Ep. 14: Introduction to Behaviour Analysis
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How to Stimulate Early Language Skills (Episode 7)

In this episode, Dana Lawlor (Speech Language Pathologist) and Cynthia Miller-Lautman (Occupational Therapist)  talk about some simple things that parents, educators, and family members can do to give their children exposure to language and help stimulate language learning.   In Episode 6, Dana and Cynthia talked about how language develops and what a language disorder might look like.   If you haven’t listened to Episode 6 yet, please listen to it before you listen to this one.

References

Association Québécoise des Orthophonistes et Audiologistes. (n.d.). Trouble développemental du langage. Retrieved January 28, 2021, from https://aqoa.qc.ca/trouble-developpemental-du-langage/

Ordre des Orthophonistes et Audiologistes du Québec. (2020, July). Developmental language disorder. Retrieved January 28, 2021 from https://www.ooaq.qc.ca/media/1wilgnwt/dld_vw_26janv.pdf

Speech-Language & Audiology Canada. (n.d.). Language and literacy skills. Retrieved January 28, 2021 from https://sac-oac.ca/sites/default/files/resources/literacy_info_sheet_en.pdf

The Hanen Centre. (n.d.). Communication development in children with language delays. Retrieved January 28, 2021 from http://www.hanen.org/About-Us/What-We-Do/Early-Childhood-Language-Delays.aspx

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TRANSCRIPT: How to Stimulate Early Language Skills (Episode 7)

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Hi, Dana. Nice to be back with you again.

Dana Lawlor

Thanks, Cynthia. Hi. So good to be here. I’m very excited about our topic today.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Yeah, I’m really excited to dig into the things we can suggest for parents and caregivers and educators to help stimulate their child’s language development. This is something close to my heart because, you know, not everyone can get access to Speech Language Pathologists easily or it can be expensive. And so I think it’s really important that as parents and educators, we learn what we can do to help.

But before that, I have one more question that I need to dig into. Can we talk about what impact I can expect if someone has a language disorder or trouble learning language and what the impact would look like in their life.

00:03:14:03 – 00:03:44:18
Dana Lawlor
Right. So let’s just remember to begin that DL D stands for Developmental Language Disorder. We often shortened it to DL D, but the impact can be felt in many aspects of a child’s life. So it’s a short name and it has a big impact. So if we’re looking in the area of social skills, communication and language are so important for how we relate to others and this is no different for children.

Dana Lawlor

Children with DLD may become discouraged. They may not be able to talk and interact with their friends and or cousins the way that they want. And they may end up playing alone or they may end up feeling lonelier there’s an impact on academic learning. Language lies at the heart of learning. At home, at school, everywhere, children with DLD will likely struggle to learn, especially academic skills such as reading and math.
And as they get older, learning in all subjects becomes more and more connected and dependent on reading. So, for example, even in math, you know, the child eventually needs to read complex problems, be able to find the pieces that are important. Hold on to that information before they can solve the problem.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Wow. Something that just stuck out to me is Dana. You’re saying that language is related to reading?

Dana Lawlor

Yeah. Yeah. And children with a language disorder are 4 to 5 times more likely to have reading difficulties while in school. Wow. Yeah, they’re highly connected. So another impact might be on self-esteem, right? So children with DLD might experience challenges due to their language problem. And this might make them feel down about themselves. Children with language difficulties are often very bright, and they can be very aware of their challenges and of their differences. And this might make them feel a lot of different emotions, such as frustration or sadness or anger. Yeah.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Wow. So DLD really does have a lot of impacts on a child and into their adult life potentially. So I really hear that their social life can be affected, their academics can be affected, their self-esteem, because they don’t feel good, because they can’t express themselves. And I remember from part one, we said that one in 14 children may have this disorder.

We need to take this seriously. And I really, really want to dig in now to what parents can do to help now.

Dana Lawlor

Yeah, parents can do many things to help, but let’s be careful because so can everyone else around the child. This is not just for parents to carry. This is really a place for the whole community to come together to support our children, to expose our children to language, which just means giving them a chance to hear lots of words and to be surrounded by language in our everyday lives.

So if there are children in your life, this episode is for you and so what we know let’s start from what we know from the research is that a lot of language learning happens during the first five years of a child’s life. So this is when a child is most open to learning and when their brain develops quickly.

