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What the Heck is Social Pragmatics?

What the Heck is Social Pragmatics?

One of my favorite areas to work on with kids in speech and language therapy is something we call social pragmatics. Many children with challenges in receptive and expressive language benefit from improving their social pragmatic skills. But what does it mean?

Social pragmatics refers to the social use of language and how individuals interact with others. This includes what we say, how we say it, our body language, taking turns in conversation, showing interest in another person’s comments and ideas, and even knowing when not to talk! Pragmatic skills are central to how we communicate with others and participate in social groups, such as our families and communities. Pragmatic skills are vital for communicating our personal thoughts, ideas and feelings.

Some children have more difficulty than others when it comes to social language. If you parent or know a child with an autism spectrum disorder or Asperger’s syndrome, you’re aware of struggles with skills like eye contact, asking for and sharing information, engaging in meaningful conversation, using humor, offering responses to prompts or questions, and gaining attention in an appropriate way. In my day-to-day clinic practice I find it rewarding, fascinating and sometimes downright mystifying when working with children on understanding and developing social skills. I find it rewarding because I know whatever I do to help a child improve social language skills will truly impact every area of his or her life. I find it fascinating because every child is unique, with his or her own way of interacting with the world. With especially severe disorder areas, like classic autism, I am mystified by the tedious, painstaking and loving process of “breaking into” a child’s world to bring them more into ours.

Language is power, and when we equip our precious little ones with the ability to engage and interact appropriately with others, we are taking them one step further toward and self-actualization and independence! Here are some simple things you can do to help:
– Provide a good model. Get down to your child’s eye level and use positive body language and eye contact.

– Demonstrate appropriate turn-taking by letting your child speak or gesture without being interrupted. Use pauses in conversation to allow your child to formulate and express his/her ideas.

– Give gentle, verbal reminders, such as “listen with your eyes,” and “listen with your body.”

– Use stories and visual supports to provide examples of appropriate behavior. Many ideas can

be found online using the search term “social stories.”

– Offer role-playing opportunities where your child can practice certain routines and skills in a positive way.

– Read simple story books about responding to affection, asking for help, using humor and following directions. Some of my favorites include the “Grumpy Bunny” series by Scholastic Publishing.

– Praise your child for maintaining a topic introduced by others, asking for and giving information, and using appropriate strategies to gain attention without interrupting. So, the next time your child engages in inappropriate (and even embarrassing) behavior, especially when others may perceive your kiddo is being – well, a little less than socially acceptable – keep the above tips in mind to support significant changes over time. Above all, strive to provide the best example you can, both at home and in the community. Whether your child has a language delay, autism, Asperger’s or communication delays that present barriers to appropriate social language, use some of these strategies to support winning social language skills!

Also worth a look – Here are some of my favorite websites offering insightful and hands-on info regarding social language:

https://jillkuzma.wordpress.com/; Jill Kuzma’s Social-Emotional Sharing Site

http://www.therabee.com/images-pdf/pragmatics-jul08.pdf; Therapy Bee Speech Patholgy

http://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/Pragmatics/; Amer Speech, Language & Hearing Assn

http://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/PragmaticLanguageTips/; also ASHA

By: Jane Lomas, M.S., CCC-SLP

January Newsletter

National Handwriting Day Contest

December 2016 Newsletter

 

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Books, Baking, and Beats: Encouraging Speech & Language Development During the Holidays

With everyone’s busy schedules during the holiday months, it may be hard finding time to practice speech exercises at home during these eventful months. Luckily, the holidays present a great amount of opportunities to encourage speech and language development outside of therapy. Here are a few ideas to incorporate at home to practice speech while also having fun celebrating the holidays!

Books

Research has shown that reading aloud stimulates language development. Holiday breaks are a perfect time to head to your local library and check out some seasonal and holiday books to help build your child’s vocabulary, listening skills, ability to answer questions, and grammar. Here are a couple of holiday book ideas to target speech and language at home:

Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney

This book tells the story of a little llama who is excited for Christmas but is exhausted by all the activities surrounding the holiday. This is a great book to work on answering questions and basic concepts. You can ask simple questions such as “Where did llama and mama go?” or “What is llama and mama doing?” This book is also written in a lively rhyming format. Reading books that rhyme allows children to memorize familiar words and helps them develop skills to predict rhyming words, which is an essential step in the process of learning to read.


