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May 20, 2004
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Early Intervention Crucial For Children With Speech And Language Problems
Health and Social Services
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Little Expressions has also partnered with the PEI Speech and Hearing Association to provide fact sheets to all early childhood educators and family resource centers across the province. The fact sheets contain information regarding developmental guidelines, the referral process and practical tips to support a child’s speech and language development.
May is Speech and Hearing Month here in Prince Edward Island and across North America. The PEI Speech and Hearing Association, which represents speech language pathologists and audiologist in the province, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. In Canada, it is estimated that one in ten people has a speech, language or hearing problem.
All people in a child’s life can play an important role in promoting good speech and language development. Babies learn to talk by listening to others around them, so diagnosing hearing problems as early as possible is crucial for their speech and language development. The Prince County Hospital and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital are playing a pivotal role in early intervention by providing infant hearing screening to all newborns.
Although the development of speech and language skills varies among children, there are guidelines that care givers can follow to ensure a child’s speech, language and hearing are developing as they should:
-By three months a child should be reacting to loud noises or new sounds and “playing” with his or her voice.
-By 12 months, a child should begin to understand some common words like “bye-bye” and be starting to say some single words.
-By 18 months, a child should have a core vocabulary of 10-20 words and be able to put sounds together that seem like sentences.
-By two years, a child should be following simple directions, saying some two-word sentences, and have a vocabulary of approximately 150-300 words.
-By three years, a child should be using three- to four-word sentences and be understandable 90 per cent of the time with familiar and unfamiliar listeners.
-In the remaining pre-school years, children should be highly understandable, ask and answer many different kinds of age-appropriate questions, have improved reasoning skills, and be able to follow more complex directions.
Nicole Léger, President of the PEI Speech and Hearing Association, urges parents and care-givers who suspect that a child has a problem not to put off seeing a specialist.
“Although learning is ongoing, a child’s brain is most receptive to learning communication skills in the first four years of life. If a parent or care-giver suspects a problem, it is important to seek help as soon as possible,” Ms. Léger notes.
Diane Johnstone, speech-language pathologist and Coordinator of Little Expressions Provincial Speech and Language Initiative, agrees. “While current demands on speech-pathology services nationwide are resulting in wait lists, it is nonetheless recommended that a referral to a speech-language pathologist be completed as soon as an issue arises. In Prince Edward Island, a parent has many options for referral. They can speak to their physician, public health nurse, or early childhood educator regarding a referral to speech-language pathology. Parents themselves can refer their child by calling their local speech-language pathology and audiology office.”
Parents and care givers play a crucial role in a child’s speech and language development. Even if a parent or care giver does not suspect a problem, there are many ways to enhance a child’s speech and language development. It is important to provide good speech models and keep ear infections in check when supporting a child’s communication skills. Daily activities such as bath time, meal time, playing, reading, and driving in the car provide optimal times for language learning.
PEI’s newest initiative, Little Expressions Mean A Lot, shows parents and care givers how to capitalize on those daily language opportunities. Little Expressions networks with government and communities to provide additional training and print resources to parents, early childhood educators and others to address a preschool child’s speech and language development in all environments.
For more information regarding the PEI Speech and Hearing Association, call 368-4440. For more information on the Little Expressions Provincial Speech and Language Initiative, contact Diane Johnstone at 368-5579 or visit the Little Expressions Website at www.littleexpressions.com .