Parents of children who are referred to Speech-Language Pathologists in preschool are often interested in ideas for enhancing their child’s language understanding at home.  The following are some ideas for stimulating comprehension skills during routine interaction at home:

  • Remember that hearing and listening are not the same.  If you suspect that your child is not always hearing well or has frequent episodes of congestion or middle ear infection or fluid, share your concerns with your child’s medical provider.
  • Establish eye contact with your child when speaking with them at home.  If needed, call your child’s name and wait for them to look at you before beginning to talk.  This will help to ensure that you have their attention which is a precursor to listening to a message.
  • Take time to listen when your child is communicating.  This means stopping what you are doing and focusing your attention on the chld while he/she is communicating with you.  This will send the message that you are interested in what they have to say and are ready to talk and listen.
  • Model courteous listening behavior yourself at home.  Avoid interrupting your family members at home and wait for them to finish a message.
  • Remove distractions such as background noise in the environment from the TV or radio to promote better listening.
  • Repeat and/or rephrase your message when needed.  If your child doesn’t seem to understand your first spoken message, try repeating your message a second time or rephrasing it in a different, more simplified way.
  • Allow your child extra wait time before responding to your question or direction so they have enough time to process the language.
  • Speak to your child using a form and vocabulary that they can comprehend. 
  • Have your child repeat directions back to you before beginning to carry them out.
  • Try presenting directions in small chunks of information; allow pauses between chunks for processing of information.
  • If your child doesn’t understand a question posed to them, rephrase the question into an “either-or” format so they can hear the two presented choices which will enable them to respond more easily.
  • Use gestures and other types of body language and pointing to add to your spoken message.
  • Read to your child daily.  Your child will benefit from listening to books that introduce new vocabulary and concepts, help them learn to sequence events they hear in a story, and expand basic listening and attention.
  • When watching television with your child, use the time as an opportunity to expand on what is happening in the show, ask questions to check comprehension and reinforce introduced vocabulary and concepts.


1.    Official website of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

2.  Apel, Kenn and Masterson, Julie J.  Beyond Baby Talk:  From Sounds to Sentences – A Parent’s Complete Guide to Language Development.  Roseville, CA:  Prima Publishing, 2001.

3.  Manolson, Ayala.  It Takes Two to Talk:  A Parent’s Guide to Helping Children Communicate.  Toronto:  The Hanen Centre, 1992.

By Jennifer G. Lyden, MS, CCC-SLP/L

Posted in Receptive Language | 1 Comment


Parents of children who are evaluated by the CAIU Preschool Program are often interested in ideas for promoting or enhancing their child’s speech sound skills at home.   The following are some ideas for stimulating articulation or speech sound development during everyday activities at home:

  • Remember that your child may not produce all speech sounds correctly as a preschooler and that is OK!  Normal articulation development continues beyond the preschool years into the early elementary grades.
  • Model good speech for your child using an understandable rate of speech and audible level of volume. This is particularly important if your child typically uses a very fast rate or low volume which decreases their intelligibility.
  • Conversationally repeat your child’s articulation errors correctly.  For example, if your child says, “I hear the darbage truck.”, you can repeat their utterance correctly by saying, “Oh, yes! I hear the garbage truck, too!”.
  • Monitor your child’s hearing ability.  If your child frequently has colds or nasal congestion or a history of middle ear fluid or infections, they may not consistently be hearing all the sounds around them.  Seek medical attention if these concerns arise.
  • Gain your child’s attention before speaking and have your child look at you as you speak.  Your child can pick up important cues about the way you use your lips, teeth, tongue, etc. to produce speech sounds as they watch you speak.
  • Get down to your child’s level as you speak rather than always speaking from above so your child can hear and see your speech productions more easily.
  • Avoid using “baby talk” with your child.  You can use mature forms of words with preschoolers such as “Santa Claus”  instead of “Ho-Ho”, for example.
  • If you cannot understand your child’s full utterance, repeat back to them conversationally the part that was intelligible.  If your child says, “My brother’s coming down the dreet.”, you can respond “Oh, your brother’s coming down the …?” with a rising intonation or “Your brother’s coming down the what?”.  This way, your child can attempt to fill in the misunderstood word and also realize that most of their message was successful. 
  • Minimize background noise and distractions when speaking with your child.  Turn off the TV or stereo which may create extraneous noise that makes it more difficult for your child to be understood.
  • Try to use the context or situation in which your child is relating ideas to you to help you fill in words or meaning which may be hard to understand in their utterance.

