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Picture Exchange Communication System - Lumiere Children’s Therapy Chicago

Our previous post, Learning to Talk, outlined the typical development pattern for expressive language. Expressive language is the ability for one to communicate wants and needs, socialize, and interact with their environment through words, gestures, and nonverbal communication. For children with a language delay or an expressive language disorder secondary to an underlying diagnosis, a picture exchange system may assist in the development of expressive language. The picture exchange system can offer a bridge between communicating with gestures or signs to verbal communication. It may also help a child develop the necessary skills to operate a high tech Augmentative Alternative Communication Device (AAC).

Picture Exchange Communication System, often referred to as PECS, is a program of picture representations for common objects, actions, and thoughts. A person can initiate conversation using PECS to communicate their wants and needs without verbally speaking. It allows children to communicate with others even if they do not have the necessary verbal skills.



What is Picture Exchange Communication System?

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) was developed by Andy Bondy, PhD, and Lori Frost, MS, CCC-SLP in 1985 as a system used with preschool students diagnosed with autism. The goal of the program was to teach children how to self-initiate functional communication. Based on the success of the program, it is used with many learners with various communicative, cognitive, and physical difficulties of all ages. PECS is a six phase program that emerges from single word requests to building of sentence structures. There have been several studies that confirm that implementing PECS can help children develop verbal language, as well as decrease negative behaviors associated with language delays.



Who would be appropriate for PECS?

PECs is an approach used for nonverbal children. If your child consistently uses words, although limited, this system may not be the first choice in treatment. The following would indicate if your child would be a good candidate for a picture exchange system. 

  • Intentional communicator: In order to effectively use a communicate exchange, a child needs to want to communicate with others either through pointing, gestures, bringing caregivers to desired objects, or communicate through facial expression. 

    • Example: Jenny wants a chocolate chip cookies, so she directs dad into the kitchen and points to the cabinet with cookies. 

    • If a child does not involve the caregiver when trying to obtain an object, they may not be ready for a picture exchange program. The first step in this scenario would be to gain joint attention. Joint attention is when the child and caregiver are actively focused on the same object/activity. 

  • Preferences/motivation.  In order to understand the power of a picture exchange system, the child needs to be fully motivated for what they are receiving in return. When first teaching PECs, food, favorite toys, and motivating activities (slide, swing, etc) are most frequently used as motivation to communicate through pictures.

    • Example: Eric loves to build with legos. Parent will hold box of legos and give Eric one lego after every request. Eric is motivated to continue to use PECS to get more lego pieces. 

    • If a child has weak or no preferences, then PECs may not be appropriate. Preferences can be determined through trial and error of different foods, toys, and activities.

  • Discrimination of picture. Although picture discrimination is not a definite prerequisite of picture exchange system, it can enhance progress. As PECs continues to be implemented into daily routines, children will begin to learn which pictures correspond with the matching toys, food, activities, etc. If a child advances quickly with PECS, they may be more appropriate for an AAC high tech device. 



How is PECS implemented?

PECs is taught by a certified, trained speech language pathologist (SLP) but involves a caregiver or teacher as part of the team. The SLP becomes certified in PECS by attending a two day training. The SLP will be the primary PECS program coordinator for a child but it can be beneficial if caregivers attend the two-day training as well. Caregivers may include parents/family members, classroom teachers, and classroom assistants. Here is a list of training workshops available across states. PECS can be taught by the SLP in a therapy clinic, home setting with early intervention, and/or school or daycare. As the child and parent progresses in their knowledge and training of PECs, it should be used in all activities in their everyday activities. During phase stage, the goal is approximately 80 picture exchanges each day. 



Stages of PECS: 

In the early stages of PECs, there are three people in the training situation. The child, the person who receives the pictures (mom or teacher), and the facilitator who assists the child (speech therapist). Eventually, the facilitator is phased out of the training. 

  • PECS PHASE I: How to Communicate 

The first phase lays the foundation for exchanging single pictures for desired toys or activities. Receiver entices the child with the preferred object or food. As the child reaches for the desired object, the facilitator can assist the child to pick up the picture and hand to the receiver. The receiver does not say anything until receiving the picture. Once they receive the picture, they can say “ball, you want ball”.

  • PECS PHASE II: Distance and Persistence 

Phase II continues to target single pictures but in a variety of places, communication partners, and at greater distances from their field of view. It also teaches the child to become more persistent and consistent with communicating wants and needs. The facilitator is still present, and intervenes when necessary, but the child should be more independent in this stage.

  • PECS PHASE III: Picture Discrimination 

In this phase, two or more pictures are used at a time. The caregiver would present two or more pictures for a child to choose their desired object. The pictures are compiled into a communication book such as a ring binder for easy access by the child. 