So we’re going to share with you some ideas to use with children ages 0 to 5. But if you have a child or even an adult that is older, but they act more like a five year old, you can try these suggestions and there’s no harm in trying these things. Right. So I want you to know that there’s some really helpful handouts, too, that are listed in our show notes of this episode. And they were created by Speech Language pathologists Alexandra Lauzon and Ben Gormley. And you could also find these handouts on our Web page. That’s disability programs, specialized services dot org. And in the resource section you can find those handouts. So a little shout out and thank you to Alex and Ben for those handouts. During our first podcast, we talked about the iceberg of language acquisition.

And so here it is again. You’ll see the iceberg, the expression at the top. It is how a child expresses themselves and the comprehension or the understanding underneath the water. That’s the biggest part. And we’re going to be focusing on what’s underneath the water, a child’s comprehension or their language understanding. It’s a huge part of children being able to learn language.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Dana, I’m still getting my head around this. So I just want to make sure I’m clear. There really are two parts to language. There’s the comprehension or the understanding of language underneath the water. And then there’s the expression. Everything we see, like talking, using their hands, our facial expressions when we talk.

Dana Lawlor

You got it. And we’re looking at both of those parts, right? When a child is learning language or when a child is struggling to learn language. So I’m going to talk to you about some simple things that you can do to add language into your everyday life to help build the child’s language understanding. So these are face to face games, following the child’s interests and adding language, reading and telling stories, using choices to ask questions and providing a play by play with your words.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Dana, I don’t know what those things are. I really hope you’re going to explain because I know for speech therapists, its probably is everything you do.

Dana Lawlor

Yeah. Well, listen, I’m glad you don’t know what they are because then it makes what I’m saying a little bit more interesting. And you’re going to help me, Cynthia. I mean, we don’t have a child. We don’t have a young child with us. So you might need to be the child for today. So we’ll just run through them now and try to give everybody some examples and a little bit of a better understanding of what we’re talking about.

So first, let’s start with face to face games. So because we don’t have a young child with us today, Cynthia, I’m going to use boy. Boy is a doll that belongs to my son and his name is actually boy. He was given that name by my son when he was two. So this is boy. And if we were pretending that this was a baby, you know, 0 to 2 years old being just face to face like this is exactly what I’m saying, is that this gives your baby a chance and your child to see so much of your face, to connect with you, to get lots of information from your face, from your mouth, and to learn to do the same things that you do. So these games might include making silly faces. Up, up, up, up, up. Yea, yea. Yea, yea. Oh wow. I do fish face in the water so fish face. You could do big moose antlers and you could do big bear. So any of those silly things and it feel silly, but they’re supposed to be silly.

Dana Lawlor

And these are things that babies really enjoy. It feels especially silly doing it with a doll, but hopefully feel less silly for you with a real baby. Playing peekaboo, it sounds so simple, but playing peekaboo. Let me get my I have a blanket. So playing peekaboo. Peekaboo. Oh, peekaboo. Babies love this. And it’s so simple. And so you could even put it over your baby. Peekaboo. I’m so you played peekaboo with your kids when they were young. Singing songs is a favorite of mine. You are my sunshine. Was one of my favorites for my kids, but especially songs that have gestures. So the wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round. The itsy bitsy spider.

Anything that uses your hands and gives your baby a chance to see your face is really, really valuable.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Dana, thanks for showing me that. I think I understand what face to face is. It’s really putting your baby in front of you, looking at them face to face.

Dana Lawlor

Yep. And you can get down on the floor with them, too, right? If they’re on their tummy and they’re on the floor. You can get down on the floor. Just be face to face. Yeah.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

I’ve seen a lot of videos on YouTube of those songs like “Wheels on the Bus” and “Itsy Bitsy Spider”. Are those good? Should I show my baby those on the iPad or something?

Dana Lawlor

That’s a really, really good question. I know that children like those videos, but that’s really being face to a screen and it’s not the same as being face to face for language learning. So, you know, so an idea could be for an older brother or sister to watch those videos, maybe not with the baby. They can learn the songs and gestures and then they can teach the younger children in the family.

I don’t like videos as much for language learning because they don’t allow for that back and forth. That’s really, really important in learning language. And I don’t know about your kids, Cynthia, but my kids get almost into like a zombie like trance when they watch videos.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Yeah, you’re absolutely right. When they’re in front of a screen, even as a baby, they would just, like, sit there and actually use it so that I could get some quiet time, you know? But there was no interaction. You’re very right.

