As we eagerly wait to hear a child’s first words, we are filled with excitement and anticipation. Expectation that makes it is so easy for us to become anxious, subconsciously hindering speech development in our children.
Samar Haidar, Beirut-based speech therapist and the Vice President of the Lebanese Association of Speech Therapy, previously explained the varying factors behind speech delay, shedding light on the role parents play. Etcetera spoke to Samar to find out what parents should and shouldn’t do when dealing with speech delay.
Are You Confusing Your Child?
At one point or another, we’ve all subconsciously tried to raise cultured children that can speak multiple languages, switching between Arabic, English, and French.
Often, parents of children with speech delays are advised to focus on one language at home. The reason being simple: to avoid confusion.
“Every child has a mother tongue, the basis on which children are able to develop other languages”, Samar explains and continues “The goal here is to focus on and strengthen the mother tongue, so it can be a solid reference for the learning of other languages”.
Multiple languages can affect a toddler when we use them in the same sentence. This leads to confusion and possible speech delay because according to Samar, “Every language activates a certain part of the brain.”
Samar likes to encourage a ‘one person, one language rule’. What she suggests is that each person in the family gets to speak to the toddler in only one language. So for example, Mom can speak to the child in French, Dad in Arabic, and a third party in English.
“Here, as we divide the languages clearly, there is no difficulty for the child to pick up on each of them”, explains Samar pinpointing that when a sentence starts out in English, it should finish off in English as well. Adding in Arabic and French words halfway through will do more harm than good. Only when we feel the child is grasping each of these languages separately can we begin mixing them.
What Can You Do to Help?
As concerned parents, when we sense a speech delay in our children, we start to stress and subconsciously stop speaking naturally.
Asking questions like ‘what do we call this?’ only confuses the child. “Speech develops when we speak to the child and explain in a simplified manner by focusing on short phrases, emphasizing on specific wordsand giving them time to express themselves explains Samar.
Samar suggests seeking expert aid if at 20 months the child has not spoken yet. “I would like to stress that when parents come to me, I like to give them some guidance and then monitor the progress from a distance rather than resorting to treating the child immediately. If we see that progress is limited this is when we intervene.”
Finally, Samar offers some tips for parents to “speak naturally, clarify the phrases, lower yourself to the child so you are on the same level making eye contact. Within every sentence, focus on a word and repeat it for the child to grasp it.”
She reminds us not only to speak but to also give space and time for the child to respond. Even if you can’t hear actual words, that cute babbling counts too. Samar reassures us that it’s those precious sounds that will later develop into sentences.
Samar Haidar is a Beirut-based speech therapist and an expert in special education. She is the president of the Lebanese Association of Speech Therapy and has over 20 years of experience in the field.
- My young daughter has discovered the Internet and now spends a lot of time browsing websites and social media networks. How can I monitor her online activity and ensure that she remains safe?
Protecting our kids from the darker side of the Internet has never been more important or more difficult. Dealing with this problem is an evolving process. For kids younger than 10, you can set and impose limits on the amount of time spent online. You can also restrict access to mobile devices connected to the Internet and only allow your child to use them in the family room where you can supervise rather than in the privacy of their bedroom. Explain to your child that she should not give out personal identifying information (real name, home address, school name and address, parents’ names, pictures) to anyone she does not personally know. Repeat this lesson until your child can recite it in her sleep. You also have options that allow you to control for the most part what your child can see online. For example, iPads have parental controls and content filtering software that you can enable. Browsers also allow you to block certain websites. You have to make the constant effort to familiarize yourself with those options or enlist the help of a proficient friend or family member. It’s also preferable not to allow your children to register for social media accounts until they reach the age of 13.
For teenagers, however, open and honest communication is the key to ensuring online safety. At this age, kids are Internet veterans and will often know the Internet much better than you do. Yet, they don’t have your caution or experience. It’s more effective to discuss potential scenarios with your child. Explain that anything he or she posts online will stay online forever and can impact her future choice of university or career. Explain that the internet does NOT give anonymity. Discuss online bullying and posting hurtful comments (remember that your teen may be encouraged to bully others online). Explain the dangers of speaking to and sharing personal information with strangers. It’s never too late to enforce boundaries. If you are worried, you can ask your teenager for access to their social media accounts and inform them that you will be checking in. Do not do this behind their backs. There are many resources online that can help you keep your kid safe.
- I read a lot about the benefits of learning how to play a musical instrument. But how can I pick an instrument for my kid to start playing?
A child will reap the benefits of musical training regardless of what musical instrument he or she is playing. However, choosing the right instrument for your child and for your family environment remains important. Forcing children to learn instruments they have no interest in will not foster a love of music and might cause the child to resent having to practice. However, you also don’t want him or her to choose an instrument that does not suit your family. For example, if as a parent you do not like the sound of the electric guitar, you will not be able to support your child or endure the hours of practice he or she needs to put in. Parents also need to like the sound of the instrument their child is playing. Take into account your child’s body type and make sure he picks an instrument he is comfortable holding and carrying. Also, make sure your child’s choice is not affected by any perceived “social value” of an instrument. For younger kids (4-6) you can’t go wrong with the keyboard or piano as those instruments provide a great foundation and children can easily transition to other instruments later if they would like to. Violin is also a good option as it comes in scaled sizes, but it requires more patience and persistence. Another thing to take into account is your child’s personality type. High energy kids can get great stress relief from playing the drums, and outgoing personalities may prefer instruments such as the saxophone or trumpet. The most important consideration, however, remains your child’s personal preference and passion as those are the biggest guarantees that he or she will stick with the instrument long enough to earn the life-long benefits.