  • PECS PHASE IV: Sentence Structure

The child learns to construct simple sentences with a sentence strip using “I want” picture with desired picture following.

  • PECS PHASE V: Answering Questions 

At this point, the child can learn to use PECS to answer questions such as “What do you want to play?” or “What do you want to eat”. 

  • PECS PHASE VI: Commenting 

The final phase of PECS is using pictures to make comments or respond to questions in their environment. They learn to create sentences starting with functional phrase strips I see, I hear, I feel, It is a, etc. 



How does PECs help develop verbal language?

In the previous post, Learning to Talk, a list of seven prerequisites to verbal language were described with at-home strategies. Three of the prerequisites align with the foundation of a picture exchange system. 

  1. Adequate attention and joint attention. Joint attention is when a child is focused on the same item or activity as the communicator or parent.

    1. Joint attention is necessary for a child to understand the concept of PECs. PECs requires the child to establish joint attention between the communication partner and their desired object or action. 

  2. Understands words and commands. 

    1. Before a child can effectively use verbal language, they need adequate receptive language skills. Receptive language is the ability to understand and comprehend language. Receptive language involves the identification of pictures. PECs encourages children to identify an action or object with a corresponding picture. It increases the child’s recognition and labeling of common objects and actions, improving one’s receptive language skills. 

  3. Communicates wants and needs with gestures and/or pointing. Children learn to communicate and engage with caregivers before verbal language typically emerges. Children may smile when they get something they want, point towards desired objects, or carry toys to caregiver. These are all forms of expressive language. PECs helps facilitate non-verbal expressive language by giving the child resources to communicate wants and needs to caregivers. It teaches the concept that requesting for an object/action results in receiving desired item. PECS encourages the concept of cause and effect. 



As a child develops these necessary skills through a picture exchange system, they are reinforcing the development of communicating for wants and needs. The caregiver is modeling the verbal production of each picture exchange providing more opportunities for modeling. For example, if Noah brings a picture of a ball to his mom, mom will state “ball, want ball”. Noah is receiving verbal modeling of the word ball to picture multiple times. 

If you feel your child would be an appropriate candidate for a picture exchange system, contact Lumiere Children’s Therapy. At Lumiere Children’s Therapy, we have therapist certified in the program to help your child communicate their wants and needs across all environments.




References:

“Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)® |.” Pyramid Educational Consultants, pecsusa.com/pecs/.

“The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).” The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), www.nationalautismresources.com/the-picture-exchange-communication-system-pecs/.

Vicker, B. (2002). What is the Picture Exchange communication System or PECS? The Reporter, 7(2), 1-4, 11.




Lumiere Children's Therapy Chicago: Mastering Gross Motor Milestones

Reaching and mastering gross motor skill milestones, is vital for proper child development. The following explains the five sequential milestones (tummy time, rolling, sitting, crawling and walking) and tips to help your child achieve them.

David Precious

David Precious

Tummy Time

Tummy time is important for your child to develop strength in his neck muscles. Neck muscle strength is important for your child to begin holding his head upright and in the middle, and contributes to his ability to roll over, sit, crawl and walk.

If your child seems fussy on their tummy, this is because it is a difficult position for your child. It is similar to an adult version of a plank— very difficult! Tummy time looks different each month of development, depending on your child’s age and level of strength, call Lumiere Children’s Therapy or attend one of our parent trainings to learn more about developmental positions and motor milestones.

Where can I do tummy time?

You can do tummy time on a blanket or foam mat on the floor, over your chest facing you while you are laying down, over your lap or carrying the child on his/her tummy across your forearms.

What should my baby look like in tummy time?

Tummy time looks different at each month of age. Initially in the first month, your baby will barely be able to lift his head off the surface to rest his cheek. Then, closer to 3-4 months you child will be able to lift his up further and further until it is at a right angle to his back. By 5-6 months, your child will start to push up on his hands with straight elbow. Then, it’s time to start pivoting and belly crawling.

Tummy Time Tips

  • Always supervise your child during tummy time. Get on the floor with your child so he/she is motivated to lift his/her head

  • Use a mirror, rattles, music-playing toys, or bubbles

  • Sing to your child during tummy time

  • Begin tummy time early on, as early as a week old!

  • Start in 2-5 minute increments and work your way up to total 60 minutes a day.

  • Perform exercises when your baby is the most energized and ready to play, such as after your baby has slept, eaten, and has a clean diaper, to ensure your baby is the best mood to “exercise”!

  • Note: some babies will need to wait an hour after eating before tummy time to minimize spitting up, especially babies with reflux. Ask your doctor about specifics if your baby has reflux.

