The process of speaking in sentences is so complex it is a wonder that any of us can speak. In addition to making speech sounds (typically at a rate of about 10 per second even when speaking slowly), children must learn to understand the meaning of words just by listening. They listen to learn that words have different meanings depending on the context in which they are spoken. “Now!” (Dad is running out the door…) does not mean the same as “nooow” (when you've given permission to eat the marshmallow.) They learn (not by memorizing!!) by listening how words are assembled grammatically and meaningfully to form phrases and sentences. They learn to watch listeners and situations to be able to say the …. right idea, in the right format, at the right moment... to be a speaking partner.
Sometimes children have difficulty learning purely by listening...interpreting, choosing, and sequencing words in phrases. Parents, with the speech/language pathologist, and use toys, books, play and role-play to isolate areas of difficulty, practice language and speaking skills together, and get reinforcement that shapes specific areas of difficulty.
Initial sessions evaluate what is difficult for the child, what skills are present, which need specific support, and what reinforcers will support a child's development. Then, with parents, a treatment plan is outlined; parents participate in sessions and learn how to practice at home, and learn particular areas that they can readily reinforce with books, conversations, and play.
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