What to Do When Your Already Verbal Toddler Stops Talking – Dealing with Selective Mutism

Real and received speech delays are not uncommon in babies and toddlers. In fact as many of 10% of all children suffer from a voice, speech or swallowing disorder that they may later overcome. Addressing the needs of a child with speech delays while challenging it is still less traumatic than facing a child who is already well on their way to full speech and suddenly stops talking.

Surprisingly, this scenario is far more common that you will ever imagine. We frequently get questions from parents who are startled when their little ones suddenly stop speaking both at home and in social settings.

Once the pediatrician and audiologist have excluded auditory issues and potential scenarios like autism spectrum have been excluded it may be wise to explore the possibility of selective mutism. Selective mutism is a complex and difficult to diagnose condition where the toddler or child only speaks in certain settings. The condition is often tied to anxiety and social phobia and appears to have a genetic element. Selective mutism may take place only at school or social settings and in some instances it is associated to fear triggered by a person within the household. To be clear, selective mutism is not the same as traumatic mutism.

If your toddler has been diagnosed with selective mutism there are many options you can explore to help your toddler embrace speech once again. Early intervention is key.

In addition to appropriate diagnostic your toddler may benefit from the following:

  • Reduced environmental stress
  • Increased engagement in zones of comfort
  • Play therapy
  • Alternative communication such as pointing boards or baby sign language
  • Frequent socialization
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Medication

If you have just received a diagnosis of selective mutism we encourage you to become familiar with our baby sign language materials specifically designed for toddlers. Through music, clear real-life images and simple directions our resources can quickly provide a toddler facing SM an emotionally accessible tool to communicate what matters most to him.

 

Baby Sign Language For Story-Telling & Role-Playing

Imagination is both innate and cultivated. What and how you play with your baby will set the stage for success when it comes to their ability to visualize experiences outside their context. As you begin reading to your baby or toddler take the opportunity to foster their imagination by expanding the narrative and including relevant signs and images not normally available in their day-to-day experiences.

Recently we have been reading western stories, so we are learning the signs for cowboy, American Indian and horse:

 

American Indian

Cowboy

Horse

 

We are also engaging in role play and including words like monster, fairy and elves. We have included all of these signs in our Dictionary which is available online and as a book in our baby sign language store. 

Words that encourage imagination are not a primary need. They are a nice-to-have as your little one develops the ability to recognize make-believe and he or she embraces literature and visual media. Take the time to teach your little one to discern between reality and make-believe. As you do that you may want to teach your baby signs such as “fake”

Fake

 

Through the use of books and movies you will be able to expand your child’s imagination as well as his vocabulary. The earlier you start the better the results. A weekly trip to the library may just be the most precious journey in the adventure of learning and growing up.

 

 

Baby Signs to Be Playground-Ready

I have a huge pet peeve. I am not a huge fan of parents screaming at public playgrounds. I appreciate the hullabaloo of little ones having fun but loud parental engagement does nothing for me.

Learning basic playground signs allows you to be in control of the situation, helps you train your little one to constantly have visual contact with you and adds civility to public settings.

Here is a nice chart to get you started. In addition to the signs on this chart you should learn basic signs available in our dictionary & baby sign language kit such as stop or come.

Ten Smart Ways to Help Babies & Parents Affected by Hurricane Harvey

If you are like most of us you are deeply concerned for those affected by hurricane Harvey. In our case, we are particularly touched by those who had to flee and are currently parenting babies and toddlers. Yesterday we had the opportunity to volunteer at a temporary shelter and we identified specific needs of those dealing with the added complexities of having little ones without a place to call home. As you prepare to donate or assist please keep this tips in mind.

Think Practically

A natural disaster is not an opportunity for you to clean the garage. Large toys, out of season clothes and high tech gadgets have no place in the donation bin. Practice relevancy and meet immediate needs. Pre-wash all baby clothing and pack it in clear bags marked with size and a note indicating that the item has been washed.

Give What You Would Like to Receive

I could not help it notice the donation stack had piles and piles of lower quality disposable diapers. A blowout is not fun at any time but it is particularly difficult if you have limited access to water. When selecting donations shop as if you were shopping for your own baby.

Consider Special Needs

Think about sensitivities and allergies. Pick fragrance-free baby products and consider donating formula that addresses specific food sensitivities.

Give Your Time

Many babies have been relocated to hospitals hours away from their families. If you are a NICU volunteer consider increasing your hours. This little ones need to be held

Strollers & Pack ‘n Plays

In many shelters families are given only cots. If you have small strollers that recline and compact pack ‘n plays consider donating.