  • Use a fun tummy time mat a comfortable tummy time mat will motivate your baby to stay on his tummy, engage in the toy, and be comfortable! Fisher-Price Deluxe Kick 'n Play Piano Gym or a water mat will also motivate your baby to perform tummy time! Hoovy Baby Inflatable Water Play Mat


Rolling

When should my baby be rolling?

Babies typically roll from back to belly around 4-6 months, and belly to back ~3-5 months. However, this is a range, and every child is different!

How can I help my baby roll?

There are a few fun activities that you can do with your baby to encourage rolling:

  • Reaching for feet: Rolling from back to belly requires quite a bit of core strength, so a great place to start is by encouraging your child to reach for his feet to really engage his core muscles.  You can do this by placing rings on your child’s feet to encourage him to reach up towards his feet to grab the rings. You may have to help him at first, but once he is able to do so let him do it more and more on his own until he does it on his own.

  • Reaching to one side: With your child on their back, use a toy to guide your child to look to one side and encourage him to reach for the toy by reaching across his body and rolling to his side. Sometimes you have to move the toy farther than you think to get him to reach!

  • Assisted rolling: Once your baby is reaching across his body for a toy, you can help your baby to his side by assisting at his hip. This helps teach him how to complete the motion with both his upper and lower body together. As he continues to gain strength, you can gradually decrease your support until he rolls on his own!  

  • Tummy time: The more comfortable and strong your baby is in tummy time, the more your baby will want to roll and tolerate floor time. Read above for tips on tummy time!

When and why would my baby need physical therapy to help with rolling?

Babies are all different and can develop at slightly different times, and that is okay! If your baby is showing any of the following “red flags” listed below, it might be a good idea to ask a physical therapist for an evaluation. (However, these are child specific. Call our and ask to speak with a physical therapist with any questions):

  • Not reaching with arms for toys at 6 months on back

  • Not able to lift head up in tummy time at 3 months

  • Not rolling back to belly by 8 or 9 months

  • Only reaching with one arm

  • Only rolling to one side

Additionally, your child may have another medical diagnosis that will make meeting motor milestones tougher, and a physical therapist can educate parents on treatment ideas and home exercises to teach your baby the motor plan to roll, as well as strengthen muscles!


Sitting

When should my baby be sitting?

Babies can begin prop-sitting while leaning on hands as early as 4 months, however while having a caregiver close by to assist with balance. Babies typically can sit on their own between 6-8 months. However, this is a range, and every child is different!


How can I help my baby sit?

There are a few fun activities that you can do with your baby to encourage sitting:

  • Prop-sitting: Hold your child around his trunk and help him lean forward onto his arms. At first, your child may only be able to do this for a few seconds at a time, but it builds arm strength! Work up to 30 seconds, then 1-2 minutes at a time, to your child’s tolerance. At first, your child will place his hands in front of his feet (around 4 months). As your child gets stronger, his arms will move closer to his knees (around 5 months), then hips, then he may place his hands on his own legs until he can sit without his arms (around 6-7 months). As your child gains strength, continue to sit close by and assist your child as needed.

  • Assisted sitting: Hold you child around his trunk and decrease your assist until your child can sit on his own. You can place toys directly in front of him to encourage him to sit up straight and lean his hands on a toy if needed.

Note: Babies do not gain the reflex to catch themselves on their arm from falling sideways until 6-7 months, and they do not gain the reflect to catch themselves on their arm from falling backwards until 10 months. Always be nearby and ready to catch your child from falling when practicing sitting exercises.

  • Tummy time: Similar to rolling, the more comfortable and strong your baby is in tummy time, the more your baby will have the core strength to sit. Read Part 1 for more tips on tummy time!



Toys for sitting

Cube activity Center: A vertical surface such as a large cube is great to provide some support for your child to place his hands on, and also encourage an upright trunk. Check it out here

Shape Sorter: A larger type toy is helpful to provide some support for your child to put his hands on as he learns to sit. Once he is sitting on his own, it encourages reaching and manipulating toys to further challenge balance in sitting. Check it out here


When and why would my baby need physical therapy to help with sitting?

Babies are all different and can develop at slightly different times, and that is okay! If your baby is showing any of the following “red flags” listed below, it might be a good idea to ask a physical therapist for an evaluation. (However, these are child specific. Call our and ask to speak with a physical therapist with any questions):

  • Not able to sit on his own by 8 months reach for toys on belly at 7 or 8 months

  • Not able to prop-sit while leaning on his hands by 7-8 months

  • Not able to sit upright when he sits (leaning to one side)

Additionally, your child may have another medical diagnosis that will make meeting motor milestones tougher, and a physical therapist can educate parents on treatment ideas and home exercises to teach your baby the balance to sit, as well as strengthen muscles!

Crawling

When should my baby be crawling?

