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What Is Normal Language Development?

February 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

by Mommy MD Guide Stacey Weiland, MD

Once we as parents establish that our child is healthy, our next worry relates to our child’s normal development.

We carefully examine the pediatrician’s growth charts, exclaim with joy at the first smile, and call the grandparents when our child takes her first step.

Of course there is a broad spectrum of normal. In the case of my own three children, for example, first steps were taken at 11, 12, and 14 months.

Language development also represents a series of major milestones. And again, although there’s still a definite spectrum of normal, it’s reasonable for parents to have a general idea of when certain language gains should appear, in order to look into possible interventions, if necessary.

Most children begin vocalizations with “babbling.” This occurs at around four to six months of age. They tend to make many repetitive sounds, like “baba,” “mama,” and “dada.” Interestingly, these first sounds are consistent no matter what language is spoken in the home.

By 7 to 12 months, many children are able to form a few one- and two-syllable words, such as “no” or “car” and can ask for each parent by name with “mama” and “dada.”

At 12 to 15 months, children produce many different sounds in their language attempts and imitate sounds said to them by family members. They can also understand and follow simple one-step directions: “Give me the toy.”

By the age of two, children can have up to 50 words in their repertoire and start to put simple words together: “Want cookie.” They can name body parts and familiar objects. They can also follow two-step commands. Their diction may not always be intelligible, particularly to people who aren’t with them regularly. I distinctly remember having to interpret what my children were trying to say when my mother was visiting from out of town.

There is no definite cause for alarm if your child is not verbalizing this much by age two, because some children are better able to communicate their needs through gestures.

Between the ages of two and three, parents often witness a major expansion in their child’s speech. They begin to form simple sentences, can identify colors, and understand descriptive concepts (big versus little). Parents and regular caregivers should understand about 75 percent of their child’s speech by age three.

Is there anything that we as parents can do to enhance our child’s language development? Well, as you might imagine, the best way for a child to learn to speak is to hear speech around them. There is actually data for this. Many studies have demonstrated that children who are spoken to the most develop the greatest “lexical diversity,” have the broadest receptive and expressive vocabularies, and the quickest cognitive development compared with those children who were spoken to the least.

So, in the absence of an underlying language disorder, good parenting is the key to creating a well-spoken child. Spend time with your child. Read to her, play with her, and involve her in whatever you’re doing!

The Benefits of Reading

February 13, 2013 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

by Mommy MD Guide Stacey Weiland, MD

The importance of reading with your child cannot be overstated. Our house is literally overflowing with books, with titles ranging from Sandra Boynton’s But Not the Hippopotamus, to Homer’s The Iliad.

We started reading to our children before they could even talk, much less read themselves.

The positive evidence for reading is overwhelming. Studies have demonstrated that early nightly reading paves the way toward producing a child who is an excellent independent reader themselves. Skilled readers report that they were read to more often by their parents and had frequent discussions about books and stories in general.

Once a child begins to read back to you, the benefits become even more significant. Reading expands a child’s vocabulary. Before a child begins to read, he learns about seven new words per day, amounting to approximately 3,000 new words per year.

Books offer almost three times as many interesting or complicated words compared with general conversation. Adult level books are estimated to contain about 50 rare words per every thousand. Even children’s books are shown to possess 50 percent more rare words than an average college graduate’s conversation!

The more a child reads, the quicker his reading ability ascends. In a study by Anderson et al, 1988, researchers found that the very best readers (those at the 90th percentile) read for more than 20 minutes a day, or about 1.8 million words per year. In contrast, the poorest readers (those reading below the 10th percentile) read less than one minute each day, amounting to a measly 8,000 words per year. Eight thousand words are what the best readers get through in just two days!

While children enjoy the experience of reading a book on their own, there are a lot of benefits of having them read to you as well. Parents can assist children when they come across an unknown word, both in explaining its meaning, as well as helping to sound it out. Comprehension skills can be practiced by asking your child questions: What do you think will happen next? How do you think that character felt when that happened?

It’s also very important for parents to make sure that their child is reading a book at his proper reading level, so as not to become frustrated. As a general rule, a child should be able to read about 95 percent of the words on a page correctly, or 19 out of 20.

Many books in the children’s section of bookstores and libraries are marked as being at a particular reading level. Unfortunately, there are several different systems used. Elementary schools also use different reading level scales.

In Colorado, where I live, our local public schools use DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment) leveled books (Celebration Press, 2001). Other schools use the Guided Reading Level (GRL), also known as the Fountas and Pinnell system; Reading Recovery; Accelerated Reading; Rigby; the SRI (Scholastic Reading Inventory), which assigns Lexile® levels; and the DRP system (Degrees of Reading Power).

