Early Reading and Writing Development

April 18, 2012

More often than not, literacy is something that is not thought of until a child is beginning school. Many parents may not realize that they could be setting the foundations for their child’s literacy long before they ever walk through the doors their first school. The article that follows was taken from the Get Ready to Read website and was written by two speech therapists. It discusses how spoken language and literacy are connected, as well as who is at risk for acquisition of literacy skills, early warning signs, the role of the speech therapist, and also what parents can be doing at home to help.

As parents, you are the primary and most important teacher your children will ever have. The first step starts with you. Happy Reading!    – Alana Garcia-Chavez, M.S., CCC-SLP

 Early Reading and Writing  Development

By Froma P. Roth, Ph.D, CCC-SLP and Diane R. Paul, Ph.D, CCC-SLP

Taken from http://www.getreadytoread.org/early-learning-childhood-basics/early-literacy/early-reading-and-writing-developmentChildren start to learn language from the day they are born. As they grow and develop, their speech and language skills become increasingly more complex. They learn to understand and use language to express their ideas, thoughts, and feelings, and to communicate with others. During early speech and language development, children learn skills that are important to the development of literacy (reading and writing). This stage, known as emergent literacy, begins at birth and continues through the preschool years.Children see and interact with print (e.g., books, magazines, grocery lists) in everyday situations (e.g., home, in preschool, and at daycare) well before they start elementary school. Parents can see their child’s growing appreciation and enjoyment of print as he or she begins to recognize words that rhyme, scribble with crayons, point out logos and street signs, and name some letters of the alphabet. Gradually, children combine what they know about speaking and listening with what they know about print and become ready to learn to read and write.

Are Spoken Language and Literacy Connected?

Yes. The experiences with talking and listening gained during the preschool period prepare children to learn to read and ite during the early elementary school years. This means that children who enter school with weaker verbal abilities are much more likely to experience difficulties learning literacy skills than those who do not.

One spoken language skill that is strongly connected to early reading and writing is phonological awareness — the recognition that words are made up of separate speech sounds, for example, that the word dog is composed of three sounds: /d/, /o/, /g/. There are a variety of oral language activities that show children’s natural development of phonological awareness, including rhyming (e.g., “cat-hat”) and alliteration (e.g., “big bears bounce on beds”), and isolating sounds (“Mom, /f/ is the first sound in the word fish”).

As children playfully engage in sound play, they eventually learn to segment words into their separate sounds, and “map” sounds onto printed letters, which allows them to begin to learn to read and write. Children who perform well on sound awareness tasks become successful readers and writers, while children who struggle with such tasks often do not.

Who is at Risk?

There are some early signs that may place a child at risk for the acquisition of literacy skills. Preschool children with speech and language disorders often experience problems learning to read and write when they enter school. Other factors include physical or medical conditions (e.g., preterm birth requiring placement in a neonatal intensive care unit, chronic ear infections, fetal alcohol syndrome, cerebral palsy), developmental disorders (e.g., mental retardation, autism spectrum), poverty, home literacy environment, and family history of language or literacy disabilities.

Early Warning Signs

Signs that may indicate later reading and writing and learning problems include persistent baby talk, absence of interest in or appreciation for nursery rhymes or shared book reading, difficulty understanding simple directions, difficulty learning (or remembering) names of letters, failure to recognize or identify letters in the child’s own name.

Role of the Speech-Language Pathologist

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) have a key role in promoting the emergent literacy skills of all children, and especially those with known or suspected literacy-related learning difficulties. The SLP may help to prevent such problems, identify children at risk for reading and writing difficulties, and provide intervention to remediate literacy-related difficulties. Prevention efforts involve working in collaboration with families, other caregivers, and teachers to ensure that young children have high quality and ample opportunities to participate in emergent literacy activities both at home and in daycare and preschool environments. SLPs also help older children or those with developmental delays who have missed such opportunities. Children who have difficulty grasping emergent literacy games and activities may be referred for further assessment so that intervention can begin as early as possible to foster growth in needed areas and increase the likelihood of successful learning and academic achievement.

Early Intervention Is Critical

Emergent literacy instruction is most beneficial when it begins early in the preschool period because these difficulties are persistent and often affect children’s further language and literacy learning throughout the school years. Promoting literacy development, however, is not confined to young children. Older children, particularly those with speech and language impairments, may be functioning in the emergent literacy stage and require intervention aimed at establishing and strengthening these skills that are essential to learning to read and write.

