Updated: Sep 11, 2020
This month Gia Kuek, a Speech and Language Pathologist and co-creator of the Spokle App, joins us as a guest blogger to discuss the role parents play in helping to develop their children’s language development. Read on the learn how parental involvement is the key to your child’s success.
Our experiences shape our passion, knowledge and ultimately how we can support our families and our communities. When my son got sick and lost his hearing, I was an expat in a country where my family did not speak the local language. At the time, in our adopted home, speech and language therapy was still difficult to find, and when available, it was restrictively expensive.
As a result of the limited resources, the early part of my story as a mum with a son who suddenly had different learning needs was painful, difficult and stressful. But while it wasn’t always an easy journey, my son is now 26 years old, happy, independent, funny, and deaf – and I am a speech therapist dedicated to supporting the global community of parents as they strive to help their children find success.
Parenting is often both rewarding and challenging, littered with struggles and successes. Resources, knowledge and support systems can help families become more resilient, making difficulties more manageable and facilitating our children’s growth and achievement.
The goal of this blog post is to pinpoint three keys to childhood success and to introduce a resource for families with speech and language needs.
For a child with a disability, a lack of language competence typically affects play skills, subsequently impacting social success. Furthermore, children who struggle with social connections are more likely to experience a decrease in mental and emotional wellbeing. Fortunately, research suggests that proactive parental interventions – specifically play, parental involvement and responsive parenting – have a significant positive impact on the development of language competence, social success and emotional health.
Let’s take a quick look at each of these three factors.
The importance of play
Children are born intelligent, thus they need stimulation. Getting your child to explore their environment, alone and with others, increases their capacity to learn. For a child, playing is one of the most important forms of exploration and communication. Joseph Chilton Pearce, author of 13 books sums it up as, “play[ing] is the royal road to childhood happiness and adult brilliance”.
From a child’s point of view, play is an opportunity to experience the freedom to do what they want and have fun. Children utilize this freedom of play to explore boundaries, enabling them to learn, respect and follow rules in a safe and pleasurable environment. An important component of this learning experience, of exploring and setting boundaries, is being able to understand verbal and nonverbal communication. Which brings us to…
How parental involvement in play provides a platform for language development
The foundation of language is developed at home between a child and his or her family. Parents initiate the development of language in a child long before a child can communicate back. For example, practitioners recommend that parents speak with their babies and explain to them what is happening around them even though they cannot understand what is being said. Speaking with your children often as they develop their own use of language as well as listening and reacting in a positive way increases their capacity to communicate effectively throughout life.
Why responsive parenting is key to fostering language skills
There are many ways we can communicate with our children. In my work with families, I encourage parents to increase their responsive communications with their children. A responsive parent reacts immediately when a child is interested in communicating, responding immediately in a positive manner. Responding can come in different forms, including but not limited to comments and questions. For example, when your child says “dog”, you can ask, “Is the dog going to chase the cat?” The child might respond, “yes” which means that he understood your question. If the child responds, “dog go cat”, he’s showing you that he has a vocabulary for the names of the animals and an action word “go”. These interactions reinforce language skills and also boost your child’s confidence.
However, there are questions that are not considered responsive or ideal for language development. These are questions that test your child’s knowledge, such as when a child is playing with a car and an adult asks, “what colour is the car?” The child is aware that you know the answer and if he doesn’t know the answer -confidence deflates and his interactive play and use of language may decrease. Instead of testing your child’s knowledge, it’s better to focus on exploratory language.
Implementing language development strategies
Parents have the greatest impact on language development for their child, but as a speech and language pathologist, I realize that it can be overwhelming for parents to know how to correctly support their child’s language development, especially for children who learn differently. For this reason, and as a result of my personal experiences with limited speech and language therapies for my son, my colleagues and I created Spokle – a speech and language app for families.
The Spokle App gives families a structured program and strategies to make parental involvement in their child’s therapy achievable. It is also a supplementary tool for speech therapists to use in their practice. Spokle focuses on children ages 12 and below who have been diagnosed with hearing loss, language and communication challenges (including autism spectrum disorder, congenital rubella syndrome), and/or children who process sensory information differently.
Spokle App has hundreds of fun and easy activities that families can do every day in 10-15 minutes to work on a goal. The goals and rationale for the activities are clearly stated so that you understand what, how and why you are doing them. Further, parents can track their child’s progress and share those milestones with their chosen professionals.
Spokle can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play store and are available in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, with many more countries to add in the future. For more information, visit our website at www.spokle.com.au or email us at email@example.com.
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Levickis, P., Reilly, S., Girolametto, G., Ukoumunne, O. & Wake, M. (2018). Associations between maternal responsive linguistic input and child language performance at age 4 in a community sample of slow-to-talk toddlers. Child: Care, Health and Development, 44, 776- 783.
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