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The Association for Comprehensive Neurotherapy in Grosse Ile, Michigan posted a terrific infographic to stimulate conversation between parents and kids entitled 29 Ways to Ask Your Kids “How Was School Today? See it above. I agree with the writer who laments the nebulous ‘fine’ or ‘good’ that we as parents get from our kids when we ask about their day on the car ride home. These questions are a terrific way to dive a little deeper; to not only know what’s important to your kids about their daily routine but to practice effective communication development habits. Personally, I would go a step further and modify the questions to pondering statements. Take a look at #3. Instead of “What was the best part of lunch?,” I might try “I wonder how lunch went today.” It takes the pressure off of what could feel like a confrontational rapid fire inquisition. (Plus, you’re going to pick like two of these questions; the ones you think your kid cares about.) The rule of thumb is to start with “Tell me…” or “I wonder…”:
This week, speech is in the car ride home. Give yourself a pat on the back for starting a conversation, mom and dad. By pushing for a deeper chat, you’re doing real cognitive development work.

This week, speech is in the car ride home. Give yourself a pat on the back for starting a conversation, mom and dad. By pushing for a deeper chat, you’re doing real cognitive development work.

Below, find just some of the skills you’ll be shaping by pushing for more than just “fine”.

1. Word Retrieval – Nearly 25% of school-age children with language disorders also present with word-finding disorders. Talking about things that aren’t in the room can be especially difficult; forcing kiddos to pull the perfect word from a vast but budding vocabulary to name something specifically. Children can typically describe things better given a photo or some other visual cue but when the visual assistance is removed, the description becomes shallow and incomplete. This task is even harder for children with language disorders because the needed words may not be in the child’s vocabulary yet. In such cases, visualization is a strategy used to engage the senses and force children to describe around their thought using a combination of simpler words (circumlocution). This habit of thinking about how a thing looks, sounds, smells or where it’s seen engrains the defining characteristics of the object or action more robustly.while the two of you name the thing aloud 5 times. It helps the mind link the string of sounds representing the concept to the more robust meaning your child is developing; i.e.; /p/-/I/-/g/ links to that thing that says oink on a farm.) It makes for easier retrieval next time.

2. Narrative Language Development – Beyond conveying the facts (people involved, the problem and the setting of a personal narrative), good story-telling requires chaining events sequentially in order to convey a clear message. Narrative transition words like ‘after, then, while, during, although, until, however or because’ aid in effective chaining.

3. Theory of Mind – This is a skill that requires being aware of other’s thoughts, opinions, and present knowledge to give information that is relevant, not too much, not too little and takes into consideration what the listener already knows to communicate efficiently. Have you ever been in a conversation with that coworker who forgot that they already told you that they were going to some major concert or event and instead of catching you up on how the event was, they start at the very beginning of how they found tickets for the event in the first place? You nod and listen again politely when you want to say, “I know that part already!” That person wasn’t using Theory of Mind.

4. Communication Breakdown Repair – Related to Theory of Mind, a child should monitor the facial expressions and responses of the listener to ‘check in’ and make sure they are following the story. While facial expression is tough to track in the car, tone voice is equally telling. When a long silence or ‘hmm’ is heard, the child should think about explaining differently or describing a similar shared experience to help their listener understand the idea in their head. It might start like, “Mommy, remember that time we saw…[fill in description of topic]? It was like that.”

5. Fluency – For children predisposed to stuttering, the conversation home is an opportunity for little ones to take away an important message: “mom and dad are listening to what I have to say and not just how I say it.” They can stutter freely in a safe place and they can use their fluency enhancing and fluency shaping techniques if and when they want to. For young children, I like the fluency enhancing to come from how mom and dad interact. That is, they should use frequent pauses, slower rate plus “tell me,” and “I wonder” phrasing.

6. Grammar – Story telling is an excellent way to model correct grammar. As you listen to your child tell their day’s stories, you needn’t correct their grammar overtly. Just occasionally summarize what they told you in a way that says, “I’m trying to make sure that I understand so I’m telling you what I think you’re telling me.” It might sound like,
KID: “Ms. Harper wonned.”
DAD: “Oh, so then Ms. Harper won the next game?”
KID: “Yes, Daddy she wonned.”
DAD: “Wow, I bet you kids were surprised that she won.”

7. Social Evaluation – Ponder #19. (Tell me what you wish your teacher had done differently today.) Starting such a conversation could lead to thinking about how the child would have reacted if the teacher did something differently. This helps your child make connections between actions and consequences and how actions evoke thoughts and feelings in others. It presents an opportunity for your child to imagine the various outcomes of specific decisions. It might help him or her understand their teacher’s perspective or even save your child from learning some lessons via personal experience.

8. DEVELOPMENT FOR PARENTS: Responsivity – Research shows that responsive communication (conversations where parents are truly engaged and responsive to what their children are saying while reading between the lines for nonverbal communication cues such as gesture and tone) is linked to stronger spontaneous language skills as well as stronger working stamina. That is, they can engage in longer periods of joint attention. There’s nothing so motivating as parental attention.

If have concerns about language development in your child, remember that speech and language consultations from an ASHA certified speech language pathologist are FREE at ClearWay Speech and Language Center. Just call 214-646-3554 or stop by.

Also check out the signs of a language disorder (below) adapted from Understood.org and the American Speech-Language Hearing Association:


Compared to their same age peers, does your child:

  • Pronounce words and sounds, but sentences may not make sense
  • Possess restricted phonological awareness skills
  • Have a limited vocabulary
  • Have trouble learning new vocabulary words
  • Frequently use hesitation words like “um” and substitutes general words like “stuff” and “things” for more specific words
  • Use certain phrases over and over again when talking
  • Seem frustrated by inability to communicate thoughts
  • Seem to understand more than what can be said clearly and specifically
  • Leave out key words, confuse verb tense and have difficulty determining if something is grammatical
  • Use a limited variety of sentence structures with fewer words when speaking
  • Show inconsistent tense use in story-telling
  • Have poor organization of thoughts in story-telling
  • Have difficulty tailoring a message to the age, formality, or knowledge of the audience
  • Have difficulty clarifying or repairing a breakdown in communication

Want to learn more about typical and atypical language development? Visit the resources below:


About K. Joi Uzoh, M.A., CCC-SLP

Joi is an ASHA licensed Speech-Language Pathologist and the Owner and Director of Speech and Language Services at ClearWay Speech and Language Center, a family-centered speech and language therapy private practice located in East Dallas. She has been helping families improve the communication skills of their loved ones since 2007 and especially enjoys working on language disorders, complex sound disorders, and stuttering in persons of all ages. Through individualized service and caregiver education, she helps families realize their communication goals.

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