Babies typically begin pivoting in a circle on their belly around 6-7 months, belly crawling forward on their belly between 7-9 months, and crawling forward on hands and knees around 8-10 months. However, this is a range, and every child is different!

How can I help my baby crawl?

There are a few fun activities that you can do with your baby to encourage crawling:

  • Sitting to belly: Once your child is able to sit on their own, its time to start introducing weight shifting to transition to his stomach. To do this,  start in sitting and you can lean your child to one side to lean on one arm while reaching towards a toy with his opposite arm. Then guide him up and over his leg and onto his belly.  Make sure to have him go over his side to protect his hips. This strengthens his arms and core and helps them learn how to shift his weight from side to side.

  • Kneeling at a surface: Next, help him kneel at a surface or a a low step to encourage weight-bearing on his knees in a modified crawling position. This a great place to practice lifting one arm to reach for a toy, to simulate reaching forward on all fours when crawling.

  • Rocking on all fours: You can also help him rock on all fours to help them slowly build strength in his core and arms. As he begins to get into all fours on his own (typically anywhere from 5-9 months) you can provide support at his trunk and legs to help him rock back and forth. Once he gets stronger, you can support his trunk and help him crawl forward as he moves his arms.

  • Tummy time: Similar to rolling and sitting, the more comfortable and strong your baby is in tummy time, the more your baby will want to pivot and crawl! Read Part 1 for more tips on tummy time!

When and why would my baby need physical therapy to help with crawling?

Babies are all different and can develop at slightly different times, and that is okay! If your baby is showing any of the following “red flags” listed below, it might be a good idea to ask a physical therapist for an evaluation. (However, these are child specific. Call our and ask to speak with a physical therapist with any questions):

  • Not able to reach for toys on belly at 7 or 8 months

  • Not trying to pivot on belly or move position on belly at 7-8 months

  • Not rolling back to belly by 8 or 9 months

  • Only reaching with one arm

  • Only rolling to one side

Additionally, your child may have another medical diagnosis that will make meeting motor milestones tougher, and a physical therapist can educate parents on treatment ideas and home exercises to teach your baby the motor plan to crawl, as well as strengthen muscles!


Walking

When should my baby be walking?

Babies can begin walking between 10-14 months. However, this is a range, every child is different, and this depends on their motor milestone acquisition thus far!

How can I help my baby walk?

There are a few fun activities that you can do with your baby to encourage walking. Always stand close by with your hands out during such exercises to catch your child from falling if necessary:

  • Assisted cruising: Once your child is able to pull to stand and stand at a support surface, you can start teaching him to move on his feet by stepping sideways to cruise along a table, coffee table, or ottoman. The surface can be about the height of your child’s chest. Once he has mastered cruising, you can encourage larger steps by having him cruise between two support surfaces at a 90 or 180 degree angle. Gradually, you can increase the distance between the surfaces to make it more challenging.

  • Reaching in standing: Walking incorporates both balance and coordination, and a great way to target this is by practicing weight shifting while standing. You can start by having your child stand with his back against a couch or wall, and practice reaching forward or sideways. You can do this by having him reach for a toy or pop bubbles, whatever interests him. You can also have him hold onto the toy as you for another way to help him gain balance in standing with decreased assistance.

  • Walking practice: Practice taking steps by holding your child around his trunk and walking/kneeling behind them. This promotes proper alignment while walking.  When your child can stand on his own >20-30 seconds at at time, he is likely ready to start taking steps. Stand a few feet away from him to encourage him to walk to you. You can start by holding his hand, or holding the same toy, then fade assist as he gains strength and confidence!

  • Squatting: When your child can stand at a surface, hold objects at the height of his knee to encourage him to bend down and pick up an object, then return to standing. Both knees should bend, and this strengthens his muscles! As he gets stronger, you can hold the object lower and lower until the object is on the floor. Make sure to do this to both sides.

  • Tummy time: Similar to rolling, the more comfortable and strong your baby is in tummy time, the more your baby will have the core strength to sit. Read Part 1 for more tips on tummy time!

Walking tips

  • Start with your child barefoot so your child can feel the ground and use his toes for balance.

  • Use positive praise and get excited for your child so he stays positive!

  • Use bubbles or a fun toy to distract him!

  • Note: Some children may need some support in their shoes to add some stability to assist in standing and walking. A physical therapist can assess your child’s foot alignment to determine if an insert or brace is indicated.


When and why would my baby need physical therapy to help with walking?

Babies are all different and can develop at slightly different times, and that is okay! If your baby is showing any of the following “red flags” listed below, it might be a good idea to ask a physical therapist for an evaluation. (However, these are child specific. Call our and ask to speak with a physical therapist with any questions):

  • Not standing at a surface by 12-14 months

  • Not cruising along a surface at 16 months

  • Refusing to bear weight through legs at 10 months

  • Standing/cruising on tip-toes

Additionally, your child may have another medical diagnosis that will make meeting motor milestones tougher, and a physical therapist can educate parents on treatment ideas and home exercises to give your baby strength and confidence to walk!

