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School Preparation – A Speech-Language Pathologist Perspective

Let’s start with a shout out for “I love to read month” the importance of reading to our children and its impact on learning has been captured in many education and neuroscience journal articles. We know that the auditory system takes in sound and makes it meaningful at the brain level. So, hearing words is important and helps with a child’s copying skills for language comprehension, word repetition, expressive sentence structure and speech sounds. We also know that language exposure through books helps build vocabulary in different languages and is as a comfort time between adult and child. When I stopped at the library to take out children’s books the librarian said “I see you have beginning stories in three languages, how nice to be trilingual. I replied “I am not but I am learning”

So, if you speak another language at home continue to speak that language, but know that your child needs the skills to communicate in the language spoken at school. This discussion will take place in more detail in the next article.

There are many activities going on in February to celebrate reading and learning. See some of these listed on our website

The public library and the school library have activities set out in their calender.

You can have your child create a colourful fun jacket cover for their favourite book.

Creating the Valentine Cards allows for both reading and writing to take place and you want to add lots of stickers of course.

The idea of repetition in a book lends to recognition of the word and word prediction. Word repetition is very important as a starting point for early language development and expansion of language. This takes place in books such as “Brown Bear Brown Bear” or “Little Cloud” by Eric Carle.

A delightful read that has interesting vocabulary is SWATCH The little girl who loved colour by Julia Denos. Here is how it starts “In a place where colours ran wild there was a little girl who ran wilder still” Have I captured a five-year old’s interest? Definitely!

So, let’s address getting your child ready for school.
At this time of the year, we see advertising for Kindergarten and early years programs. Schools are starting to get prepare to receive your child for the fall.

In thinking about the process, many of the families we are currently seeing in our private practice have been preparing their child since last fall.

When we think about the four-year-old the following questions come to mind?

  • * How clear is their speech?
  • * What are their expressive language skills like?
  • * Are they able to play with other children?
  • * Do they use their language 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 able to have a conversation and share ideas?

Let me share with you what some of the parents have been asking?

  1. How important is enunciation and is it typical for child to still mispronounce words at ages 4-5?

    Children do have the odd mispronunciations when they enter school so there is a developmental component. However, children don’t just outgrow speech difficulties by the time they are age 4.5. If the speech errors are noticeable enough to draw attention to their speech they should be seen.
  2. Should a 4-year child use sentences?

    At age four a child is very descriptive in their use of words. They can have a conversation and share their emotions. They can be quite dramatic and try using some big words such as “actually” “twirling” “magical”. They use 4-6-word sentences with a few grammar errors. Their ability to ask and answer questions is developing quickly.
  3. What about comprehension level in terms of understanding a story.

    Children should be able to listen to a story, get an idea of the theme. They should be able to simply retell the story in their own words, especially if they have heard it many times.
  4. Should they follow multi -step related instructions such as “go clean up your room, get your pj’s on and brush your teeth”.

    This is very important foundation skill for school. Listening, processing the information, remembering it and then following through should be established for 3 related directions. They may forget occasionally if it is a new direction and may need a reminder.
  5. Should children be able to identify letters as well as their sounds?

    Many 4-year-old children are just starting to recognize some beginning sounds and letters. By age 5 they are keen to print their name and will copy sounding out. Often when playing a word search they will find their name letter in other words.
  6. Should children be able to read facial expressions and identify feelings. i.e. happy face, sad face.

    Social communication, both verbally and non-verbally are very important sets of skills for a child to develop before school entry. A child needs to know that greetings are important or how to gain someone’s attention appropriately. How to ask or tell. Also knowing what the basic facial expressions represent such as “sad” or “happy” and being able to share them with the teacher. These emotions of the face, guide the child on how they are going to respond to another person.

If you are concerned about your child’s articulation and or language skills pursue that referral now before school entry. It is important to address the problem now and not think “my child will outgrow it or I will wait until the teacher mentions it”

Early intervention is key to academic and communication success.
Next issue: Does speaking more than one language affect my child’s language development?

I wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day and have fun reading.

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