Normal Development of Language Skills

Are My Child’s Language Skills Developing Normally?
by Becky L. Spivey, M.Ed.
A very complicated and amazing foundation of language skills begins developing at birth. Children develop certain skills at different times as they move through the early stages of learning language. On the average, children learn to read by age seven, but learning to read is dependent upon their acquisition of a good foundation of skills.
The following list of milestones is the result of current research in the field where studies continue to analyze how and when children learn and begin to present certain language skills. As you look over this list, keep in mind that children vary greatly in how and when they develop and learn these skills. These skills do not follow a concrete order.
From birth to age 3, most babies and toddlers become able to:
  • Make cooing, babbling sounds in the crib which gives way to enjoying rhyming and nonsense word games
  • Play along in games such as “peek-a-boo” and “pat-a-cake.”
  • Respond to gestures and facial expressions.
  • Associate words they hear frequently with what the words mean.
  • Imitate the tones, rhythms, and sounds that adults use when talking.
  • Handle objects such as board books and alphabet blocks in their play.
  • Recognize certain books by their covers.
  • Pretend to read books.
  • Understand how to handle a book.
  • Share books with an adult as a routine part of life.
  • Name some objects in a book.
  • Talk about characters in books.
  • Look at pictures in books and realize they are symbols of real things.
  • Listen attentively to stories.
  • Begin paying attention to specific print such as the first letters of their names.
  • Scribble with a purpose as if writing or drawing something.
  • Produce letter-like forms and scribbles that resemble writing.
  • Ask or demand that adults or others read or write with them.
From ages 3-4, most preschoolers become able to:
  • Enjoy listening to and talking about storybooks.
  • Understand that print carries a message.
  • Make attempts to read and write.
  • Identify familiar signs and labels.
  • Participate in rhyming games.
  • Identify some letters and make some letter-sound matches.
  • Attempt writing letters to represent meaningful words like their name or phrases such as “I love you.”
At age 5, most kindergartners become able to:
  • Sound as if they are reading when they pretend to read.
  • Enjoy someone reading to them.
  • Retell simple stories.
  • Use descriptive language to explain or to ask questions.
  • Recognize letters and make letter-sound matches.
  • Show familiarity with rhyming and beginning sounds.
  • Understand that reading print goes left-to-right and top-to-bottom.
  • Match spoken words with written ones.
  • Write letters of the alphabet and some words they use and hear often.
  • Write stories with some readable parts.
At age 6, most first-graders can:
  • Read and retell familiar stories.
  • Use a variety of ways to help themselves read and comprehend a story (rereading, predicting, asking questions, or using visual cues or pictures).
  • Decide on their own to use reading and writing for different purposes.
  • Read some things aloud with ease.
  • Identify new words by using letter-sound matches, parts of words, and their understanding of the rest of a story or printed item.
  • Identify an increasing number of words by sight.
  • Sound out and represent major sounds in a word when trying to spell.
  • Write about topics that mean a lot to them.
  • Use some punctuation marks and capitalization.
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s progress, talk with your child’s doctor, teacher, or a speech-language pathologist. For children with any kind of disability or learning problem, the sooner they can get the special help they need, the easier it will be for them to learn.
Contact Speech-Language Pathologist Christine Wilson to schedule an appointment today!

Rebus Activities for Articulation


Rebus Activities for Articulation

by Julie A. Daymut, M.A., CCC-SLP
Rebus activities use pictures or symbols to represent words or phrases. By substituting images for text, children have a fun activity to practice skills such as articulation (speech sound production). This is also a great activity for nonreaders, as they can participate in storytelling by naming each image as the story is read aloud. The stories can vary in length and in the difficulty level of vocabulary. In addition, you can make your own rebus stories using cut-out or online/computer images and lots of creativity!
Rebus Activities at Home:
Use the following activities from “Say and Do”® Rebus for Articulation to help your children practice their speech sounds at home. Note: Be sure to check with their speech-language pathologist (SLP) before beginning any home speech practice.
  1. Read the story aloud, emphasizing the target words.
  2. Read the story and stop at the rebus words and let your child fill them in.
  3. If your child is a reader, let him/her read the story for you. Remember, only the target sound words should be monitored. There may be other story words that contain your child’s target sound but may not be the focus for that particular story.
  4. Go through the story and say just the rebus words.