Thank you for reading our motor milestone series! If this blog post has sparked any questions about your child’s development, feel free to call our office to speak to a physical therapist! We also offer two “mom and tot” classes about teaching your child to move, listed below. Call our office at 312.242.1665 to try a class!



PARENT/TOT CLASSES

BUDDING BABIES* (ages 4-10 months)

Your baby may not be crawling yet but there’s lots they’re learning – and you can help! Learn how to position your baby to build strength and develop stability. Explore the senses and support visual and auditory development with tummy time, rolling and other key exercises. This class includes parent discussion time to help learn about your child's development.

*Parent Involvement Required

WEE WALKERS* (ages 11-22 months)

As your baby becomes vertical, a whole new world of wonder is revealed. Play environments are vital to encourage discovery, problem solving, balance and coordination. Parents learn to understand how their infant interacts and communicates with them and others.

*Parent Involvement Required

www.lumierechild.com

Lumiere Children’s Therapy: Learning to Talk

Mama, Dada, go, ball, and hi are all common first words you may hear your child say between 12-15 months old. Hearing your child say their first word is not only exciting, but helpful to be able to attend to your child’s wants and needs. Although each child develops language skills at different rates, delayed expressive language skills are usually first noticed by families.

Expressive language is the ability to communicate thoughts through words, gestures, and/or facial expressions. Expressive language allows one to communicate their wants and needs, socialize with others and interact in their environment. In order for a child to begin expressing themselves with words, there are a number of prerequisite skills that need to be mastered.

Prerequisites to talking

  • Exploration of the environment. Children should be constantly reacting to situations in their surroundings such as noises, lights, people, and activities. Reacting to others and new experiences are core features of communication.

    Strategies to try at home: Interact with your child in new ways to encourage exploration. Bang on pots and pans in the kitchen during meal prep, let your child ring the doorbell when walking in the house, or make a light show with flashlights. Be creative while incorporating music, sounds, visuals, and familiar faces!

  • Acknowledges others during play. Communication involves at least two people, so learning how to interact with another person is a necessary component. Children should want to be around others and react to interactions initiated by others.

    • Strategies to try at home: Get on the floor and play with your child! Initiate interactions by taking a turn on a puzzle, bumping your toy car into his, or stacking a block on his tower. Let your child acknowledge your interaction by imitating or responding in their own way. Continue to model interactive play with your child as often as possible.

  • Adequate attention and joint attention. Child should be able to remain on a single toy or activity for at least five minutes. Joint attention is when a child is focused on the same item or activity as the communicator or parent.

    • Strategies to try at home: To increase attention to asks, set a visual timer for two to three minutes on a chosen toy before they are able to pick a new activity. Instead of time increments, set a number of turns before moving to a new activity such as three puzzle pieces, three car races, or three items on Mr. Potato Head. In order to improve joint attention, be sure to sit at your child’s level and in their line of vision.Show your child that you are interacting with the same object by pointing, naming, and interacting with the same toy.

  • Demonstrates age-appropriate play skills. Language skills are most often learned through play in early development. Learning opportunities are frequent during pretend play, and while using interactive toys and early concept toys such as animals and play food. Playing with toys appropriately is required in order to use play to learn language. This may look like a child racing a car, pretending to stir a pot, or placing blocks on top of each other.

    • Strategies to try at home: Play with toys that require the child to interact, instead of watching it do something (i.e. light-up toys, ipads). Examples of good toys include puzzles, blocks, dolls, play kitchen and animal figurines. Model appropriate play with toys and encourage your child to imitate.

  • Understands words and commands. In order to use language to communicate, a child must understand language. This includes following simple requests such as “throw the ball” or “bring me book”, identifying pictures in books, or grabbing a named object in a group of three or more.

    • Strategies to try at home: If your child has difficulty following directions, give a verbal command first and then model the action. During routine activities such as getting dressed, brushing teeth, or leaving the house, give specific and consistent commands such as “put on your coat” or “open the door”.

  • Begins to imitate sounds, gestures, or facial expressions. Mimicking gestures teaches the concept of learning language through imitation without the pressure to use words. A child should learn to copy funny faces, clapping, waving, high-fiving, and other common gestures before being expected to imitate words.

    • Strategies to try at home: Sing nursery rhymes and do the gestures along with it such as Itsy Bitsy Spider, The Wheels on the Bus, and Pat-a-Cake. For facial expression, sit in front of the mirror and make funny faces such as sticking out your tongue. During social activities, encourage your child to wave to people they see and high-five family and friends.