Have Bigger Items?  Play the Wait Game

In a few months those whose houses were damaged and had no flood insurance will need all manner of goods. Hold on to your nice stuff. You will soon have the opportunity to make a difference and help a family or two trying to put their lives back together.

Baby Wearing is Life-Changing During Stressful Situations

If you have a high quality baby wearing wrap to spare consider sharing. When you don’t have a private place to let your baby rest baby wearing is a second best option.

Small but Important, Loveys & Pacifiers

Many families evacuated last minute leaving behind their most basic possessions. Take time to pick and donate small loveys and pacifiers to bring little ones a sense of comfort and familiarity.

Don’t Forget Breastfeeding Mamas

Many evacuees don’t have access to a car. If you are donating to a shelter consider including breastfeeding pads, high quality breastfeeding new bras and gently used breastfeeding-friendly tops.

Donate Money to Qualified Charities

This is perhaps the most important thing you can do. Select charities and organizations known to be good stewards and donate generously.

 

 

 

How Baby Sign Language Resources Can Help Your Child Tackle CAS (Childhood Apraxia of Speech)

Recently I had the opportunity to visit with my friend Martha who is a speech therapist. I was quite surprised to see several decks of baby sign language flash cards in her therapy room. I had to ask why someone whose main objective was to help someone speak was making use of sign language as a support tool for her sessions. Martha was quick and eager to tell me about several patients under three years of age who were hard at work overcoming childhood apraxia of speech, also known as developmental verbal dyspraxia.

To put it simply CAS is a condition where the brain struggles to direct the body to act in ways conducive to speech. A child with apraxia does to have muscle weakness or paralysis hindering speech. Instead, the order from the brain to form sounds through the use of muscles and movements is not happening the way it should. A child with CAS lacks precision and consistency when vocalizing and in some instances he or she will not speak but will demonstrate full understanding of words and concepts.

Little ones diagnosed with CAS have three key characteristics that differentiate their condition from other speech disorders:

  • Inconsistent errors in consonants and vowels in repeated production of syllables and words
  • Lengthened coarticulatory transitions between sounds and syllables (pauses).
  • Inappropriate prosody (prosody is the rhythm of speech as in the way poetry has musicality), especially in the realization of lexical or phrasal stress

What Causes Childhood Apraxia of Speech? 

The cause for CAS is not known but generally speaking there are genetic factors and instances where this motor disorder is related to injuries at birth

This is How Baby Sign Language Flash Cards Help

CAS is not curable but children can overcome it through early intervention and therapy. Therapy for CAS has a multi-prong approach. Therapy is led by a speech pathologist and is handled in short, high intensity sessions that tackle motor learning.

Baby Sign Language Flash Cards are useful at all stages of therapy as one of many augmentative communication resources.

-Toddlers are encouraged to sign creating opportunities to refine motor skills.

-Toddlers have the chance to point aiding in the communication of immediate needs.

-Toddlers are able to receive visual feedback associated to specific verbalizations.

-Toddlers can have a tactile experience by holding the card and engaging with the therapist.

 

We encourage you to use all of our free printable resources or purchase our affordable and durable flash card sets.

The Five Don’ts of Baby Sign Language

In everything there is the right way and the wrong way, sign language for babies is not an exception.  I am always surprised when I receive emails from parents, preschool teachers and speech pathologists facing common frustrations associated to how and when a child begins signing. If you are about to embark in the journey of teaching signs along with working on their speech I want to invite you to take note of a few common mistakes regarding the teaching approach of baby sign language.

Inconsistency is a Deal Breaker

We learn to communicate through imitation and association. When we pick and choose when we will use a sign we delay how the child begins to associate the sign with a concept. Signing only during play or while engaging in teaching sessions fails to aid in conveying how a sign is useful in real life interactions. Think about baby signs the way you think about words use the sign each time you use the word.

Don’t Teach Too Many Signs

You are not trying to break a Guinness Record! Too many signs lead to confusion. Focus on words and signs that are relevant to the immediate needs of your child. Pick practical concepts like food or basic needs like more or hurt. Also have some fun including your child’s favorite objects.

Don’t Expect to Get Equal Results

We all have a friend with a genius child but don’t let that discourage you. Every child walks their own journey of communication but all eventually get to a point where they are able to communicate. Observe their learning style and make adaptations accordingly.

Say No to Taking Yourself Too Seriously

Baby sign language is a fantastic tool to equip your pre-verbal child in ways that make life easier. With that said, your central role as a parent or educator is to improve the quality of life of little ones. Relax and fill each learning experience with joy. Believe me. You will get there!