How to Break Oral Habits


Oral Habits

The Pacifier

Pacifier use is the most common non-nutritive sucking habit. It usually begins when parents introduce it in order to calm their child. Over time, it becomes a form of amusement as well, and the child becomes attached to it. Depending on the intensity, frequency, and duration of the habit, pacifiers may affect dental occlusion. Improvement may occur once the habit is eliminated, depending on the child’s age and other factors.

Pacifiers are usually an easier habit to break because the parent can regulate when and for how long the child gets to use one. Many parents have had success with collecting all the pacifiers and “mailing them to the paci fairy.”

Thumb Sucking

When a thumb or finger is inside the mouth, it takes up the space where the lips, teeth, tongue and jaw are normally positioned. This prevents them from functioning in the correct way. Even when the thumb is removed, the structures often remain in the incorrect positions, leading to an open bite, mouth breathing, and an undesirable way of chewing, swallowing, and speaking.

Thumb habits can be more difficult to address, but some simple tricks include placing a band aid on the thumb to help remind your child not to suck it, or placing a sock or glove on the hand when the child goes to bed.

Nail Biting

Unsightly fingernails may cause problems beyond the social issues we are aware of. Fingernail biting can also damage the gums, make the fingertips red and sore, and cause the cuticles to bleed. It increases the risk of bacterial infection around the nail beds and the mouth, which in turn may affect overall health. Stress has been shown to increase the likelihood of nail-biting.

To break this habit try covering the nails, as this will provide a physical reminder. You could also try bad-tasting nail polish, which can act as a deterrent to nail-biting. False nails (not for children) and gloves are other barrier methods that help some people.

Some Additional Tips!

Although these oral habits are a physical act, there is also a strong psychological component to them.  Because many children use these habits for self soothing it may be difficult for them to initially give them up. Keeping this in mind, it is important to give your little one lots of encouragement and positive reinforcement as you begin to wean them from their habit.  Positive reinforcement has been show to be significantly more successful than negative reinforcement when trying to conquer oral habits. Having the child feel like they are on the same team as you and getting them to the place where they want to stop is the best approach.

When you begin the process of trying to break an oral habit a helpful method is to get a large calendar and place stickers on days where your child was able to go without their habit. Studies have shown that it takes at least 30 consecutive days of avoiding the habit to help prevent relapse. In addition to these simple at home tips, there are dental appliances that can be placed in the patient’s mouth to help them overcome these habits. These appliances work best when a child wants to stop but needs a constant reminder, as many of these habits occur without the patient consciously aware that they are doing it.


If you have any questions or concerns, contact Speech-Language Pathologist Christine Wilson.

Using Mirror Exercises Can Help Your Child’s Articulation!

Mirror Exercises

Written by Emily K. Hulse

Many kids with articulation problems do not understand how to move their mouths to make sounds correctly. Speaking in front of a mirror can help a child to see how his/her mouth moves when he/she makes particular sounds. You can articulate each sound slowly and correctly to model proper positioning for your child and demonstrate the differences in the mirror.

At Christine Wilson’s speech clinic, she uses mirror exercises with many of her patients. Both Christine and patients who use this technique find it very helpful! This is an exercise parents can practice at home as well. Sit in front of a mirror with your child and practice saying some words and sounds that your child has difficulties with. The mirror will let your child see how the position of their mouth influences their pronunciation of sounds. They will also be able to see the correct position of the mouth (your presentation of the sound) and compare the correct model to their own. Give it a try at home!

Language Games for Home Programming


Home Programming is Important!