  • Communicates wants and needs with gestures and/or pointing. Children will often learn to point to request objects before using words. Finding ways to express wants and needs by pointing, grabbing, or leading, is a way of nonverbal communication.

    • Strategies to try at home: If your child is wanting food or a toy, hold up two options and give the prompt, “what do you want?” Encourage your child to point by modeling the gesture. Teaching baby signs is a great way to facilitate non-verbal language as well. Start with teaching the signs for more, all done, and eat.

Once your child has developed the prerequisite skills for language develop, they will start to babble, imitate sounds, and use words for communicative purposes. The typical milestones for language develop are listed below. If your child is a late-talking, the months will vary but the hierarchy of skills will be relatively similar.



Typical Expressive Language Development


3-6 months

  • Makes pleasure sounds such as cooing and gooing

  • Smiles at familiar faces

  • Vocalizes to express anger

  • Initiates “talking” by playing with new sounds

  • Whines with manipulative purpose or cries for different needs

  • Laughs



4-6 months

  • Babbles with different sounds including p, b, and m

  • Vocalizes excitement and anger

  • Makes raspberries or gurgling sounds



6-9 months

  • Vocalizes four different syllables

  • Vocalizes two-syllable combination, example “uh oh”

  • Makes noises during play

  • Attempts to sings along with familiar song

  • Shouts or vocalizes to gain attention



9-12 months

  • Says mama or dada meaningfully

  • Repeats different consonant and vowel combinations

  • Imitates environment sounds such as car beep, animal sounds, or fire engine siren



12-15 months

  • Says or imitates between eight to 10 words independently

  • Imitates new words frequently

  • Says three animal sounds

  • Combines vocalizations and gestures when asking for an object (pointing and saying “milk”)

  • Babbles with adult-like intonation and occasional words



15-18 months

  • Child produces 15 words consistently

  • Uses words more than gestures

  • Begins to ask questions such as “what’s that?”

  • Child will name objects on request

  • Uses a variety of early consonant sounds like p, b, t, d, n, m, and h


18-21 months

  • Uses words frequently

  • Will imitate two-three word phrases such as “help me” or “want more please”

  • Child will occasionally produce two word phrases on their own


How to Encourage Language Development after First Words

After your child starts saying words, you may feel the progress of new vocabulary is slow. Modeling language, creating opportunities, and setting expectations are important to grow your child’s expressive language vocabulary. Below are a list of strategies to implement at home to improve your child’s use of words.


  • Narrate everything. During play, routines, and daily activities, narrate what you and your child are doing. Use simple, concrete nouns (dog, milk, cookie) and common verbs (go, eat, drink) in short phrases. If your child speaks in one word sentences, use two to three word sentences when narrating.

    • What does it look like? When getting dressed, mom says “Grace zips coat”. During mealtimes, dad says “I cut apple”.



  • Create language opportunities. Provide opportunities by holding toys back during play to encourage your child to request more of activities or specific items.

    • What does it looks like? Play with toys that have multiple parts such as legos, puzzles, blocks, sorting cube, and piggy bank. Parent holds the toy parts and hands each part after your child requests items with a word.  

Parent: “What do you want?”

Child: No response

Parent: “More”

Child: “More”

*Parent gives child one item*

If your child does not imitate word after two attempts, provide the toy so he or she does not become frustrated.


  • Wait. Parents know what their child wants without them having to verbally request with a word. Instead of automatically putting your child’s coat on or giving him the preferred toy, allow a period of wait time. Silently look at what your child wants, and wait for your child to request item. If your child does not say the item, give him a verbal model. If your child still doesn’t say the word after giving a prompt, give the item to your child.


    • What does it look like?

Parent: *silently looking at item”

Child: No response

Parent: “What do you want?”

Child: No response

Parent: “Ball”

Child: “Ball”

*Parent gives ball*



  • Give choices.  Providing two options to children forces them to communicate the object/activity they prefer. During meal times, hold up a preferred food (goldfish) and non-preferred food (carrot) then ask your child which one they want.  During play time, hold up two toys such as puzzle or ball.


    • What does it look like?

Parent: *Holds broccoli and goldfish*

Parent: “Which one do you want?”

Child: *Points to goldfish”

Parent: “Fish”

Child: “Fish”

*Parent gives fish*

  • Make it fun. Most importantly, make language development fun! The best way to do this is play with your child at their level. Teach them unique ways to play with your toys by making forts, pretend play, or setting up a picnic for all the stuffed animals. Children learn by imitating caregivers so continue to model phrases, play, and interaction with others.


Every child develops language at their own pace, but if you feel your child is significantly behind based on the typical milestone chart provided contact Lumiere Children’s Therapy for a language evaluation from one of our speech therapists.