Don’t Shy Away From Using Music & Props

One of the most fun and effective tools for teaching signs happens when we find ways to engage multiple senses. Sensorial learning expedites how our brain processes information. Don’t hesitate to use small toys, flashcards and songs when trying to reinforce a concept.

 

Ready to get your Baby Sign Language Kit?

Visit our baby sign language store

 

 

 

 

Potty Training Baby Sign Language Style – 10 Tips You Don’t Want to Miss!

If you are raising babies, the struggle of potty training hits close to home. I can’t count the number of friends I have seen in tears as they face the day-to-day messes of teaching their toddler the art of the potty. If this is your season in life please, please don’t get discouraged. You will get there. I promise. But as you cross the valley, I wanted to share with you what has worked for us. Grab a lemonade and take note:

 

Your Baby Will Use The Potty When He is Ready

There is a season for everything. Potty training is about waiting and reading queues that may indicate readiness. Forcing your baby to use the potty is unnecessary and traumatic. Humans learn through imitation and familiarity. Expose them to the concept, teach them to be familiar with the objects, words and signs associated with evacuation and watch them thrive. .

Give Them The Words Needed to Play the Game

A baby can only use the potty if he can express the need to go potty. We made the signs for pee and potty a priority even when we were not ready to start potty training. A good way to start is to teach the sign for diaper to encourage your little one to ask for diaper changes and enjoy the comforts that come with cleanliness. As your baby grows and observes the world around them begin introducing the sign for potty, the sign for washing hands, the sign for clean and the sign for wet.

Have Fun!

Turn the whole thing into a positive experience. Play games, use gadgets and give rewards. There is no shame in making the best of a very difficult season in life. We always had a candy dispenser by the entrance of the bathroom. I also love the Cheerios aiming game!

Make Sure Everyone is in The Same Page

When mom, dad and all caregivers are reinforcing the same habits everything becomes easier. At our daycare they use the timing method allowing toddlers to have potty-time every 20 minutes. We duplicated the same method at home by singing and signing the potty song and marching to the potty to do our business.

Imitation Works

Gender imitation is perhaps the best and most reliable method of potty training. Ask an older brother or daddy to be the pee coach and create awesome rituals around mundane tasks such as washing hands together.

Rewards People. It is All About The Rewards

Before you tell me that you are not a materialistic parent and you refuse to use bribes consider the magic of praise and affection. A celebratory song or a hug has as much value as a bunch of candy.

Go Commando

Every experienced parent will tell you that the commando approach works. In the absence of a diaper little ones are far more likely to seek out the potty to avoid soiling their bodies.

Screen Time

Yes please! We have not used this method in our home but many parents swear by it. Placing a potty in front of the TV  and using regularly seems to do the trick for some.

Take Time Off for Potty Training

How about a potty staycation? If you are a busy parent and you continue to have issues of reinforcement consider dedicating a whole week to potty training. Your full attention and focus may just work wonders.

Hire a Local Potty Coach

I did not even know these people existed but they do. There are early childhood intervention professionals whose whole career is around potty training. For a fee they will come to your home and put together a plan that best matches the learning style of your little one. Yay for the experts!

 

If your baby is already signing all the potty-related signs you are well on your way to full potty training. Stop by and tell us your stories of success. If you are not signing yet why not get started using the awesome resources available in our baby sign language shop.

 

 

 

 

Go Beyond Signing – Five Awesome Ways to Use Your Baby Sign Language Flash Card Set From Birth to Kindergarten

Before you give away your flash card set to your best friend who is now expecting consider the way our baby sign language flash cards and kits are most commonly used by language therapists. Take note and pull your set out to give your little one a huge learning advantage.

Learning a New Language

One of the best uses for the baby sign language flash card set is as a transitional language tool. If you live in a multilingual home take time to print and glue the text for each word in your native language. By including an image of a word in an alternate language and using it in conjunction with the card you are giving your baby or toddler early exposure to additional languages. Longitudinal studies conducted by Harvard University confirm that learning additional languages will increase critical thinking skills, creativity and flexibility of the mind in young children. Even if a foreign language is not spoken at home, your flash card set gives you an ideal opportunity to learn basic vocabulary in a foreign language at the same time your baby learns.

Groupings & Themes

Develop critical thinking and encourage their ability to associate objects or ideas by theme by grouping card categories.  A fun and useful activity for children learning groupings and themes is to include something that is different. You could make a grouping of animal cards and add a card representing a mode of transportation. Ask your little one to find the card that is different. If your baby is well versed in signing you can sign a set of words and ask them to identify the sign that is not relevant to the grouping.

