by Becca Jarzynski, MS, CCC-SLP
I recently had the pleasure of reviewing a new book: My Toddler Talks, Strategies and Activities to Promote Your Child’s Language Development (Volume 1), by Kimberly Scanlon, MA, CCC-SLP. This book promises to provide parents with strategies and activities to promote their child’s language development- and it delivers. After looking through it, I have lots to say about it, the first of which is this: If you like Child Talk, you will love My Toddler Talks.
Those of you who read Child Talk regularly know that I believe toddler language can be strengthened best inside of daily play and activities. From sidewalk chalk to bubbles to dishwashers and laundry and grocery shopping, there is little doubt that much language-learning can be woven into the context of meaningful and fun everyday activities. What’s more, toddlers learn best when simple, yet specific, language facilitation strategies are integrated into those activities. Those two things – language-learning strategies and meaningful daily routines – pack a powerful punch. And it is precisely these two things that make up Kimberly’s My Toddler Talks book.
Kimberly first does a beautiful job of describing language modeling techniques and elicitation strategies in a way that is easy for anyone to understand and apply. Then, she helps out the parent who is stuck, in her chapter: “Troubleshooting Tips: What to Do if the Toddler is Not Imitating You.” I can’t tell you how many times parents have said to me, “I talk to my toddler all the time- but he just doesn’t talk back!” Kimberly wisely anticipates this and provides parents with some time-tested methods of motivating a child to imitate. Her other introductory chapters, “The Do Not List” and “Some More Tips: The Five Rs (Raise it up, Reinforce, Respond, Rearrange, and Relax!) are also spot-on.
The real value in My Toddler Talks, though, is provided in the 25 play routines that Kimberly provides. The activities are simple and familiar, as great activities often are: animal farms, bouncing balls, dolls, puzzles and play-dough are all activities many toddlers and parents already enjoy. Kimberly uses each of these activities to create powerful play routines, each with a beginning, middle, end and language techniques that are matched directly to the play routine. She also describes simple cues to increase the chances a toddler will imitate, such as when she suggests using a fill-in and the use of a phonemic cue (“I have a p…”) to get a child to say, “pig” while playing with a farm puzzle. Her combination of play routines and language strategies is fantastic and will surely be helpful to parents who want to boost their toddler’s language!
Featured Contributor: Becca Jarzynski, M.S. CCC-SLP
About Becca: (From The Child Talk Blog): I’m Becca, a pediatric speech-language pathologist. This long title simply means that I spend my days teaching parents the best ways to help their children learn to communicate. Since graduating with my Master’s Degree in Communication Disorders over 10 years ago, I’ve worked with hundreds and hundreds of children and their families. The children I work with all have delays in communication– some have diagnoses such as Down Syndrome or Autism, others have no diagnosis but still struggle to use words or produce speech sounds, and still others have difficulty with stuttering or using their voice well. Although I work with all kinds of children, my area of expertise is in autism; in addition to my M.S. in Communication Disorders, I have a graduate certificate in behavioral intervention for autism spectrum disorders. I love my job because it allows me to help parents build their child’s communication skills. There is nothing more rewarding than watching a child say a word for the very first time, especially when that child and her family have worked so hard to get there. When I’m not working, I’m busy being a mom to a kindergartner and a toddler. I’m lucky to have gotten a front-seat view of their communication development as well. It’s taught me that no two children are alike, even if they have the same speech therapist as a mom!
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