References:

ChildTalk. “Child Talk.” How Many Words Should My Child Be Saying? A Quick Guide To Vocabulary Development, 1 Jan. 1970, www.talkingkids.org/2013/01/using-self-talk-and-parallel-talk-to.html.


Laura. “CHART 11 Skills Toddlers Master Before Words Emerge from Let's Talk About Talking.” Teachmetotalk.com, 28 May 2018, teachmetotalk.com/2018/04/18/chart-11-skills-toddlers-master-before-words-emerge-from-lets-talk-about-talking/.


Mattingly, Rhonda. “Typical Development .” Early Language Development . Early Language Development , 2016, Louisville, University of Louisville .


Mize, Laura. “11 Skils Toddlers Master Before Words Emerge.” Teach Me to Talk , Laura Mize, M.S., CCC-SLP, teachmetotalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/CHART-of-11-Skills-Toddlers-Master-Before-Words-Emerge-from-Laura-Mize-and-teachmetotalk.com_.pdf.

Rossetti, Louis. Rossetti Infant-Toddler Language Scale a Measure of Communication and Interaction. Pro-Ed, Distributor, 2006.

“The Effectiveness of Language Facilitation.” Leader Live - Happening Now in the Speech-Language-Hearing World, 29 May 2015, blog.asha.org/2014/05/22/the-effectiveness-of-language-facilitation/.


Lumiere Children’s Therapy: Asking and Answering Questions

“Hi, how are you doing?”

“I’m doing well, just got back from vacation”

“Where did you go?”

“Florida”

“Nice. Who did you go with?”

“My daughter”

“How did you get there”

“We drove.”


The above dialogue is an example of a typical conversation between two people discussing a recent vacation. The person asking the questions is showing interest and gaining more information by asking informative questions. The person answering questions is providing additional information about their trip by adequately answering the questions. Asking and answering questions appropriately is an important skill in order to participate in social conversation with others and build relationships.  It also aids in comprehension of spoken and/or written language by learning information through the form of questions and demonstrating understanding by answering comprehension questions.



What is Involved in Asking and Answering Questions?

Steps to adequately answer questions include:

  1. Hearing the question correctly

  2. Thinking about the meaning by deciphering the difference between who, what, where, when, why, and how

  3. Understanding the meaning or context

  4. Forming a suitable answer

  5. Articulate the answer in a grammatically correct sentence


Steps to adequately asking questions include:

  1. Determining the information you would like to receive

  2. Formulating a cohesive, grammatically correct question in your head

  3. Articulating the question to another person using adequate social skills

There is a hierarchy for answering and asking questions during development. “What” questions are the easiest to learn, use, and answer in language development. “Where” questions are next, followed by “who” questions. Lastly, the hardest questions to answer are “when” and “why”. When teaching children how to answer questions, start with “What” and “where” questions until fully mastered.


Milestones for Asking and Answering Questions

1-2 years old:

Answering:

  • Answers simple “what” questions like “what’s that?” while pointing at common objects

  • Answers simple “where” questions by pointing to objects or pictures in a book, such as “where are your shoes?”

  • Responds to yes/no questions with a nod or word

Asking:

  • Starts to add rising intonation to the end of phrases to indicate questions. For instance, “cookie?” may stand for, “Can I have a cookie?”

  • May start to ask “what’s that?” to unknown objects



2-3 years old:


Answering

  • Point to objects when described in questions such as “where do you sleep?” or “What do you wear on your feet?”

  • Answers simple wh-questions (what, where, who) logically

  • Follows directions when asked “Can you..” such as, “Can you give me the brush?”

Asking

  • Asks basic “where”, “what”, and “what are you doing”.. questions independently, “Where daddy?”



3-4 years old:

Answering

  • Appropriately answers more complex /wh/ questions such as “who”, “what”, “where”, “when”, and “how”

  • Answers questions about objects function such as “what do we do with a towel?”

  • Answers hypothetical questions. For instance, “If your sick, where do you go?”

Asking

  • Uses correct syntax while phrasing questions such as “where is sister going?” instead of “sister going where?”

  • Starts to ask “why” questions about everyday life

  • Asks the following types of questions using correct grammar:

    • Early infinitive “Do you want to go to the zoo?”

    • Future “Are we going to school?”

    • Modal can/may “Can I use the bathroom?”



4 years old:

Answering

  • At this age, children should appropriately answer all wh-questions including “when” questions. For instance, “when do you brush your teeth?”

Asking

  • Asks questions using age-appropriate structure including “ Can I…”, “Do you want to…”, and “Are we going…”


Activities to Try at Home:

  • For 1-2 year olds, asking questions should remain at the basic level. Line up favorite toys or household items and ask the child to name each by asking “What’s that?” Play with animal figurines and ask your children, “What sound does a pig make?” and so on. Books are great to use so that children can point to the answers for “What’s that” questions. First 100 Words by Roger Priddy is a favorite book of speech therapists.