The Mitten by Jan Brett

When Nicki loses his mitten in the snow, a number of animals find it and crawl inside. This book is a great story to discuss illustrations or use it to target sequencing. You can discuss the order that animals crawl into the mitten and also target special concepts by discussing which animals are in/out of the mitten.

 


There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell! By Lucille Colandro


This time the hungry old lady swallows a bell, gifts, a sleigh, and many other Christmas-themed items. This is a great book to work on predicting, story retell, or sequencing. You can also work on basic concepts such as counting to count the number of items the old lady has swallowed.


Baking

You may find yourself in the kitchen more often during the holiday season baking or cooking for various parties or events. Baking with your little one is a great opportunity to work on their speech & language skills. You can target following directions by giving your child specific tasks or narrating simple steps and then asking him or her to recite the steps (“First we are going to add the sugar, then butter, and then eggs. Can you tell me what we are going to add?”). There are many opportunities to target responding to questions while engaging in a cooking or baking activity with your child.

You can target “where” questions by having your child help you locate specific ingredients in your kitchen and “what” questions by having your child help you identify utensils you need (or don’t need). You may have an item on the counter that you don’t need such as a mug, banana, toy, etc. and you can have your child tell you what you do not need to roll out dough or mix the batter. You can also target spatial concepts during a baking activity such as the word “in” (“Can you help me put the chocolate chips in the bowl?”), “on” (“Let’s put sprinkles on the cookies”), and “off” (“Now we need to take the cookies off the baking sheet”). There are limitless opportunities to target speech and language while engaging in a fun activity like baking!

Beats

Music is an essential part of a child’s speech development. Through singing, children can achieve improved articulation skills. In addition, singing combines repetition, rhythm, and rhyme, which help to develop speech and language skills. What better time than the holidays to sing fun, festive songs with your little ones?!

By: Bianca Minniti, M.S., CCC-SLP

 

Fun While Learning??!!

We all have memories of fun learning experiences and some not-so-fun learning experiences. Usually, we learn best when we are interested in the topic. However, with the aid of a good teacher, it is possible to enjoy the learning experience even without a vested interest in the topic.

As a speech and language therapist, I teach many different children. None of these children have ever signed themselves up for speech and language therapy (except for siblings who see how fun it is and wish that they could join in)! No, therapy is usually recommended by a parent, teacher, physician, and/or therapist of a different occupation. Because these children aren’t always motivated by the topic, skill, or concept being taught, it is important to find ways to make learning fun for them. When learning is enjoyable and effective therapeutic strategies are employed, the children learn faster.

Each child learns in different ways, responds to different cues, and is motivated by different activities. Therefore, it is important to find what works best for each child. The following are examples of what has worked in my practice and in the practice of fellow speech pathologists. I hope this information will help parents to apply teaching strategies at home, which will likely result in even faster learning!

  • Sing songs! Many songs exist that teach good vocabulary and concepts, particularly for young children. However, you can make up your own song using any tune that already exists, or even your own tune. Well-chosen songs are very helpful to a child’s (and adult’s) learning because the melody and words remain long after the teacher is gone.
  • Create a challenge. Most of us enjoy a challenge, particularly when competing with another person. The challenge can be based on time or amount. For instance, while driving, the challenge can be to see who names the most items within a certain category by the time the light turns green (or by the time the destination is reached). Or, if the challenge is based on amount, a parent could say, “I bet you can say the word ‘get’ (or ‘chip’ or any other word that contains the sound the child needs to practice) for as many chips that are in that snack bag!” Sometimes, children keep practicing the sound or word after the goal has been reached, in part to obtain a reaction from the therapist. This generally works out well for both parties.
  • Make it silly! Practice the skill while bending upside down, while looking at oneself in the magnifying mirror, or while wearing a funny hat/mask. Make up silly sentences or stories, and laugh with one another.
  • Use gestures. Not only do visual cues help with learning, but they are also fun! For instance, some therapists slide their fingers up their arms when practicing the “s” sound, or some call the “p” sound the “popcorn” sound while making fun popcorn noises and gestures.
  • Make it active! Practice while standing on one foot, while bouncing on an exercise ball, while throwing a weighted ball back and forth, or while running to and from destination points outside.
  • Request ideas from the child. Some of the best therapy activities have been initiated by the children on my caseload. Because it is their idea, they are even more motivated to participate in learning.

Above all, make sure to use REPETITION, REPETITION, REPETITION! That is the key to the best success!! Enjoy teaching your fun-loving kiddo, and remember to have fun yourself!

By: Alissa Ketterling, MS, CCC-SLP

November 2016 Newsletter

 

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