Dana Lawlor

Yeah. So for language learning, you really want that interaction.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Dana, I know something I wished I had known when my children were younger. Is that when you play these games that I needed to wait to respond to them. So, for example, if I make a silly face, I would want to wait a few seconds to watch my babies reaction before making another silly one. This kind of creates like a back and forth conversation. So I would make a face, I would wait for them to smile. Then I would make another silly face.

Dana Lawlor

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s a really good point. And I didn’t show it to you with Boy. I just kind of ran right through them all. But if that was my baby, if that was my child, definitely wait for 5 seconds counted out in your head. Wait and give your child the chance to take a turn, to respond to what you just did. And this helps with practicing back and forth. I take a turn and I wait. Then you take a turn and then it’s my turn again. Back and forth.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Dana, I just have to throw this in. I, I recently did this with my cousin’s baby. She has a new baby, eight weeks old, and it was amazing what an eight week baby can do. They can wait and respond to you. And that’s where these 5 seconds are so important because it maybe takes a younger baby longer to respond. But it’s so important because that means then they are actually having like a little conversation with you through their eyes and their giggles.

Dana Lawlor

Absolutely. Absolutely. It starts so young, Cynthia. So not only do we tend to jump in right away, but we also tend to lead the interaction with our children. So what I would encourage you to do is to stop, wait and watch the child, just like you did right with the babies, like you watched the child. You waited to see what’s going on and what are they interested in. And then follow that, follow their interest and say something about what you see, because that is where a lot of language learning can happen. And then really that’s where the magic is. So I might see my child playing on the floor and I’ll get down on the floor with him and I’ll start playing with the trucks on the floor and I’ll start talking about the trucks.

But if I stopped and waited to see what my son was really interested in, I might see that he’s not really interested in the trucks today. He might be tomorrow, but he might be interested in something like, (this would happen all the time.) something like the doors of the cupboard, right? Or the shoes on the shoe rack. And that is really what I want you to follow and say something about.

I can add language that will be so much more interesting to my son and it might just sound something like this. “That’s a cupboard. You found the doors. The doors go open and closed. Oh. Oh, yeah. You’re going to open them again. Yeah. Okay, good. Oh, close the doors. Oh, okay. They’re all closed now. Closed doors.”

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Oh, Dana, that makes me think I can just see myself as a young mum. My son was six months old and just learnt to crawl and we were at like a mommy and singing group, I don’t know. We were sitting in a circle and all the other babies were sitting there with their moms and I guess listening to the song. And my son was off crawling across the floor to the stroller that I had brought into the room, and he was playing with that stroller wheel. And I was like devastated. I wanted him to come back to the circle and pay attention. But what you’re saying here with language is I could have added language there and I could have said, Oh, you’re really interested in the stroller.

The wheel goes round and round. I could have scripted the language because that’s what he was interested in right there. Right, right. And in that situation, it’s not easy. You know, you’re not necessarily going want to sit there and follow his lead for a long time. You know, some situations will be easier to follow a child’s lead than another. And in that situation, you say, yeah, you found the wheels. You found the wheels room. But right now we’re going to come back and we’re going to play with our friends.

Dana Lawlor

Come on, let’s go back to the group. Right. So you have to kind of roll with the situations, too. And when you’re at home and there’s nothing else going on, it’s easier. You don’t have to get out the door. It’s easier to follow your child’s lead. Okay, so a lot of children are curious. They’re so curious about the things around them. And we know that children learn a lot by watching what’s going on around them and through their senses. Right. So you know a lot about this, Cynthia, by touching, by exploring, by shaking, by banging, putting things in their mouths. But what we know about language learning is that babies really learn and children really learn lots from hearing, lots of sounds and words.
So really there’s a lot of ways to help them hear and play. And this is what we’re talking about today. So the big message, one of the big messages is the more a baby hears, the more a baby learns. So exposing your children to lots of language is really helpful. Build that bottom part of the iceberg.
Build up their comprehension.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

So what you’re saying as a parent, I might feel silly, but I should play a lot of games like peekaboo, to sing songs with gestures and follow their interest.

