A Speech-Language Pathologist Perspective - Part 1
By Maureen Penko
At this time of the year, we see the advertising for Kindergarten and early years programs. Schools are starting to get ready to receive your child for the fall.
In thinking about the process, many of the families I am currently seeing in our private practice have been preparing since last fall.
So, in this article I will talk about getting ready from an academic and speech and language perspective.
When we look at the four-year-old the following benchmarks come to mind?
- Are they talking and how clear is their speech?
- What are their language skills like?
- Are they able to play with other children?
- Do they use their language in a social and meaning way to engage with other children?
- How well do they follow directions?
- Are they interested in books and print?
- Has their hearing and vision been checked?
- What are their big and small motor coordination abilities?
- Are they to have a conversation and share ideas?
Let me share with you what some of the parents have been asking?
- How important is enunciation? Is it typical for child to still mispronounce words ie: lisp an "s" or call it pasghetti instead of spaghetti? Do you outgrow lisps?
Children do have the odd mispronunciation when they enter school so there is a slight developmental component. Having said that if the speech error is noticeable a child enough to draw attention to their speech they should be seen, prior to kindergarten.
- How vast should vocab be? i.e. saying big elephant vs enormous elephant?
At age four a child is very descriptive in their use of words. They can be quite dramatic and try using some big words such as "actually" they use 4 - 6 word sentences.
- What about comprehension level in terms of understanding a story.
Child should be able to listen to a story, get an idea of the theme and be able to retell the story in their own words, especially if they have heard it many times.
- Should they follow multi-step instructions like "go clean up your room, get your pj's on and brush your teeth".
This is very important foundation skill for school. The child listening, processing the information, remembering it and then following through should be establish for 3 related directions.
- Should child be able to identify letters as well as their sounds?
Many children are just starting to recognize some beginning sounds and letters. Often, they can spell their name. They are able to sing a nursery rhyme and they often will find the letter they like in other words.
- Should they be able to read facial expressions and identify feelings. i.e. happy face, sad face.
Social communication, both verbally and non-verbally is very important. They know what the basic facial expression represents can say. "He is sad."
In speaking to my collaborative kindergarten teacher here is what Deanna Derksen says "I encourage children to be able to eat and dress independently. Children need have experiences outside the home (i.e. daycare, swim lessons etc.) away from mom and dad. Parents should read daily to their children. Gross motor and fine motor development with outdoor play and work with playdough and puzzles etc. Finally, I encourage parents to talk with their children and encourage their children to speak and share ideas about the world around them."
My advice as speech-language pathologist is to see your child's physician if you are concerned about your child's articulation and or language and pursue that referral now. You are 7 months away from school entry. DON'T wait and think They will outgrow it! Insurance does cover this service. Early intervention is key.
Next issue: Developmental Milestones and what do schools have available for you and your child to enroll in prior to kindergarten entry.
Enjoy your moments with your sweethearts and create many memories.
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