Resources are available both online and in print that can assist teachers and parents in converting one system into another, including:

1.       Scholastic Books (http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/leveling-resource-guide)

2.      Rigby (http://rigby.hmhco.com/NR/rdonlyres/BD327c82-3F6E-4CEF-BAA2-CDFB31BE60A9/0/3816_R_LeveledChart.pdf)

3.      Reading A–Z.com http://www.readinga-z.com/correlation-chart.php.

In the following table, I have combined some of the more commonly used systems for you:

Comparing Reading Levels for Various Reading Level Systems

GRL Level (Fountas and Pinnell)

DRA Level

Lexile® Level

Reading Recovery

Rigby Literacy Levels

A

A-1

BR-70

1

1-2

B

1-2

BR-70

2

3-4

C

3

BR-70

3-4

5

D

4

80-450

5-6

6

E

6-8

80-450

7-8

7

F

10

80-450

9-10

8

G

12

80-450

11-12

9

H

14

80-450

13-14

10

I

16

80-450

15-16

11

J

18

451-500

17

12

K

18

451-500

17

13-14

L

20

501-550

18

15

M

24

501-550

19

16-17

N

30

501-550

20

18

O

34-38

601-650

20

19

P

34-38

601-650

28

20

Q

40

651-730

30

 

R

40

651-730

30

 

S

44/50

691-770

34

 

T

44/50

731-770

38

 

U

44/50

771-800

40

 

V

44/50

771-830

40

 

W

60

801-860

40

 

X

60

831-860

40

 

Y

60

861-890

40

 

Z

70-80

891-980

50

 

 

In addition, there are multiple book leveling sites available that can help you determine what level a book is within a particular leveling system, including:

1.      Scholastic Book Wizard: http://bookwizard.scholastic.com/tbw/homePage.do

2.      Leveled Book List: http://home.comcast.net/~ngiansante/

3.      BSD Leveled Book Database:http://registration.beavton.k12.or.us/lbdb/

4.      A to Z Teacher Stuff Leveled Book Database:http://books.atozteacherstuff.com/leveled-books/

5.      440 Book Titles:http://faculty.tamu-commerce.edu/Espinoza/s/ellis-b-rdlevl.html

6.      The Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Book List. K-8 written by Irene Fountas and Gay Pinnell

I have also compiled a list of popular books, including: Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White; The Magic Tree House Books by M.P. Osborne; Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling; and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I have stratified them by DRA, GRA, and Lexile® levels:

Books by Reading Level per the Scholastic Reader Website

Title

Author

DRA Level

GRA Level

Lexile® Level

Grade

Have You Seen My Duckling?

Tafuri, N

A-1

A

20

PreK-K

Let’s Go Visiting

Williams, S

2

B

0

PreK-1

Mice Squeak, We Speak

dePaola, T

3-4

C

60

K-1

Where is Max?

Pearson, ME

6

D

 

K-1

No Snacks, Jack

Reed, J

8

E

 

1-2

Gray Rabbit’s 1,2,3

Baker, A

10

F

 

K-1

Who Stole the Cookies?

Moffat, J

12

G

 

PreK-1

Bugs for Lunch

Long, S

14

H

 

K-2

We Just Moved!

Krensky, S

16

I

250

1-2

Curious George Takes a Job

Rey, HA

16-18

J

570

K-2

When I First Came to This Land

Ziefert, H

16-18

K

 

K-2

Magic Tree House #30. Haunted Castle on Hallows Eve

Osborne, MP

20-24

M

390

2-4

Junie B., First Grader. Toothless Wonder

Park, B

20-24

M

280

1-2

A to Z Mysteries® The Missing Mummy

Roy, R

28-30

N

510

2-4

Ramona Quimby, Age 8

Cleary, B

34-38

O

860

3-4

A Bad Case of Stripes

Shannon, D

34-38

P

540

2-3

Animals Nobody Loves

Simon, S

40

Q

860

2-4

Charlotte’s Web

White, EB

40

R

680

3-5

The Great Gilly Hopkins

Paterson, K

44-50

S

800

3-5

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Lewis, C.S.

44-50

T

940

3-5

Julie and the Wolves

George, JC

44-50

U

860

3-5

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Rowling, JK

44-50

V

880

6-8

Percy Jackson: The Battle of the Labyrinth

Riordan, R

60

W

590

8-10

My Thirteenth Winter

Abeel, S

60

X

1050

3-5

White Fang

London, J

60

Y

970

3-5

The Hunger Games

Collins, S

70-80

Z

1240

6

 

Dyslexia: Not Just “Backward Letters”

January 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

by Mommy MD Guide Stacey Ann Weiland, MD

One of the most exciting and scary times in a parent’s life is their child’s first day of school. We worry how our child will react and wonder, Will she be happy? Will she make friends? Will she enjoy learning?

