This week, we speak with Carrie Clark, a pediatric speech-language pathologist and the creator of speechandlanguagekids.com. Carrie offers 5 simple strategies families can implement into their everyday lives to get young children communicating. These include: use of Sign Language, shorter utterances, parallel and self-talk, and expansions. Carrie and Ayelet go into detail about how to use each strategy, discussing specific examples and useful ways to implement each one with a child at different communication levels.
Ayelet: So, today I would like to introduce a very special guest to you. Her name is Rachel Coley, she’s a pediatric occupational therapist, and creator of CanDo Kiddo, a really wonderful online resource for parents, caregivers of, and professionals working with infants and toddlers. She’s also the author of several books, including my personal favorite, “Begin With A Blanket.” Welcome, Rachel, thanks so much for being here on Strength In Words!
Rachel: Thank you, Ayelet! I love the podcast – I’ve been enjoying it with my little one during nap times for her brother lately.
Well, it has been quite a week here at the Strength In Words headquarters, as my family and I welcomed a new baby into our home. This is my second baby, but my first time becoming a mother to a new baby while living close to two sets of grandparents. I feel incredibly thankful to have the benefit of lots of extra help and very happy distraction for my toddler so that I can enjoy a few moments with just my new baby. I am also lucky to have had a VERY straightforward birth the second time around, and my physical self already feels better after a week than I did after 6 weeks with my first baby. I can see how that affects my emotional self, my ability to “roll with the punches,” and enables me to write down little thoughts and musings to be shared with you today
This week, we want to wish you a very happy holiday season. This special episode is dedicated to the music and traditions that represent those involved in the making of Strength In Words.
Each person, each family, each community has their own cultural and/or religious associations with holidays. One of the many parts of social and emotional development in our very young children is the development of one’s identity. Family traditions can play a big part in that. And of course, music that we associate with our childhood and with particular times of year play a big part in the memories we create for ourselves and for our families!
Ayelet: I am so thrilled to share this conversation with you all – Suzanne is an absolute powerhouse, and is a wealth of knowledge about early literacy, early learning, infant and toddler education, and parent education. I was so happy to have the chance to sit down and speak with her about the ways libraries are changing – the movement she’s played a big part in is largely based in California, but is part of a national and international trend toward making libraries much more family-friendly and family-centric places, in all senses.
Libraries, in general, are such an amazing resource, and I think undervalued by a lot of people…
Who’s that little baby? Whooooooo is that?! Are youuuu my little baby? Yes you are! Yes you are! Ohhh, sweet baby!
Yup, we’ve all heard somebody speaking like this to a baby. Many of you out there listening probably recognize yourselves. It may not be your style, and it may be a bit too dramatic and ridiculous-sounding for some, but there’s actually a reason behind the innate desire many of us have to prolong syllables, use a higher pitch, slow down our rate of speech, use longer pauses and shorter sentences, use a greater variety of pitches, and use repetition in our intonations. Now, the characteristics I just described don’t always result in one’s speech sounding like the example I gave a minute ago. But there are intonational and other linguistic components that have been studied and compared all around the world, and that are used specifically when adults are speaking to babies. It’s called “infant-directed speech.” Some people refer to it as “motherese,” “parentese,” or even “baby talk.” The specifics of infant-directed speech vary slightly depending on the language, but appear in varying degrees in all languages - including Sign Language!
The Heart Of It: An infant enrichment curriculum. What does an infant enrichment curriculum look like? Who is it for? These questions, and more, will be answered with an in-depth description of The Heart Of It. Your experience with this episode can be enhanced by watching the complementary video, linked below. If you are interested in watching specific portions, please scroll down for time signatures to help you navigate the video.
I've told parts of the story of how Strength In Words came to be, but today I want to focus on my story a bit more, because, now, 34 episodes deep, you've come to know what you can expect from me. I have been alluding (in the last couple of episodes) to a new resource I'm adding to the collection of Strength In Words resources and services. You know that I believe it's possible to provide distilled, palatable information to parents of young children - and I think you've heard me do that, to an extent, on this podcast with each new episode! You know that I think the beginning of our journey into parenthood (whether as a first-time parent or a seasoned one) should be supported with knowledge about our littlest family members that is timely (as in, we're presented with it as it happens), and that is actionable (as in, not only the information, but also easily implementable ideas). So, this is not only the story of Strength In Words, but also the story of The Heart Of It, my new infant enrichment curriculum, and why I felt compelled to create it.
Ayelet: I'd like to welcome, Alexandra Nicoletti, who is a good friend of mine. We met when I was pregnant with my first child, and she was also pregnant with her first child at that time. Since, she has become the mother of a beautiful baby girl who is now just over 3 months old. Alex, thanks so much for being here with us on Strength In Words today. I just want to talk to you because you’ve been beta testing “The Heart Of It” curriculum for the last 3 months or so, since Nel was born. [baby coos in background]… And there she is!