Dana Lawlor
Y

ou got it. Yeah, you got it. And listen. We can’t do it all the time, right? As parents, we’re busy. But if you can find a pocket of time in the day to do it. Awesome. Fantastic. And remember, you know, it’s not just up to the parents. Let older children and other people around help, too. So when everyone talks more, when everyone tells more stories, when everyone makes more sounds, when everyone sings, the more chances for children to learn.
So don’t put it all on yourself. This is everybody coming together.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

I have one thing I’m a little bit confused about.

Dana Lawlor

Okay

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

You say to talk more just what you’re saying. But you’re also saying wait for a response. Wait 5 seconds.

Dana Lawlor

Yeah. So I get I can see. Yes. So the idea is. Yes, talk a lot. Give lots of exposure to language, but also take little pauses. Right. We don’t want it to just be a full on show that the parent gives all the time in their art. They’re performing all the time. But it’s just to foster that back and forth with your child and let your child be part of it.
So pause and wait and see what happens.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

So let’s talk about books. I know you talked about reading connected with language, and should I read to a newborn? I felt a bit silly doing that. My mom was a teacher and I remember I was pregnant and she gave me a book and I said, Why do I need a book? You know? And she reminded me how important it is for kids to learn language, to have a wider vocabulary when you read to them early on.

Dana Lawlor

Yeah, yeah. Your mum, your mum had a very important message to you for sure, because you can read to a newborn. I mean, I was reading to my sons before they were born, so even if the child is too young to really understand the story or even to really see the pictures, that’s not the point.
I’m hearing the same stories and songs over and over again, hearing your voice, the melody of your voice, reading the same books. It’s all really helpful in learning language for any child of any age. So I remember my son asking me to read the same book over and over and over again, and I really thought he’s going to get tired of it, right?
Like I was switching up books quickly and he kept going back to this one book on cars, but he loved it. And then eventually he was able to tell me some of the story because he knew it so well. It was great.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

So we talked about reading to newborns and babies, but how important is it to read to older kids?

00:21:40:19 – 00:22:02:20
Dana Lawlor
I mean, it’s super important. And reading to your kids until they don’t want to sit and cuddle and read with you anymore is super important because it can help them develop harder and more complicated language. It helps to build and expand their vocabulary. It’s also just a really nice thing to be able to put into your routine, right?

Dana Lawlor

If you’re putting it into your routine at bedtime, you get that chance to sit and cuddle and connect with your child.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

I remember Dana, as my kids could learn to read themselves grade one, grade two, that I would continue to read them books as they got older, harder books that they couldn’t yet read, like Harry Potter, for example. What you’re telling me. I’m glad that I did that. And I definitely do have to make a shout out to my mom for encouraging reading and supplying me with all the books to read to my kids.

Dana Lawlor

Yay! Cynthia’s mom. Yes. Storytelling is a wonderful way to expose your children to language. And you don’t need to have a book. Remember? Just telling a story. Storytelling is so powerful. Tell a story that’s been shared with you or make up one of your own. I do that every night with my son. When we’re lying in bed, you know, when I’m trying to get him to fall asleep, I’ll just make up a story and he asks for them every night.
It’s a super sweet time that I share with him.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Dana, on your list, you mentioned building language skills by offering choices. That was one of those things. So we talked about exposure and reading now, but what does that mean? Offering choices? Can we go through this? Because I’m not sure what you mean by offering choices.

Dana Lawlor

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ll go through it and we’ll practice a little bit. So I’m going to give you a chance right now to hear two different ways of asking questions to your child. So one of them is much better for helping learning language. So listen carefully and see if you can tell which one. So, Cynthia, you’re going to have to help me here.
I just want you to pretend that you’re the child, even as young as one year old, and just answer my question. Okay. Answer my questions. So we’re going to start with this is the first way to ask a question. Okay. Ready? No pressure. Do you want something to eat? Yes. Do you want crackers?

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

No.

Dana Lawlor

Do you want do you want a sandwich?

Cynthia Miller-Lautman
Yes.

Dana Lawlor

Okay.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Well, that was boring. I only got to say yes or no.

Dana Lawlor

I think you kind of just gave it away. Okay, so let’s try this way. Okay, let’s try it. This is the second way. Let’s try it this way. Cynthia, do you want crackers or do you want a sandwich?

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Crackers?

