ask 15-20 open-ended questions during your outing. And remember, asking questions about what your child is already interested in will likely gather the best response and offer the most language practice. Read about the strategy of "following a child's lead," so you can be using 2 strategies at once by noticing where their attention is and asking them an open-ended questions about that point of interest.