Tonight I stumbled on an amazing and informative documentary on Netflix called, The Beginning of Life. If you work with babies, young children or have children of your own, stop what you’re doing and go add it to your watch list right now. In my career as a pediatric speech-language pathologist, I work with many children under the age of 3. When watching this documentary, I found myself rewinding and listening over and over to the very helpful brain science nuggets this documentary contains. I can’t wait to share these nuggets with my clients’ parents to help them understand and value the importance of play. So many parents want to focus on the fact that their child is not yet using words. They don’t always understand the importance and significance of play and social development during the first 3 years of life.
My favorite nugget was from Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D. when he was discussing the importance of providing a balance of challenge and support during play with young children:
“What [babies and young children] need is that little bit of challenge and the frustration that goes with not being able to do something so easily so that you work at it. It’s not only working at it to master that skill. It’s working at it develop a sense of what it’s like to work for something that’s not that easy. If you never get that experience… If every time you try something that’s a little bit frustrating, an adult comes in and does it for you, how do you learn how to deal with frustration?”
So, the next time you interact with your baby or young child, focus less on the words they are able to use and more on how they are exploring and interacting with the world. How are they taking in their environment? How are they solving problems and exploring the world around them? How much are you letting them figure things out on their own? Are you letting them fail so that they can learn how to succeed?
As your children are home from school this holiday season, use these common play activities in a deliberate way to strengthen their language skills. Click on the link below to read the article I wrote for the Carolina Pediatric Therapy blog:
If you are like most families, your house will soon be full of aunts, uncles, and cousins running around playing and having fun. If you have young children who struggle understanding and expressing language, check out the blog post I wrote for Carolina Pediatric Therapy.
If you’ve visited my blog before, you know I love using commercials to help get a conversation going with students about a topic. So, when I saw this Nike commercial it reignited my interest in helping students develop and strengthen their executive functioning skills. Use this video to help explain and teach executive functions to your students.
A few years ago, I was part of a team that developed a program to help middle schoolers learn how to use “self-talk” to navigate social situations and problem solve situations on their own. What we discovered in the process was that many students lack the inner dialogue necessary to effectively complete school tasks, figure out social situations, and get to where they needed to be on time and with the necessary materials.
The culture in schools is slowly changing, but for the most part, executive functions are not directly taught in schools. And, many school-aged students simply have not developed the skills necessary to get their work done and be socially successful in school.
So my advice to parents and educators would be…
DO NOT ASSUME children have fully developed organizational systems to complete tasks or socially savvy inner dialogues to navigate nuanced situations.
It’s your responsibility to explicitly teach them and provide opportunities for them to develop and refine these executive functioning skills.
I have found many resources out there to help students become more aware of the ability to use an inner dialogue to help them problem solve and successfully navigate the social world. See one of my favorites below.
The Zones of Regulation
I’ve also created many activities and resources for building executive functioning skills. Check out my two most recent creations.
BUNDLE Build Social Skills with Executive Functioning Activities
Executive Functions Informal Assessment Questionnaire
When you’ve taken the time to help your students build stronger executive functioning skills, use your own “self-talk” to tell yourself, “Good job.” ; )
The ability to appropriately answer abstract questions is an important developmental language skill. In order to accurately answer these questions, children must understand what each question word is asking.
See below for normal developing ages for answering “wh” questions:
A great way to help children develop and refine their ability to answer “wh” questions is through story time with books that are simple in plot, repetitive in writing style, and include lots of great visuals. There are a lot of children’s books out there and many of them for younger children lack the content needed to elicit these “wh” questions. Many younger children’s books are simply images with vocabulary images and labels. While these books are helpful, they don’t promote the development of more abstract language understanding.
However, I came across a book that’s great for young children and promotes the development of “wh” questions.
I also recently created a visual resource to help children more effectively answer “wh” questions for my Teachers Pay Teachers
site. I’ve been using this idea for years, but have always just used blank paper and basic drawings to teach the different “wh” types. I’m sure my clients will appreciate not having to view my awful stick figure drawings. You can find it here:
When it comes to social skills, CONTEXT is very important. You can say one thing in one place or situation and it will mean one thing, but if you say the SAME thing in another context, it can totally have a different meaning.
When it comes to social situations, some things are “OK” to DO in one context, and considered not “OK” in another. Students who struggle with social skills have a hard time figuring this out. They may start digging for a booger in the middle of class and not understand why that is SO not “OK” and the entire class is screaming, “Eeeewwww!”
You may find it uncomfortable to think about, but I explain to my students that it’s not “OK” to pick your nose in public, but it IS totally “OK” to do so in the privacy of your home as long as you use a tissue to discard of the findings and wash your hands after. You know you do it too… Don’t deny it.
The booger picking example is an extreme one but actually the list of examples of how context matters goes on an on. The booger one is just an attention grabbing one that most students can relate to.
When it comes to social skills, CONTEXT matters when it comes to what is considered “OK” to say and do. I love using this book to help my students learn more about context and the role it plays.
I’ve also created an activity on my Teachers Pay Teachers site to help students learn and discuss this topic. Check it out here.
Talk with your students and come up with a list of what’s “OK” and not “OK” to SAY and DO in different contexts and don’t forget to laugh and have fun with it!
Have you ever said this to your child?
“When my voice sounds harsh, that means I’m frustrated.”
“When I raise one eyebrow up, it means I’m confused.”
I’m pretty sure the answer is NO.
That’s because traditionally, parents and educators typically don’t have to “teach” children the basics of social interaction or the nuances of social situations. However, interacting with others can be both confusing and frustrating for many children. Children with poor social skills are often socially isolated and that along with lack of social awareness can have life long effects.
Check out the article I wrote for the Carolina Pediatric Therapy blog by clicking the link below. I came up with six basic talking points to help parents and teachers educate students who struggle socially.
FOCUS ON SOCIAL SKILLS: TALKING POINTS TO IMPROVE SOCIAL AWARENESS