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Great Lessons for Bilingual Parents

There is a difference between language and speech. Language is unique to humans and is defined as the underlying system that allows humans to interact, share their ideas and thoughts. Language is divided into receptive language, aka understanding language and expressive language, the ability to express thoughts and ideas. Language is essential for cognition and academic development.

Speech, on the other hand, is the ability to coordinate complex system of breathing and articulation, using your tongue, lips and jaw to express language.

Bilingual Homes

Bilingual children are those exposed to another language from birth. That is different process than children who are exposed to one language at birth and then taught a second language later in life.

Lessons for Bilingual Parents

Raising bilingual children poses unique challenges. But probably the biggest challenge is one we all face. What is the best way to foster language development? The answer is to chat in the presence of your child from birth. Narrate your daily activities using short sentences: I’m washing dishes; Dad is cooking dinner. We are walking.

In a bilingual home, parents should speak to their children in the language in which they are most comfortable. The reason for this is that language conveys not only thoughts but also emotions. And emotion does not always present successfully in a second language. Also, it is preferable to model proper speech and grammar, a task at which not everyone excels.

It is also recommended not to mix two languages in one sentence. Though it is a natural tendency on our part, it is preferable to avoid the mix during the early language development stage.

Though raising bilingual children adds an additional chapter to the parenting manual, the benefits are great!

If you can teach your child any language what language would it be?

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Coping with a Speech Diagnosis: A Toolbox for Parents

Late bloomer or language problem?

Each child develops at an individual pace. Some children experience language delay. Other possible speech diagnoses included speech or language disorders.

Securing a speech diagnosis involves an evaluation by a licensed speech and language therapist. While the process will give you a definitive diagnosis and treatment options, parents may find this “toolbox” of suggestions helpful in successfully navigating this new experience.

  • Be curious. It is ok to request literature and ask questions about the diagnosis, type and frequency of speech therapy, estimated length of treatment as well as home exercises to reinforce treatment. Depending on the diagnosis, you may also want to request names of support groups in your area.
  • Explore your own feelings about the speech diagnosis. Sometimes the diagnosis is liberating, a reinforcement of a gut feeling you had. But even a minor speech issue can trigger feelings of inadequacy, anger, sadness or guilt. Those feelings are normal and sometimes just the acknowledgement is healing. Other times you may need to seek help from a family therapist.
  • Evaluate the diagnostic impact on your child. Sometimes a child is relieved to begin the process and address the issue. Other times, it is seen as a stigma. Find the right opportunity to explore your child’s feelings. Listening and validating are the key.
  • Observe family dynamics. Often a change in family dynamics, even a minor one, can trigger behavioral issues in the child or siblings. Anticipating a possible change is your best defense. Other parenting tools include maintaining consistency in routines, responsibilities and rules and consciously focusing on each family member’ strengths. Sometimes you can involve the whole family in the therapeutic process, though it is best to consult the therapist on best practices.

Most importantly, quality family time is essential for healthy social skills and language development. I am a big proponent of family dinners, outings and playing games as well as private time, both for couples and each child…because every interaction has infinite potential.

What has worked for you?

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Sofia Robirosa is a Licensed Marriage and family therapist and owner of Infinite Therapeutic Services in Plantation, Florida. For more information, please visit her website

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