How to tell if a boy or girl has speech and reading difficulties

The process of basic language acquisition continues from birth to 6 years of age. In the first year of this period, two important things happen, the first is that children learn to understand each other without words, this is called communicative intention and is the foundation on which language will be maintained. A 9-10 month old baby can reject what he doesn’t want and signal what he wants. When the child manages to understand himself even without speaking, he has already passed the first major challenge of communication. The second important skill is the gradual habituation to the language to which he is exposed, which will enable him to understand the names of people and things around him by the end of his first year of life.” The journey through which the first words begin to appear begins between 12-18 months and they are usually related to context. By age 2, they have at least 50 words and can combine two words into a short sentence. As early as 3 years old they can form a simple sentence with articles and the conjugated verb, at 4 years old they can form long sentences and around 5 they manage to tell small events and carry on a simple conversation.

Usually, this whole process develops spontaneously, and children learn to understand and speak without realizing it, simply by being in contact with people who speak to them. Language is a two-way ability in which both the individual biological state of each child and the quantity and quality of environmental stimulation intervene. In this sense, it is crucial to mention the harmful role that technology causes in the development of communication. According to the WHO (World Health Organization), the use of electronic devices by children under the age of 5 is completely prohibited, as their use causes difficulties in communication and attention, and in the long term, behavioral difficulties and impulsivity.

In the 2014 American Journal of Pediatrics, Paula Radewski and colleagues published a study in which they examined interactions between mothers and children who visited various restaurants in the city of Boston and compared those who used a cell phone while with their child to those who did not. which were not. The results showed that those who were on the cell phone had fewer interactions and they were robotic in nature. Dimitri Christakis, a researcher at the University of Washington (2009), conducted a study in which he recorded children aged 2 to 48 months and noted that when the TV was not on, these children heard 925 words per hour from the environment, while when the TV was on, they listened to only 155, that is, the stimulus was reduced by 85%. By listening less, they also vocalized less.

Beyond the technology-generated situation, approximately 20% of children between the ages of 2 and 3 have language learning delays and continue to have difficulties thereafter. About 7% of children in the general population have a language disorder (TDL)

At different ages it is possible to mention different alarm patterns that may lead to the suspicion of the presence of a language difficulty, they are the following: at 18-24 months, difficulty following commands such as “Give me, take, come, sit and etc.’; then at 30 months, difficulty understanding commands like “Open the door” or “Bring the shoe.” Sometimes it can happen that the child reacts to these commands if they are repeated a lot and if they are related to everyday situations. The absence of these stages in expression are also warning signs: between 18 and 23 months, the use of fewer than 10 understandable words, at 24-30 months, the use of fewer than 50 words, at 30 months, persistent use of gestures to understand rather than produce words. At this same stage, the child should be able to say numbers, colors, letters, etc., but not be able to ask his parents for what he wants or say if something hurts. Another important marker in this period is to repeat everything verbatim without interpreting what is said. At 30-36 months, failure to combine two words, that is, lack of ability to construct sentences. Another alarming direction is that the child speaks, but what he says is not understood, if the expression is understandable only to his parents or not even to them, it is necessary to consult. Finally, between the ages of 4 and 5, not being able to summarize what he was doing in the garden, not remembering words, or talking repeatedly about a topic of interest are markers of communicative language difficulty.

Some recommendations to facilitate language development in children are as follows: talk to them face to face and slowly, because slowly listening to the language and looking at the other person’s lips contributes to the best verbal decoding; Using short sentences with simple words is another important factor in smoothing comprehension, as well as emphasizing the most important words in the sentence. Each time the child points to the objects, the adult should name it, and after two or three attempts in which the child does not repeat what is indicated, the adult should say the initial syllable of the word to facilitate the child saying it. When the child pronounces the word or phrase in a blur way, the adult must repeat the well-structured word or phrase, this is called modeling. With 3-4 year olds, to encourage understanding is to use different everyday situations to stimulate him and give him small commands to follow, such as “Bring me a cup”, “Go get your shoes “. For learning new vocabulary, in addition to everyday situations that are presented as routine, children’s songs are useful when specific topics are mentioned, such as the song “Head, Shoulders, Knees, Feet”, where the child has to indicate and in time in time copies what he hears. Finally, reading simple stories with pictures and heavy emphasis on important words. Ask him to name the characters and say as much as he can what he sees in his words. Reading stories from parents to children has been scientifically proven to be the most powerful tool for learning new words. Knowing this situation and trying to collaborate to stimulate the language of children with communication challenges, we thought of creating the adapted stories for Curiosas y Curiosos 1 and 2 (Ed. La Crujía, 2021 and 2022), where they present traditional children’s stories, adapted from a literary point of view, accompanied by graphic activities that cooperate in understanding the information read.

We hope that this material will be useful for children with language difficulties and for those without difficulties who want to enjoy the offer.


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