Written by Emily K. Hulse

Speech-language Pathologist, Christine Wilson, requires her patients to practice home programming, on top of attending speech therapy sessions weekly. We see the most progress in the patient’s who come to speech therapy at least twice a week and those who practice home programming. A home program does not need to be a major time commitment on the parents part, but it IS important. Try to practice with your child for 15 to 30 minutes a day. Even five or ten minutes every day will benefit your child. We work as a team at Christine Wilson’s Speech Clinic! Practicing language skills at home will bring your child closer to their speech goal/s! Listed below are some of the many things parents can do at home to help their child practice their speech.

Story Telling: Line up 4 picture cards and tell a story to your child. Mix the 4 cards up and have your child put them back in order and tell you the story. This fun and easy game will help your child with sequencing.

Simon Says: Place articulation cards or picture cards on a table and use directions such as “Touch the puppy after you touch the duck”. This game will help your child follow directions! In school, following directions is very important. Playing simon says can help prepare your child for school.

Clue: Place several picture cards in a row. Give one clue at a time about a card. Have your child guess what the card is. The one with the fewest guesses, wins! Playing this game will help your child with describing and categorizing.

Apples to Apples: Is a go-to game for language delayed students. This game makes working on similarities, differences, and relating new vocabulary words together FUN.

Hedbanz: Both, kids and professionals LOVE this game for many reasons. One, it is a motivating social skills game. Two, it is an easy way to work on forming questions. Three, it covers all aspects of vocabulary ranging from category, function, use, description, and location. Parents, I bet you will find this game just as fun! What a great game to practice language skills with your child.

If you have any questions about home programming or would like to set up a speech-language evaluation/appointment today, contact Christine Wilson.

Creative Articulation Practice at Home!

Looking for a new way to work on articulation skills at home?

Fun Articulation Practice…”in a box!”
  • Make a “mystery box” using common household objects and your child’s toys. Cut a slot in the top of a good-sized box. Make sure that your child’s hands plus an object fit through the slot.
  • Help your child decorate the box the way he/she wants it to look. This makes the child feel like he/she is participating and provides a great language-building activity.
  • Talk to your child’s SLP about what he/she is working on in therapy.
Some specific questions to ask are:
  • What sound/sounds is he/she working on in speech class?
  • What position/positions is he/she working on with each sound? (Basically, initial means a sound at the beginning;medial means a sound in the middle; and final means a sound at the end. For example, for the /k/sound,”cup” is initial;”bacon” is medial; and “book” is final.)
  • What level is he/she working on? (There are different levels a child works on, each getting more difficult. The “easiest” level is isolation , or the “k” sound alone. Next, the “k” sound is in some position within a syllable (i.e. ,”ka,” “aka,” or “ak.”) Next, the word level (i.e., cup, bacon, book), then, a phrase (i.e., “in the cup;” “in the book”), then, a sentence (i.e., “I read a book,” or “The juice is in the cup”). Finally, the sound is monitored in conversation for consistent production.)

1. Pick 10-15 objects, letter cards, or syllable cards with your child’s target sound in them and, without your child seeing,”hide” them in the Mystery Box.

2. Let your child choose an object/card and say/name it, use it in a phrase, sentence, or ask questions to elicit conversation.

3. Continue until your child sees all objects and completes each task.

4.For a special treat, put a “surprise” in the box your child can keep or eat!

Some ideas for five commonly misarticulated sounds are:
S Initial Medial Final
bicycle (toy)
dinosaur (toy)
motorcycle (toy)
bus (toy)
(shoe) lace
box (smaller)
horse (toy)
(dental) floss
ice (in a baggie)
SH shoe
shapes (toy)
ship (toy)
shovel (toy)
shark (toy)
dishes (toy)
fish (toy/picture)
nail polish
R rope
rabbit (toy)
rocket (toy)
airplane (toy)
horse (toy)
fire engine (toy)
(teddy) bear
car (toy)
dinosaur (toy)
K can
car (toy)
cow (toy)
cat (toy)
chicken (toy)
bacon (toy)
pumpkin (toy)
rocket (toy)
helicopter (toy)
bicycle (toy)
monkey (toy)
truck (toy)
snake (toy)
rake (toy)
black (crayon)
L lamp (toy)
lamb (toy)
ladder (toy)
lizard (toy)
elephant (toy)
helicopter (toy)

For questions or concerns, contact Speech-Language Pathologist Christine Wilson.