As a parent of young children, you’ve had the experience now of going through infancy, both your “first time parenting experience” and then, now, with this added curriculum access. So, what was it like for you to become a parent, what are some of the feelings that went around becoming a mum for the first time?
I always like to give to friends or family who are expecting their first child the following piece of my mind:
If anyone tells you 'this is the only way to do it' (when referring to pretty much anything baby-related), tell them 'thanks,' and then run the other way.
The adventure of becoming a parent is a personal experience
Ayelet: Today, I am very pleased to welcome a special guest to the Strength In Words podcast, a fellow speech and language pathologist who has also dedicated her work to the education of families with young children, Adrienne (of “Learn With Adrienne”) has so many helpful videos on YouTube and Facebook featuring great ideas for language stimulation, and offers loads of helpful resources for parents, caregivers, educators and fellow therapists – so, thanks so much for being here with us, Adrienne!
Adrienne: Thanks so much! I’ve been a long-time listener of your podcast, and it’s such a joy to talk with you today.
Ayelet: Great! So I know that one of your areas of interest and expertise is the use of sign language as a tool to help young children acquire language. So, can you tell us, what are some of the reasons why sign language is useful for early communicators?
Self-regulation. Most of us have heard the term, but what does it really mean? We know it has to do with emotions, how we respond to situations, and whether we have the tools in place to do so effectively. Most of us struggle with it to some degree (let’s face it, especially when challenged by sleep deprivation or a grumpy toddler)… but something for all parents and caregivers of young children to remember is that all infants and toddlers struggle with it! I want to speak specifically about the emotional component of self-regulation, or “emotional regulation.”
Today, I have a very special guest, Christie Kiley, pediatric occupational therapist and creator of MamaOT, or www.mamaot.com, one of my own go-to blogs for activities and information about infant and toddler development. Christie, I’m so happy to have you on Strength In Words, welcome!
Christie: Thank you! Thank you for having me.
Ayelet: Why don’t you give us just a little bit of background about what your focus has been as an occupational therapist… and, I think you bring sort of a unique perspective because you started practicing in your field right around when you became a mother
Ah, messy play. The image that often comes to the mind's eye is of walls and floors splattered with paint, an extra load of laundry, and a lot of extra work. Let me tell you this: messy play can be a big ordeal, but it doesn't have to be. Yes, summer time is often a great time to ensure the least amount of mess by getting young children outside on a surface you can easily spray down, but there are a lot of other ways to integrate messy play opportunities into your little one's life even in the dead of winter. But let's talk about why messy play is so important, first.
There is a long history of misconceptions when it comes to raising multilingual children, and these are primarily related to the false belief that exposing young children to multiple languages will somehow causeor contribute to a language delay or disorder. While it may be true that an infant or toddler who is learning two or more languages simultaneouslysometimes demonstrates a slight delay in expressive language (or, what they are able to say), this is not generally what we as speech-language pathologists would consider in clinical terms to be a true “language delay.” Think about how much more auditory information a baby exposed to multiple languages is processing… how much more information he must measure and sort, and store for later.
So much of what we discuss in Strength In Words episodes is related to the notion of exposing young children to many different types of experiences – those that they can learn from through touch, sound, vision, movement, taste, and those that can combine those different sensory elements. Psychologist Jean Piaget defined several stages of cognitive development that children move through – now, over the years, the specifics of certain details have met with some contention when new research comes out, but Piaget’s stages of development remain a basic model for our understanding of development – especially in the early years.
This week, we have something a little bit special for you: an all music episode.
That's right - no interruptions, just a great opportunity to sit, listen, and sing with your infant and/or toddler. We decided to feature some of our listener favorites - songs we've sung along the way, with our own variations.
Ayelet: Today, I have a special guest to welcome to Strength In Words, Ania Witkowska, a somatic movement educator, who is based in Berlin, Germany. Welcome, Ania!
Ania: Thank you, Ayelet. It’s lovely to be here.
Ayelet: It’s great to have you! So, I think people would love to know exactly what a somatic movement educator is! What is somatic movement, what do you do?
Emotional language, which we’ve discussed in previous episodes such as“Labelling Emotions,” is extremely beneficial for young children not only in their development of social/emotional abilities, but also in their development of what’s called “social cognition.” This is an area of early development that extends into the rest of our lives, and as you may guess, it has to do with social and emotional understanding as well as intelligence, or what we sometimes refer to as “emotional intelligence.”
Transcript of this week's interview with Megan Lingo of Chickadee Lit. Our discussion focuses on the reading of wordless picture books with young children, and features Megan's "wordless picture book reading tool kit" of ideas to get started at home.
Ayelet: Today I have a special guest to welcome to Strength In Words, Megan Lingo, an Educational Therapist, mother to three young children, and creator of Chickadee Lit. Megan, Welcome!
Megan: Thanks so much for having me, I'm so excited - this is my first podcast experience.