Dana Lawlor

Hmm? You want yummy crackers? I like crackers, too. All right. Do you want two crackers or do you want three crackers?

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Three crackers.

Dana Lawlor

Three crackers. You must be really hungry this morning. Wait, do you want more water, Cynthia? Or are you finished?

=
Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Yeah, I like that one better. I felt that I was actually part of the conversation. I got to talk more. You gave me some choices.

Dana Lawlor

Yeah, yeah, exactly. And you had a bit of power in the situation, right? And you were able to kind of express maybe a bit more. So let’s try it again. Let’s pretend we’re getting ready. We’re getting dressed in the morning.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

So we’re going to do two different ways again?

Dana Lawlor

We’ll do the two different ways. So listen carefully. Here’s the first way. Cynthia, do you want to put on your shirt? No. Huh? Do you want to put on your shoes?

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

No.

Dana Lawlor

Do you want your jacket? No. What do you want Cynthia?

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

I hear my own kids. When I would ask them yes or no questions, they always answered no.

Dana Lawlor

Yep and you know, you’re going to get no’s when you might really want yes. So we have to be careful how we ask too. So again, listen carefully. Now we’ll do the second way and pay attention to how I ask. Okay, Cynthia, it’s time to get dressed. Do you want to put on your shirt or your shoes?

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Shoes.

Dana Lawlor

Okay, shoes. First let’s find your blue shoes. Okay. Do you want to put on your jacket by yourself or do you want Mommy’s help?

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Mommy’s help.

Dana Lawlor

Oh, okay. I’ll help you.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Nice!

You kind of tricked me. Well, like, I had to answer yes to something, so I like that you gave me choices. Like, you’re right. I did have some power there.

Dana Lawlor

You did have some power, but I also was able to keep things moving and getting dressed, right? Yeah. So you got it. Yes or no questions help children practice saying yes or no. That’s it. Once children can practice saying yes or no, move on. But by providing choices, you give the child the chance to practice different words.

Dana Lawlor

Words like: mommy’s help, crackers, more water. So choices for us as partners in the conversation, it gives us a chance to say more. Right? Did you notice that I said more after you answered, I expanded on what you said so that it gave you a chance to hear even more words. Choices really opened the door.They opened the door to talk to taking turns, practicing that back and forth. So I’m going to encourage you to try it out. I know you don’t have young kids at home, but anybody who has younger kids at home or you think this might be interesting, try it out. It takes some practice, but it really is a great way to help children hear more, talk more and take turns.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

I think you can use it even with your older kids. I know my daughter’s 11. And when I want her to do something, I’ll give her a choice because she like to have a choice and feel powerful. So asking questions with choice also can help older kids with not getting a no from them.

Dana Lawlor

Exactly. Good point. Yeah.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Are there things, Dana, that we should avoid in doing when helping our children learn language?

Dana Lawlor

Yeah, there are kind of a few little traps or things that we kind of get into habit of doing. And sometimes we tell our kids to use your words to help them to stop from whining or from grabbing. But but what if what happens if they don’t have those words right? What if they don’t know the words to use in that situation?

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Yeah, I think a lot of parents do that. Sometimes when we’re feeling a little desperate, we’ll say, use your words.

Dana Lawlor

Yeah.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Okay, so what can we do to help? What should we do instead?

Dana Lawlor

So you could just let them hear the words they could use. So, for example, I’ll give you an example. Might be easier. Your child wants another cookie, but he usually just whines until you give in. And you just. You’re fed up, and you just give it to him. You could say use your words, but it might not get you very far.

Dana Lawlor
S

o better yet, you could let him hear how to ask. You could say, I want a cookie, and hopefully your child will learn to imitate you and use some of those words before you give them the cookie.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Hmm. So can I just go through another example? So my son is whining. He’s sitting in his high chair and I think he wants to get down. He doesn’t have the words yet, I would say I want down. And if he smiles and gave me a little sign, then oh, good, I would take him down.

So I’m scripting the words for him. I’m giving him the words to say and letting them hear them from me.

Dana Lawlor

Yeah, exactly. And it could be even like down I want down. And then maybe the next time, you know, you’re saying it again, maybe the next he’s going to learn. He’s going to hear it. He’s going to learn it, and he’s going to start to hopefully imitate you.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Okay. I like that. So are there any other traps that I should be aware of when language so I’m not supposed to, you know, say use your words, anything else? I’m I’m not supposed to do.