What is the Difference Between Speech and Language?

Does Speech & Language mean the same thing?

Speech and language are not the same. The process of speech occurs naturally when appropriate stimulation occurs and progresses without conscious thought. From infancy, we begin developing the milestones of speech that help us begin communicating with sounds, and then, our speech skills help us develop language.

SPEECH – “Speech refers to the sounds that come out of our mouth and take shape in the form of words. The speech process is extremely complicated when you study the scope and sequence of its development.
A number of events must occur for us to speak. The brain MUST:
  • Want to communicate an idea to someone else.
  • Send the idea to the mouth.
  • Tell the mouth which words to say and which sounds make up those words.
  • Incorporate patterns and accented syllables (to avoid sounding like a robot).
  • Send the signals to the muscles that control the tongue, lips, and jaw; however, the muscles, must have the strength and coordination to carry out the brain’s commands.

The muscles in the lungs must be strong enough to control sufficient amounts of air while forcing the vocal cords to vibrate. The air must be going out, not in, for functional speech to occur. The vocal cords must be in good condition in order for one’s speech to sound clear and loud enough to hear. Our sense of hearing monitors and reviews what we say and hears new words to imitate and use in other situations. If we cannot hear clearly, we tend to reproduce sounds that are equally “mumbly.” Also, someone must be willing to communicate with us by listening and reacting to what we say, or there is no point in speaking. The process of developing speech occurs naturally. However, if there is a glitch or disruption in the process, it will affect one’s language.

LANGUAGE – Language is what we speak, write, read, and understand. Language is also communicating through gestures (body language or sign language). There are two distinct areas of language: receptive (what we hear and understand from others’ speech or gestures) and expressive (the words we use to create messages others will understand).
In order for children to begin using and understanding spoken language, they must:
  • Hear well enough to distinguish one word from another.
  • Have someone model what words mean and how to put sentences together.
  • Hear intonation patterns, accents, and sentence patterns.
  • Have the intellectual capability to process what words and sentences mean, store the information, and recall words and sentences heard previously when communicating an idea to someone else.
  • Have the physical capability to speak in order for others to hear and understand the words they are saying.
  • Have a social need and interest in using words to communicate with others.
  • Have another person to positively reinforce their attempts at communication.
Children with receptive language problems may find listening and attending to conversation, stories, oral directions, classroom activities, etc. confusing and difficult at times. If a child’s receptive language doesn’t fully develop, the language learning process slows down before it ever begins. Parents tend to be concerned when their child isn’t talking the way they expect or in the way their same-age peers can talk. If this is happening, a speech-language pathologist will find out if the child is hearing clearly and understanding language (receptive language). If not, the child’s expressive language (meaningful speech) is not going to develop. This is why speech therapy focuses on strengthening a child’s receptive language, even if the concern is that the child isn’t talking properly.
If your child is having difficulty developing speech and/or language skills, it is possible that he/she may also have weak listening skills – usually attributed to an inability to hear well. Strong listening skills are necessary in order to receive and develop sounds for speech and, subsequently, develop language for communication. Consult Christine Wilson, a speech-language pathologist (SLP) to evaluate your child’s development of speech and language if you feel that his/her skills are lacking or not developing at a typical rate. The earlier an SLP can identify and begin treating a child’s speech and/or language problems, the less likely the problems will persist or get worse. Early speech and language intervention can help children be more successful with reading, writing, schoolwork, and interpersonal relationships.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule an evaluation today, contact Speech-Language Pathologist, Christine Wilson.