Additional Resources:

  1. Apel, Kenn and Masterson, Julie J.  Beyond Baby Talk: From Sounds to Sentences – A Parent’s Complete Guide to Language Development.  Roseville, CA:  Prima Publishing, 2001.

2.  – official website of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

By Jennifer G. Lyden, MS, CCC-SLP/L

Posted in Articulation | 1 Comment


Parents of preschool-age children often seek ways to enhance their child’s oral language skills. Following is a list of ways that you can stimulate your preschooler’s expressive language daily:

  • Use “self-talk” or talk about what you are doing throughout your day. Narrate your own activities so your child can hear your language connected to what you are doing.
  • Also talk about what your child is doing while he/she is doing it.  This allows your child to hear the vocabulary and form to describe his/her own activities and experiences.
  • Expand your child’s utterances by rephrasing the utterance they make into a longer, more advanced language structure with more information and/or vocabulary.
  • Encourage your child to expand his/her own utterances by interjecting a word such as “and”, “because”, “then”, or  “so” to suggest they continue their idea with an additional phrase or sentence.
  • Model a variety of language structures and vocabulary.  Avoid using “baby talk” with your child.
  • Casually restate your child’s utterance with corrected grammar.   Ex.:    Child:  Her swimming.   Parent:  Oh, yes, she is swimming.  Don’t make fun of your child’s mistakes or mimic their incorrect utterances.
  • Allow your child enough time to talk without interruptions.  It may take your child a little longer to express their message verbally than a more experienced speaker.
  • Encourage your child to speak in naturally-occurring situations, not by placing demands on him or her to “perform” in front of others.
  • Allow your child opportunities to take the lead and make choices.  Follow their lead and support their attempts to communicate about what interests them.
  • Follow your child’s lead to talk about what they are observing or doing or what interests them.  They will have more to say about topics that are important to them at that moment.  Focus on the here and now!
  • Prompt your child to talk more by saying things such as “Tell me more about that.”  “Is that right?”, “That’s interesting!”, etc.
  • Use non-verbal communication such as eye contact, facial expressions and gestures to indicate your interest and encourage your child to continue talking.
  • Sing and repeat songs, nursery rhymes and fingerplays often.  Use lots of vocal expression and body movement.  Your child will join in with more and more language as repetition helps them learn the words and structures of the songs or rhymes.
  • Give your child opportunities to use their language in natural situations with others to communicate their wants or needs.  For example, when at a restaurant, encourage your child to relate their order to the wait staff instead of having you do all the talking for them.
  • Read together daily!! Let your child choose books that interest them; repetition of favorites is a good vehicle for learning language patterns and vocabulary!  Also have times when you get to choose and introduce new and different books.  Encourage your child to join in as you read and to “read” to you as he or she “learns” their favorite stories.


1.   Official website of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

2.  Apel, Kenn and Masterson, Julie J. Beyond Baby Talk:  From Sounds to Sentences – A Parent’s Complete Guide to Language Development.   Roseville, CA:  Prima Publishing, 2001.                                                        

3.  Manolson, Ayala.  It Takes Two to Talk:  A Parent’s Guide to Helping  Children Communicate.  Toronto:  The Hanen Centre, 1992.

by Jennifer G. Lyden, MS, CCC-SLP/L

Posted in Expressive Language | 1 Comment


Parents of children who are referred for speech fluency concerns in preschool are often interested in ideas for enhancing their child’s speech fluency at home.  The following are some ideas for creating a fluency-friendly environment  by reducing communication demands throughout your child’s day: 