Dana Lawlor

Yeah, I mean, traps. I mean, these are things that I think all of us do as parents. So many of us tend to ask our kids a lot of questions when they’re young, especially because we want to make sure they’re learning and we want to see are they learning? Are they getting it? We might ask questions like, “What’s this?”

Dana Lawlor

Or “What color is this?” Or “What is this called?” And I think we just like to be assured that our kids are learning, but our kids might not yet know or have the words to answer, especially when they’re young or even if they’re a little bit delayed in their acquisition of language. So the best way to help them learn is, to talk.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Okay, wait. So it’s better not to ask them questions?

Dana Lawlor

Well, the questions are really important for children to hear, right? So when you catch yourself asking a question, like we call them test questions, we’re kind of testing our kids and your child is an answering. You can make it even more rich and helpful by giving the answer as well. Right. So that’s how they learn. So for example, you might say, “what is this?”
And your child doesn’t know, doesn’t answer, doesn’t say anything. You could say, “Oh, it’s a big snowshoe, these are my snow shoes. I put them on my feet when I want to go for a long walk.”

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Yeah, you’re good at that. I don’t know that I would think of that, but I think I need to practice. I think I did this all the time. I think I used to ask a lot of questions that my kids didn’t know the answers to. So can we try?

Dana Lawlor

Yeah, sure, sure, it does take practice. Yeah. So let’s try.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

So if I was talking to a one year old and I said, what is the dog doing? And there’s no response from the one year old. I could say as the parent; “The dog is barking. The dog is barking so loud. Oh, I like the dog.”

Dana Lawlor

Yes. Amazing. So give your child the chance to hear the answer too.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

To me, that’s like a Holy Smokes moment. Give your child the chance to hear the answer too. That is how they will learn the language.

Dana Lawlor

Yeah, yeah. In the two traps we just talked about, which are asking them to use their words when they don’t have them, asking test questions when they might not have the words to answer. We’re jumping right to wanting the child to talk. But remember, we need to help build their understanding first. Yeah.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

So it all comes back to it seems like we have to just keep giving our children lots of chance to hear the words over and over again, expose them to language in their daily life. On their activities. In their daily activities.

Dana Lawlor

Yeah. And you know, some children need to hear a word five times to understand it and then start to use it. But other children might need to hear a word hundreds of times. Hundreds of times to understand it.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Wow. But that’s a lot. I don’t know how I’d have time to do that as a parent.

Dana Lawlor

You know, and I don’t want you to count. But. Yes, but remember, using songs, choices, storytelling, being face to face, making sounds, reading books are all part of this. So, right. So everything we’ve talked about today is going to help your child understand more language. And remember, it’s not just up to you as a parent, it’s everyone. So if everybody does, then before you know it, you’ve said the same word 100 times.

Right. Okay. I’m going to give you another strategy to use as you go about your day. Okay. I’ll give you another way to expose your child to language. And it’s not something extra that you have to add on and sit down and do. You can let your child hear a lot of words by giving them a play by play with your words.

Okay, so play by play during chores, during everyday activities like cooking or cleaning.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

I don’t know what to play by play. I think I’m going to need to hear it Dana.

Dana Lawlor

Yeah, yeah. I was hoping you would ask. So let’s pretend I’m folding my laundry, okay? And I brought my laundry basket because I know you were going to ask. You can’t see my laundry basket, but I have it on my lap. And so let’s say my strongest language is English, which it is. So I’m going to speak English.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Right? But if my strongest language was Cree, I would be doing this exercise in Cree.

Dana Lawlor

Sure. Whatever feels strongest and most comfortable for you. You got it. And my child is with me helping me. Right. Let’s pretend. And so I’m going to give you a chance, Cynthia, to hear what a play by play might sound like. Okay, this is going to sound silly, but I’m just going to go for it.

“Oh, we have laundry to fold. Oh, my goodness. So much laundry. Look at this big basket. It’s full of clothes. It’s full of clean clothes. What is this? Oh, oh, this is Alex’s shirt. We’re going to fold Alex’s shirt. Alex’s shirt is blue. It’s a blue shirt. Okay, fold, fold, fold. There we go. Okay, what’s next? What’s next in the big laundry basket?”

