DR. Sulata Shenoy, Director, Turning Point, Bangalore, www.turningpointcentre.com
Learning Disability in reading, comprehension, spelling and writing is believed to be primarily a language processing disorder. It stands to reason then, that early language stimulation can offset learning disabilities later in life. Communication begins as soon as a baby is born. The way you touch, hold, look at and talk to the baby can make a vast difference. Parents can reinforce communication efforts by looking at the baby and imitating vocalizations, laughter and facial expressions in the initial stages of infancy and by expanded, enriched vocalizations and verbalizations as the child grows up.
Today, more than ever, parents need to be reminded of the significance of this basic communicative model. Due to parents’ hectic schedules and personal stresses they fail to reinforce basic language learning cues such as eye contact, facial expression and overall feedback that is essential for early communication development. Children require time and one-on-one feedback as they struggle to build their language and cognitive skills. At whatever age the child is, you can engage with the child in a significant manner.
Some tips for caregivers:
- Talk relevantly and coherently, connecting to what the child is experiencing, with appropriate words. When taking a walk, for example, point to familiar objects and say their names and characteristics.
- Use simple and grammatical speech with clear articulation.
- Face to face communication will help him/her observe lip movements and facial expressions that accompany language.
- Expand on words. For example, if your child says ‘car’ you respond saying, ‘You’re right! That is a big, red, car’. Teach your child the correct words and names.
- Keep in mind that preverbal children understand more than they can say. When s/he wants something to eat or drink, s/he may go to the kitchen shelf and simply point. Your job is to ask, “do you want water or milk?” and wait for the response. You then reinforce the message by saying, “So, you want water, right? See me pour the water in a glass. Now you can drink it.”
- Ask questions that require a choice, e.g. “Do you want to walk or ride in the stroller?” rather than Yes / No questions.
- Sing songs and recite nursery rhymes and encourage your child to sing along.
- When reading a book together, which should be a daily activity, ask your child to name or describe the objects or talk about what the characters are doing.
- When the child starts schooling, make learning fun by working with colorful alphabet and number cutouts, flash cards, pictures, charts, books, songs and dance.
With parents’ and caregivers’ constant encouragement and support it is possible to improve language processing and expression and thereby improve the child’s learning capabilities.