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The language of toys: teaching communication skills to special-needs children - a guide for parents and teachers.


Teaching Communication Skills to Special-Needs Children

Developing communication is as much a basic human need as seeking food and comfort. For many children this is a relatively simple process, while for others there may be significantly delays in this area. There are a wide variety of causes for a language delay in this area. Regardless of the cause, the results are usually the same: a child with delayed language development and concerned parents.

These concerned parents want to help their children with special needs learn language skills but often don't know the best way to go about it. Through our years of teaching and raising our own children, we have seen that an amazing amount of language can be pulled from even the simplest toy. Our book, The Language of Toys, shows you how to use toys to aid your child's language development. While you are playing with your child, you can be helping him increase his language skills. And you can have fun together at the same time. We know your child can benefit from these times with Mom and Dad. We also know this play/work time is dramatically more important for children with delays in their language development. They will need the extra effort that their parents can give them to help develop their language skills.

When speech and language therapists or teachers work with children with language delays, they usually use toys they think will encourage certain words or sounds. There is no "magic" to the toys they use. Rather, the toys are chosen carefully to be teaching aids. This book will help you to choose and to use toys like the professionals to enhance the development of language in your child. Although we have selected certain toys for this book, we want to assure you that there are many other toys that can be bought or made which can serve equally well.

The Language Of Toys is divided into two parts. In the first part, we explain important background information about language, its sequential development, some of the causes of language delay, the value of play, how play can enhance language development, and your role in all this. In the next section -- which is the heart of the book -- we recommend toys that we have found to be useful in stimulating language development and show you how to use these toys in playing with your child. For each toy in the book we provide you with sample language dialogues to help you get the most from that toy. We encourage you to use these ideas in your play to encourage language development.

We have designed this book to be used with any child who has a language delay, whatever the cause may be. We have given you guidelines which should help you decide which toys your child would be most interested in playing with and most ready to learn from. These guidelines are based on language developmental ages. Each child has his own unique profile for all developmental areas, including cognition, motor, social, self-help, and language. A child may make progress in different areas at different rates. The result is wide variation in the developmental picture for each child, regardless of his chronological age. For example, a three-year-old child with a twelve month language delay may have "normal" cognitive development or motor skills but speak on a two-year-old level. Alternately, a four-year-old child with "normal" language may have very delayed motor skills.

We have individual suggestions for modifying your play to accommodate the specific learning needs of each child. We are sure that we haven't addressed every individual need but we feel that you will be able to adapt our suggestions to your own child. The toys and exercise in this book are arranged by language developmental ages. Each section covers several months and presents toys and dialogues that are appropriate for your child's particular level of language development. There are similar guidelines throughout the book to help you pick toys that are the most appropriate for your child's level of language development.

In addition to toys you can buy, we also include at least two homemade toys for each of our language development levels. Many people enjoy making toys and there is a lot of benefit -- including saving money -- in this. In our work, we have found that children and parents treasure these homemade toys long after other toys have been packed away.

Remember, our suggestions are only suggestions. Expand and create. There are many books in libraries and in bookstores which will tell you more about homemade toys. We have included several in our reference list at the back of this book.

Parents often ask, "When should we start?" You can start the exercises in this book even before your child's language delay has been formally diagnosed. If you already know that your child has some special needs, you have to consider the possibility that he is language delayed too.

Do not wait until you have a specific diagnosis of language delay to begin. Often your child's diagnosis has to wait until you are able to test him and in many cases that doesn't happen before age two. You can always work on his language skills even before getting a diagnosis. It can only help him in the long run.

As you will see in our chapter on language development, you would not expect your child to be talking in understandable language much before one year of age. We want you to enrich your child's language long before that time.

If your child is an older preschooler and you have just gotten the diagnosis of a language delay, then you can start this book at whatever level your child is placed and work from there. You might even be working with a therapist or school at this time. Show them this book and explain how you want to integrate our ideas with your child's specific plan. You will probably find that our examples fit right in with your child's individual education plan.

We do not expect, or want, you to turn into a teacher for your child or to lose your role of parent. However, you can combine both roles in a way that is fun for both you and your child. There is also no need to occupy your child's every walking moment with the exercises in this book. There at times when children should play alone because that is when they build independence and develop imagination. We believe, however, that parents, teachers, families, babysitters, and others can enhance the development of richer language by playing with toys with children for part of the child's playtime.

Follow your child's lead. If he is interested in farm animals, explore that area in your play. If you see that he has no interest at all in cars and trucks, then put that idea aside for a while. Your play should be fun, interesting, and meaningful. Experience your childhood again and enjoy the time you will spend in playful learning with your child.
COPYRIGHT 1989 EP Global Communications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:excerpt
Author:Schartz, Sue; Miller, Joan E. Heller
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Mar 1, 1989
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