  • Remember that all speakers occasionally repeat words or phrases, interject words such as “um”, and make revisions as they talk.  Many preschool children have these disfluencies as a normal part of their speech development.
  • Decrease background noise and distractions when your child is trying to talk with you.  (Example:  Turn off the radio in your vehicle when your child wants to converse).
  • Model a slower rate of speech with increased pause time at natural breaks such as between phrases, where punctuation marks would fall in a sentence, and also between sentences.  Think “Mr. Rogers’ speech”!
  • Also increase the time you wait before responding to your child’s comments or questions.  This increased pause time between conversational turns will greatly reduce the pace of your verbal exchange.
  • Reduce the amount and frequency of questions that you ask your child.  Instead, make comments as lead-ins to conversation that encourage your child to respond. (Example:  Instead of asking “What did you do at school today?”, make comments to engage your child such as “Look at the painting you did at school today!” and then wait for their response.
  • Avoid placing your child in a position of “performance speech”.  This involves putting them in the spotlight in front of others and expecting them to perform, such as “Tell grandma your ABC’s”.
  • Do not mimic or imitate your child’s dysfluencies.
  • Maintain eye contact with your child during communication, even when your child may be dysfluent.
  • Wait for your child to finish utterances. Be patient during dysfluent episodes and do not interrupt your child, ask your child to slow down or start over.
  • Use non-verbal acknowledgements (nods, smiles) and sounds of acknowledgement (really?, hmm, oh, etc.) as your child is talking to indicate your attention and interest.
  • Stop what you’re doing when possible to look at and give your child your full attention when they are trying to communicate with you.

Additional Resources:

  1.   Official website of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

2.    Website of the University of Pittsburgh, Department of Communication Science.

3.    The Stuttering Foundation of America website.

4.   The National Stuttering Association website.

by Jennifer G. Lyden, MS, CCC-SLP/L

Posted in Fluency | 1 Comment

Pragmatic (Social) Language Adaptations to Typical Classroom Routines

  1. Upon ARRIVAL, encourage kids to greet adults and peers.

2.  At FREE PLAY, reinforce children playing, sharing, helping, and talking to each other.  Dividing the room into centers/designated areas and breaking children into small groups can help facilitate this.

3.  At CIRCLE, introduce topics vaguely to encourage student participation by:

a)    Giving clues (ex:  “Today we’re talking about a place.  Teachers work there, and students sometimes ride a bus to get there.”)

b)    Having students gain more information by asking question (ex:  “Today, we’re talking about a place. . . [wait for/cue as necessary for student questions].

4.   At ART, describe and/or have students describe three or four features of the art project.  For example, before or after   making a spider, say “It’s an animal.  It’s black.  It has 8 legs and spins a web.

 5.  At SNACK, have helpers (ex:  cup passer or napkin passer) ask peers if they want the object they are distributing.  For example, “Jimmy, do you want a napkin?”  Also, encourage informal conversations about the topic of the day.

 6.  Play GROUP GAMES that encourage skills in using and listening to language.  Examples include:

a)    Simon Says – have children take turns giving and following directions

b)    Musical Chairs – have children listen for music to stop; consider having them share chairs with peers when there are less chairs than children

c)    When naming kids to take turns in a game, give descriptions of each child as its his/her opportunity to take a turn (“The next child to take a turn is . . . a boy wearing jeans and a blue striped shirt”)

d)    Give conditional directions in games (“If you’re a girl with brown hair, stand up, etc.).

by Mary Jane Fledderjohn, MS, CCC-SLP/L

Posted in Pragmatic Language | Comments Off on Pragmatic (Social) Language Adaptations to Typical Classroom Routines

Teacher Tips for Promoting Success in the Classroom

Teachers of children whose pragmatic (social language) skills are impaired are often interested in ideas for enhancing the child’s success in the preschool classroom.  The following are some ideas for creating an environment that is easier for those children to understand and participate in successfully.  In addition, these suggestions support children’s learning through a variety of senses, so you will likely to be supporting ALL your students!

These students overall may have difficulty understanding language, attending to structured activities (especially in large groups), recognizing personal boundaries, moving from one activity to another, using and understanding social (“friendship”) skills (ex: turn-taking, using nice words/voice, etc.), and understanding classroom expectations.