“Oh, this. What’s this? Oh, these are shorts. Oh, these are Steve’s shorts. Steve has nice shorts. Steve likes to wear shorts. There, folded. What’s next? Oh, daddy’s shirt! Daddy’s shirt. Oh it’s nice and clean. Daddy has a blue shirt, too, just like Alex. Fold, fold, fold. Done. Last one. What’s next? Oh, I found a towel. Oh, this one goes in the bathroom. This is a small towel. I’m going to fold the towel. All done. Folding our laundry is done.”

So that was a play by play.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

So your baby or your child would have a lot of chance to hear a lot of different words during that play by play, you just upped the amount of words they heard in their day because you did a play by play.

Dana Lawlor

Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And it’s going to feel silly. It’s going to feel silly. But remember, your baby, your child is not judging you. So I encourage you to go out and try it. Just practice it and try it.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

When else can I use this scripting or this play by play that you were doing?

Dana Lawlor

So really any time during the day, you know, and sometimes it does get a bit tiring and you may be tired at the end of day. So you have to kind of pick and choose when you have the energy. It gets easier with time. I can assure you. I just do it. I just do it all the time now.
And I don’t feel it’s hard. It doesn’t have to be anything special. You know, you could be doing it when you’re driving. You can talk about what you see. You could talk about where you’re going, how you’re feeling. I’m feeling so hungry right now. I didn’t have lunch and my tummy is really not happy. So you could practice it when you’re buying your groceries or when you’re putting your groceries away when you get home.

“This is a heavy bag what’s inside. Oh, soup cans. They are so heavy. I’m putting them on the bottom shelf. I bought chicken soup and vegetable soup. But wait a minute. Where are the crackers? Oh, here they are. Crackers. We’ll put the crackers on the shelf, too.”

So you could be cleaning the bathroom. You could be washing your hands, you could be running your bath.

Any time your child is around you, that is a time to add language. I’m going to invite all of you who are listening to Close your eyes. Just listen to my voice. Imagine something that you do every day, like getting dressed or washing your hands. Think about telling your child about every step of this activity. What would you say?
I’m going to leave you 20 seconds of silence to really give this a try. Imagine your child is with you and give a play by play with your words. Go ahead. Okay, open your eyes. That might have felt strange, maybe a bit awkward, and that’s to be expected. It’s okay. I said before that talking to my children this way is easy for me, but I need to add that this was not easy at the beginning and that I have had years of practice with many children, not just my own.
So please keep trying and be gentle with yourself. This takes practice. Keep trying.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Well, Dana, I’ve learned so much today. I’m joking, but I think I need another baby to practice all this. No, I won’t do that. Three’s enough. We’ve talked so much about language today, and I just want to just make sure before we end that we go over the names of the activities, just so everyone hearing because they were new to me. So these are the activities that you can do face to face with your child, with your child present to develop their language.

So there’s face to face with real people, not screens. There’s choices. So offering choices, that the child gets to answer more than just yes or no. So more like, do you want an apple or do you want a pear? So then theres stories and books Read and tell stories to your children and babies from the minute they’re born, they will learn a ton of words this way.
Keep reading to them as long as they’ll stay with you to do it. If that’s an 11 or 12 year old, keep doing it.

Dana Lawlor

Yeah. If it’s 16, go for it. Yeah, yeah.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Ask questions. But if they don’t have the answer to those questions, wait for a few seconds and then if they don’t have the answer, answer it for them. So they hear the answer and over time, hopefully will repeat it for you and learn more words.

Dana Lawlor

Awesome.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Great. So, Dana, do you have any last thoughts before we end today?

Dana Lawlor

Yeah, I do. I do have some more thoughts. And just before we wrap up and I encourage you to ask grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, cousins, everyone around to talk to your child in the language that feels good for them. This might be Cree, it might be English or French. And don’t worry about confusing your child. Children are able to learn a second language, even if they’re having trouble learning their first.
And I really feel, Cynthia, that learning more than one language is a wonderful gift that we can give our children. So if learning Cree is important to you and your family, but you don’t speak Cree, surround them by their elders and people who will speak to them and expose them to the Cree language.

Cynthia Miller-Lautman

Thank you so much, Dana. This was so great.

Dana Lawlor

It’s fun. It’s really fun to talk about. It’s a fun topic. So go off and practice some of those things we talked about.

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