It’s a transition time for parents as well. For the first time, we relinquish to another adult the responsibility of teaching our child. We think to ourselves, Will the teacher be kind? Will she model our family values? And most important, Will she bring out my child’s academic potential?

We inspect our child’s papers and homework and compare them with their peers when we volunteer in the classroom. We analyze every scrap of paper we’re presented at teacher conferences, and we listen anxiously to the teacher’s interpretation of our child’s progress.

We want to make sure that things are progressing normally. We don’t want to be overbearing, but deep down, we’ll do anything we can to keep our child from falling behind.

I will never forget, for example, a piece of paper that my daughter Abby brought home several months after starting kindergarten. It was a note she’d written herself with her new friend Tiffany’s phone number. She wanted me to arrange a play date. I remember how proud Abby was at taking the initiative, and how she was literally bouncing up and down begging me to immediately put a call in to Tiffany’s mother.

I remember looking down at the crumpled lined paper, and the blood suddenly draining from my face. All of the numbers were backward! Oh my God! I thought immediately, my child has dyslexia!

Equating backward letters and numbers with a diagnosis of dyslexia is a common misconception. In point of fact, graphic reversals are actually a normal stage in the learning process.

Think about it, what are letters and numbers anyway, but little combinations of lines, curves, and circles? Up until this point in a young child’s life, children have learned that there are many ways to draw things. A triangle has three points, no matter how long each side is. A stick figure is still a person, whether the arms go up or down.

What is a “d” anyway, but a line and a circle stuck together. Why should it matter what side the circle is on? Of course it does matter, and most children do eventually learn to make the important b/d distinction.

Now, this is not to say that dyslexia doesn’t exist. In fact, a true diagnosis of dyslexia is estimated to be present in up to 20 percent of children, or one in five! Signs of dyslexia can be identified at a very early age, even in the preschool years.

Okay, so what is dyslexia anyway? Well, technically speaking, dyslexia is a problem that both children and adults can have with a process called phonemic awareness. So what the heck does that mean?

Phonemic awareness is the process by which a person’s brain converts the squiggles and lines of writing into sounds. This ability is a very complex process, but because it occurs so seamlessly and effortlessly in most of us (at least 80 percent), it’s difficult to believe that anyone could have a problem with it at all.

A dyslexic child’s difficulty with phonemic awareness may manifest with other language problems as well.

For example, some dyslexic children may have experienced a delay in speaking. Children normally say their first words at about one year, followed by phrases by 18 months to two years. In contrast, children with dyslexia may not begin saying their first words until 15 months and may not speak in phrases until after their second birthday.

They may have persistent pronunciation problems, with baby talk continuing past the usual time. They may leave off the beginning sounds of words—“lephant” for “elephant,” or they may invert sounds within a word—“aminal” for “animal.”

Another interesting feature is that dyslexic children can be insensitive to rhymes and rhythms and have difficulty recognizing or reciting rhyming words. They may have difficulty using complex words to describe objects and instead use generic terms such as “stuff” or “things” to compensate for an inability to retrieve the proper words.

When dyslexic children reach school age, they may demonstrate difficulty reading common, one-syllable words, such as “bat,” “top,” or “dog.” They rely heavily on non-word clues in picture books. For example, in a book about driving to school, a dyslexic child may read the word “automobile” as simply “car.”

Dyslexic children can have difficulty with sounding out unknown words and have poor spelling and handwriting. Their reading is choppy and labored, and they demonstrate poor reading comprehension. This isn’t due to a lack of intelligence (in fact, many dyslexics have above average to even gifted IQ’s). Rather, the dyslexic child just gets so muddled in his attempts to interpret the sounds of words that their meaning just becomes lost in the shuffle.

Most elementary schools have now instituted tests screening for a child’s phonemic awareness abilities. These include the DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) and the DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment). These tests measure particular reading skills, including reading speed, the ability to read nonsense words, and comprehension.

While the DIBELS and the DRA cannot diagnose dyslexia in and of themselves, abnormal findings may offer an indication to more comprehensive testing.

In summary, number and letter reversals by themselves don’t represent a diagnosis of dyslexia and are actually a normal part of the learning process. True dyslexia, on the other hand, is a complex problem where children have difficulties with language in general, which can lead to progressive reading and writing difficulties.

Effective approaches to teaching dyslexic children are available. It’s essential for both parents and educators to recognize the features of dyslexia early on, in order to initiate specific phonemic-based therapies.

Dyslexic children have major potential for success, and we owe it to them to put them on the right path!


The information on MommyMDGuides.com is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, and services of a physician. Always consult your physician or child care expert if you have any questions concerning your family's health. For severe or life-threatening conditions, seek immediate medical attention.