What Parents Can Do

You can help your child develop literacy skills during regular activities without adding extra time to your day. There also are things you can do during planned play and reading times. Show your children that reading and writing are a part of everyday life and can be fun and enjoyable. Activities for preschool children include the following:

  • Talk to your child and name objects, people, and events in the everyday environment.
  • Repeat your child’s strings of sounds (e.g., “dadadada, bababa”) and add to them.
  • Talk to your child during daily routine activities such as bath or mealtime and respond to his or her questions.
  • Draw your child’s attention to print in everyday settings such as traffic signs, store logos, and food containers.
  • Introduce new vocabulary words during holidays and special activities such as outings to the zoo, the park, and so on.
  • Engage your child in singing, rhyming games, and nursery rhymes.
  • Read picture and story books that focus on sounds, rhymes, and alliteration (words that start with the same sound, as found in Dr. Seuss books).
  • Reread your child’s favorite book(s).
  • Focus your child’s attention on books by pointing to words and pictures as you read.
  • Provide a variety of materials to encourage drawing and scribbling (e.g., crayons, paper, markers, finger paints).
  • Encourage your child to describe or tell a story about his/her drawing and write down the words.

What is Joint Attention and Why is it Important for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders?

April 10, 2012

Joint attention is the shared focus of two individuals on an object or each other . Joint attention on  an object is achieved when one individual alerts another to an object by means of eye-gazing, pointing or other verbal or non-verbal indication. An individual gazes at another individual, points to an object and then returns their gaze to the individual (3 point gaze). Each individual must understand that the other individual is looking at the same object and realize that there is an element of shared attention.  The individual must display awareness that focus is shared between himself and another individual. If two individuals are simply looking at the same object, but not referencing each other, it is referred to as shared gaze. Shared gaze is the lowest level of joint attention.  Joint attention between people is a conversation-like behavior that individuals engage in. Adults and infants engage in this behavior starting at two months of age. Adults and infants take turns exchanging facial expressions and sounds.  The sole purpose of joint attention is to share an interesting object or experience with another person.

Joint attention is a necessary precursor skill for language and social-cognitive development.  It is important for the development social referencing, language acquisition and learning through modeling behaviors of others around you and other, later-emerging, skills, such as more complex expressive language, symbolic play, and theory of mind.

Children with Autism Spectrum disorders have a particular difficulty in their social relationships. Children with Autism often demonstrate a lack of or delays in joint attention skills.  Children with Autism are often more interested in and engaged by their own thoughts and sensations than by other people or even the outside world.  Social connections are more difficult to build and understand for children with Autism.  A lack of or a delay in joint attention skills can limit children’s ability to learn through imitation, develop play and social skills, and attend in a learning situation such as a classroom.  Children with Autism who display more intact joint attention skills exhibit better outcomes with respect to the development of cognitive, language, and symbolic play skills. Joint attention skills have a vital role in the development of children with autism spectrum disorders. Joint attention skills can be taught and addressed in a number of therapy models and approaches.

-Brandi Quinsay, MA, CCC-SLP


You Will Not “Zone-out” With This Great Self Regulation Program

April 4, 2012

The Zones of Regulation Curriculum was designed to help children become more successful in school, at home, and in the community by independently controlling maladaptive behaviors through the process of self regulation and emotional control. Self regulation is the ability to be in the best state to successfully engage in a particular activity. When exposed to a frustrating activity, an individual with self regulation difficulties may find coping challenging and will likely demonstrate maladaptive behaviors such as physically escaping the situation or lashing out.

Through the Zones of Regulation program, students will learn how to categorize their emotions and states of alertness into four  color categorized zones.

  1. The Blue Zone: A low state of alertness. For example, when one feels sick, tired, or bored.
  2. The Green Zone: A regulated state of alertness. Characterized when one is focused, calm and content.
  3. The Yellow Zone: A heightened state of alertness. For example, when one experiences feeling of frustration, silliness, or confusion.
  4. The Red Zone: An extremely heightened state of alertness. When one feels intense emotions such as rage, panic, or terror.

The Zones of Regulation curriculum teaches children which zones are expected for given circumstances. For example, right before a championship sports event, it is okay for one’s body to be in the Yellow Zone as a heightened state of alertness may boost athletic performance. In contrast, a heightened state of alertness is not appropriate when one is sitting in math class. If a child is in a zone that does not match the demands of the environment, the Zones curriculum teaches children tools that help them move between zones; this helps a child get their body in a “just right” place to do what is expected of them. A child’s toolbox of self regulation strategies consists of a variety of calming techniques, cognitive strategies, and sensory supports.

The Zones of Regulation curriculum is appropriate for any child, even as young as preschool years, that struggles with self regulation. However, some children with the following conditions frequently have difficulty self regulating: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or Anxiety Disorders.

For more information about the Zones of Regulation program, please ask your CSLOT occupational therapist.

-Rosie Commons M.S. OTR/L

References:

Kuypers, L.M. (2011). The Zones of Regulation: A Curriculum Deisgned to Foster Self-Regulation and Emotional Control. San Jose, CA: Think Social Publishing, Inc.