  • In order to work on yes/no questions, ask preferential questions in that format. For instance, “Do you want yogurt? Yes or no?”. Nod your head accordingly while saying yes versus no so that your child fully understands.

  • Car rides provide ample time to address “wh” questions revolving daily activities. If headed to the grocery store, questions may include “Where do we go to buy food?”, “What should we buy for breakfast”, or “Where do they keep the milk?”. After school, ask more specific questions about the day, “What did you eat for lunch?”, “Who did you sit next to in class?”, or “Where did you play during recess?”.

  • Make a wh- poster board. Split the poster into thirds (what, where, who) or fourths (what, where, who, when) depending on your child’s age. Look through old magazines and cut out pictures to glue into the corresponding spots. “What” pictures may include clothing, food, or toys. “Where” pictures would include indoor or outdoor places. “Who” pictures would be people. “When” pictures can feature seasons, holidays, or time of day.

  • Create your own story books. First, decide what the story is going to be about (vacation, dance class, school, shopping, getting a pet, etc). Next, ask your child questions about the story in order to write a plot, such as “Who is the story about”, “Where are they going?”, “What are they doing there?”, “When does it take place?”, and “How does it end”. Have your child draw a picture on each page to go along with the text.

  • For older children, games can be used to encourage asking questions. The following games encourage the development of asking and answering questions.

Reading Comprehension Milestones

As children enter school-age, asking and answering question skills are applied to reading comprehension. Children begin to understand what they are reading through determining the elements of a story (character, setting, plot, main idea, rising action, and resolution). Below outlines a typical development of reading comprehension skills, and strategies to aid in development to try at home.

Kindergarten (5 years old)

  • Kindergarteners can start to retell details of a story read out loud by stating the who, what, when, where, and why of the plot

  • Children can retell the main idea of simple stories

  • Children can arrange story events in sequential order

  • They are able to answer simple “what” questions about the story read to them

First and Second Grade (6-7 years old)

  • Children are able to read simple, familiar stories themselves

  • Answer questions about a story that requires them to think about what they have read

  • Demonstrate understanding of a story through drawings

  • Children can create their own stories by organizing thoughts in a logical sequence of beginning, middle, and end

Second and Third Grade (7-8 year old)

  • Children are able to read longer books independently

  • Able to identify unfamiliar words through context and pictures

  • Apply reading skills to writing skills by forming complete paragraphs


Fourth through Eighth Grade (9-13)

  • Able to read and explore variety of texts including narratives, poetry, fiction, and biographies

  • Identify the elements of the story such as time, setting, characters, plot, problem and resolution

  • Analyze texts for meanings, use inferencing skills, and make predictions.

Strategy for Home

Make reading a part of your daily routine, whether it is a book in the morning, after school, or before bed. Stop periodically throughout the book to check for comprehension by asking “What is happening?”, “Who is this about?”, and “What do you think will happen next?”. For younger children, fold paper into three creases and have the child draw three pictures to represent the story.

If your child demonstrates difficulty answering or asking questions or seems behind on the language development milestones, Lumiere Children’s Therapy can provide the appropriate intervention to improve language skills.

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References:

“Asking and Answering Questions.” Speech And Language Kids, www.speechandlanguagekids.com/questions-resource-page/.

Lanza, Janet R, and Lynn K Flashive. “Question Answering and Asking Milestones.” Parent Resources Blog, LinguiSystems, Inc., 2008, parentresourcesblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/questions-development.pdf.

Morin, Amanda. “Reading Skills: What to Expect at Different Ages.” Understood.org, \www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/signs-symptoms/age-by-age-learning-skills/reading-skills-what-to-expect-at-different-ages.

“Reading Milestones (for Parents).” Edited by Cynthia M. Zettler-Greeley, KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, June 2018, kidshealth.org/en/parents/milestones.html.

Spivey, Becky L. “How to Help Your Child Understand and Produce ‘WH’ Questions.” Super Duper Handy Handouts, 2006 Super Duper Publications, 2006, www.superduperinc.com/handouts/pdf/110_wh_questions.pdf.

“Teaching Your Toddler to Answer Questions - Receptive and Expressive Language Delay Issues.” Teachmetotalk.com, 13 Sept. 2017, teachmetotalk.com/2008/02/26/techniques-to-work-on-answering-questions-with-language-delayed-toddlers/.

“Why Is Asking and Answering Questions Important?” ABC Pediatric Therapy, 11 Mar. 2018, www.abcpediatrictherapy.com/why-is-asking-and-answering-questions-important/.