Joint Attention

June 6, 2012

Learning to communicate using speech and language is a primary developmental task for young children. Significant progress in research related to language intervention is available to improve the delivery of Early Intervention services. According to the most recent research, social attention and prelinguistic communicative behaviors are fundamental to language learning and use.  According to Adamson et al., 2009, “the process of joint engagement between children and their partners is foundational to emerging communication.” In CSLOT’s parent handout, Making a Joint Effort to Communicate, joint engagement is initiated by the child’s communication partner through observation. By becoming a thoughtful observer, one can learn what the child enjoys, desires, feels – even what they want to communicate. Yoder & Warren, 2004 indicated that “coordinated joint attention is an important early indicator of social communication abilities and predicts the onset of spoken language in typical children with disabilities.” How can a parent, caretaker or therapist initiate coordinated joint attention? According to Making a Joint Effort to Communicate, one way is to become more physically involved in the same activity as the child. This works best when it is an activity of the child’s choosing. During the joint action, try imitating the child’s play- then try adding or expanding on their play.

Adamson et al., 2009 also found that the use of symbols (gestures, words) within the context of joint attention marks the transition from prelinguistic to linguistic communication. One way of using language during a joint activity is by providing joint referencing for the child. According to the handout, once the communication partner (i.e., parent, caretaker, therapist) is engaged in joint action with the child and they have established joint attention (i.e., both attending to the same thing), the communication partner can introduce the language component by talking about the object/action that the child is attending to. For example, if the child is playing with a car, then the communication partner will guide their attention to the car, talk about what it is, what it looks like, what it is doing, etc. The car is important to him right now so one can make that a “teachable moment.” Additional methods for teaching joint attention and prelinguistic communication skills (point, show, give, turn taking) have included environmental arrangement, modeling, prompting, and reinforcing child responses in naturalistic and direct teaching paradigms. Please speak with a speech-language pathologist for additional information on these techniques.

-Sarah Peters, MS, CCC-SLP

Information gathered from and “Advances in Early Communication and Language Intervention,” (Kaiser & Roberts, 2011).


Living with Dyslexia

June 4, 2012

According to the International Dyslexia Association, dyslexia is characterized by “difficulties with accurate and /or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction.” (Adopted by the IDA Board of Directors, Nov. 12, 2002) Consequences may include difficulty with reading comprehension, which can limit growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. Recent studies also show that people diagnosed with dyslexia typically process information in a different area of the brain than people who are not dyslexic.

Since the enactment of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), many students are currently receiving instruction more tailored to their needs. However, adults who are living with dyslexia today may not have received the proper instruction in reading in order to overcome their challenges with written text.

Don’t worry! A wealth of evidence shows that intensive, high quality literacy instruction can help students who are struggling build the skills they need to succeed in high school and beyond (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2006). In other words, it is never too late. Older students with dyslexia, including adults, can benefit from specialized reading and writing instruction, but it is essential for them to find an instructor who is highly trained to successfully teach individuals with dyslexia.

So, reader… while you are busy finding the proper instructor, you can still make improvements to your reading ability with compensatory strategies. These are methods for which you are able to compensate for significant difficulties in a way that would provide you with a more satisfying quality of life. For example, a compensatory strategy for overcoming difficulty with written text can be listening to books on audio recordings.

Other strategies:

Clarann Goldring, Ph.D., is a licensed and practicing psychologist, and maintains a diagnosis of Dyslexia and ADD. Below are some of her “Practical Tips for Success” for adults living with dyslexia: (From, 2006)

  1. ACCEPT YOUR LEARNING DIFFERENCE AND ADAPT ACCORDINGLY. The key for unleashing the potential within each person is through a set of specific coping strategies and techniques.

Four components:

1) RECOGNIZING the disability was the key beginning point.  Denial leads to continued failure and moving ahead is impossible.

2) PERSISTENCE – THE NEED TO WORK HARDER THAN OTHERS – Accepting both the negative and the positive.

3) UNDERSTANDING YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESS – What is my disability and how does it effect my everyday world?

4) ACTION – All the recognition, acceptance and understanding in the world are useless without a conscious decision to work towards a goal.

Understand your Strengths and Weaknesses and Adapt with Compensations

  2. Take a Deep Breath – slow down.
  3. Break it Down into smaller parts.
  4. Make a Plan – organize the activity
  5. Self Talk:

  I am unable to spell but I can create great ideas for a story.

  I am unable to remember the detailed information but 

  I can tape it, write it down and with time I can fully understand it.”

~Admire the fact that you can work through the struggle.


(use diagrams, cards, tape recorders,  visualization, auditory associations, mnemonics)

  1. If someone gives you information – How do you put it in your long term memory?
  2. Organize the information into concrete usable information.
  3. Multi-sensory – see it, hear it, do it (kinesthetic).


(Note: why do I forget?  I am not interested – not my choice to remember.  For this moment I need to be interested.

Relax – crawl into this material for a moment. Make it a challenge!)

Laughter is another key to happiness. Having a sense of humor about your difficulties may also help you deal with some of the more challenging tasks, when feelings of frustration take over. For a chuckle, please visit: (beware – some of them are pretty silly!).

Living with dyslexia doesn’t have to be so hard. If you can have patience and work hard, you will succeed in making improvements to your reading and comprehension abilities. Please visit the resources below for more information about dyslexia, and for access to communities of others successfully living a satisfying life, with dyslexia.



Clarann Goldring, Ph.D., 2006: “Practical Tips for Success”

International Dyslexia Association:

Forum and Resource for Individuals with Dyslexia, created by Individuals with Dyslexia:

Melissa M. McClung, MS, CF-SLP