  • Consider using VISUALS (pictures, gestures, examples, etc.) to clarify directions. Free clip art is available on the internet.  Websites such as also offer free pictures for use.
  • Give multi-step directions in the form of “FIRST-THEN” STATEMENTS paired with gestures and less words (ex:  “First clean up, then snack” while pointing to the toys to clean up then the snack table).
  • Posting and reviewing a PICTURE SCHEDULE will help to increase students’ attention, comprehension of directions, and ability to move from one activity to another.
  • Give WARNINGS a few times prior to the end of activities (ex: turn lights off to gain students’ attention, and tell them “3 minutes then clean up”…do the same at 2 minutes and at 1 minute).  Other transition warnings include:  use of a timer, clean up songs, etc.
  • Consider ALTERNATING SEATED AND MOVEMENT ACTIVITIES in your schedule.  You can provide even more opportunities for movement by having students help set up the room (ex:  move chair from one side of room to circle area) and run errands (ex:  take heavier phone book or backpack to the next room).
  • MARK PERSONAL BOUNDARIES VISUALLY to help students understand where their area begins and ends.  For example, use work mats to mark his/her art supplies or a large “X” taped on the floor to mark his/her spot in line.  Consider that some may benefit from 3-dimensional boundaries to further clarify an area.  For instance, instead of using a paper mat, it may be helpful to use a cafeteria tray to denote his/her art/snack area or a chair to help establish where his/her body should remain.
  • POST AND REVIEW PICTURES/PHOTOS OF RULES (ex:  for circle, photo rules may show hands down, feet down, mouth closed, eyes on teacher….or a person sitting still on a chair with hands on lap and eyes straight ahead).
  • REINFORCE POSITIVE SOCIAL SKILLS – ex:  turn taking, hand raising, cleaning up, etc. —  through visuals, peer models, specific praise for completing the skill, etc. 
  • Try to LIMIT THE USE OF AND/OR EXPLAIN GENERAL TERMS used in directions (ex:  “Everyone”, “Boys and girls”), as s/he may not realize this includes him/her.

by Mary Jane Fledderjohn, MS, CCC-SLP/L

Posted in Pragmatic Language, Receptive Language | Comments Off on Teacher Tips for Promoting Success in the Classroom


Parents and teachers of children whose speech is very difficult to understand are often interested in ideas for enhancing the child’s success in using understandable speech.  The following are some ideas for creating an environment that is easier for those children to express themselves successfully.

  • Encourage the child to point and gesture to communicate.  You can also gesture when speaking to him/her to demonstrate various words that s/he may later need to use (ex:  gesture a drinking motion while talking to the child about your drink to reinforce its use for the child when s/he wants a drink).


  • Offer choices.  For example, do you want to go to McDonald’s or Burger King?  You are more likely to understand the child’s response, even if it’s simply “muh,” because you know the expected responses and know which one starts with the “m” sound.


  • Offer visuals as much as possible.  These include objects and photos (ex:  photos of toys at school, photos of the toilet, etc.).  At school, the teacher could ask choices such as, “Which center do you want to play in?” while pointing to a few/all of them.  Another example is asking the child about which job s/he wants to do, “Do you want to pass out napkins or cups?” as the teacher holds up one object in each hand.  At home, the child could be asked, “Who do you want to play with on your play date?”  At the same time, the caregiver could show the child photos of a few friends to allow the child to answer verbally and nonverbally for success. 


  • Talk mostly about the present, so you know the context and are more likely to immediately understand or to quickly figure out what the child is saying.  Photos of special events (ex:  vacations, field trips, trip to Grandma’s, holidays, etc.) can allow the child to share a fun day with adults and peers.  A context will be established, and the other person will more likely know what’s being said.  In addition, the listener can ask simple questions (ex:  “Is this your Grandma?) and can make basic comments to demonstrate his/her attention and interest (ex:  “You look really happy here.” or “Wow!  This looks fun!”).


  • Ask questions requiring only 1-2 words and/or gestures to answer.  If you know the answer, it will also be easier for you to understand the child.  For instance, after reading a book you could ask who, yes/no, where, or what.  An example of that is asking, “What was Goldilocks doing when the 3 bears came home” so the child could gesture sleeping.  Also, you could ask “What did Goldilocks break?”  The child could then answer by saying chair or pointing to a nearby chair or picture in the book.

by Mary Jane Fledderjohn, MS, CCC-SLP/L