Reading Skills

Take time to sound out each word and point to the letter you are sounding out. Explore using the side of card that features the sign only as a reinforced sight words card. Your child will not have the image of the object in question as a reference; instead he or she will have to rely on the visual of the sign and observation of the written word.

Learning Contrasting Concepts

Pull out the flash cards for ideas such as small and big, hot and cold dark and light. Mix the cards all together and ask your little one to locate and sign the pairs.

Gastronomical Education

If you have a picky eater using flash cards provides you with a transitional tool to challenge your little one to try new flavors. Place a bento box with a variety of fruits new to your baby and proceed to show her the card and sign. Let her taste the fruit or food item and have her decide if she likes it or not by either signing positive signs or using the sign for more.

 

If you don’t have our flash card set yet you can get one as part of one of our kits or as standalone product. Visit our baby sign language store and get yours today

 

 

Learning Delays? Small Steps Can Make Big Impact

begin

Let’s talk about feeling discouraged. I know, that is not exactly the reason why you visit www.babysignlanguage.com but stay with me for this one; you won’t regret it. Parenting a new baby can be a rewarding and exciting adventure but we all have moments of discouragement. For parents dealing with a child who has been diagnosed with learning and developmental delays discouragement can easily take over everything. If you are in that boat I want to invite you to do the next thing. I want you to say goodbye to feeling like you are frozen and find strength to embrace the pleasure of small victories.

Embrace New Beginnings

When you are dealing with the unknown it is best if your goals are short term. Wake up every morning and make it your goal to explore new ways to teach your little one. Look for resources and alternatives to overcome their learning barriers and spend time discovering what works best for you. Every morning commit to not thinking about the day before and fully focusing on new beginnings. Take note of your successes however small.

Say Goodbye to Typical

A friend of mine whose career has been dedicated to developmental delays in early childhood always emphasizes workarounds. If your child is not an aural  learner explore visual or tactile experiences. Carefully watch his responses to setting and make accommodations. What works for most will not necessarily work for you.

Social v. Solitary

Is your child more likely to imitate a peer? Does he need your full attention? Is she easily distracted by crowds? Take time to understand how the social setting affects how your child learns and make revisions accordingly.

Begin, Begin, Begin!

Don’t wait. The earlier you intervene the better chances you have of catching up. I love how my friend Katia tells the story of her daughter Sasha. Sasha displayed learning delays from birth. In the absence of a diagnosis Katia spent time encouraging learning and  teaching Sasha baby sign language. To her surprise when Sasha was finally diagnosed it was discovered that she had a communication disorder. Thanks to baby sign language Sasha already had the tools to communicate buying her family, teachers and therapists valuable time to focus on learning other life skills while working on overcoming her speech delay.

If you feel discouraged today we want to invite you to do something. Whatever you do, however little it is chances are it will make a difference in your child’s life.

 

 

Baby Sign Language For The Playground

As the weather becomes milder opportunities to do outdoor activities will certainly increase. For those of you entering the toddler stage it will be your very first opportunity to improve motor skills and enhance social skills by interacting at your local playground.

 

Now that your baby has mastered need-based signs such as milk, more, mom & dad we can begin to focus on expanding their baby sign language vocabulary as they become familiar with new objects and new settings.

In addition to new words it is important that we work on developing values and teaching manners. A social context such as the playground provides an excellent backdrop to help our toddlers become familiar with concepts such as sharing, taking turns, asking politely and apologizing.

Before you head out to the playground we encourage you to work on learning the following playground-friendly baby signs:

Swing

Slide

Playground

Outside

Run

Play

Shoes

Share

Friends

Game

Hurt

We know these signs will be super useful and extra fun. Before you head to the playground make sure you have applied sunscreen and bring along some water and snacks.

We can’t wait to see the videos of your little ones using baby sign language in the playground

Beyond Shyness – This is How Baby Sign Language Can Help You Overcome Toddler Social Anxiety

It is surprising how early in life we begin to show personality traits. Some of us are exuberant, others gentle and a few of us are shy. Unfortunately sometimes what we perceive as shyness is simply the very first symptoms of social anxiety. Among other behaviors toddlers with social anxiety exhibit some of the following:

  • Will not eat outside the home
  • Will not potty outside the home
  • Is verbal at home but has a hard time engaging with new people
  • Does not play with other toddlers but plays with siblings
  • Will not communicate needs or wants when placed in crowded settings or outside the home.

If you are facing these challenges with your toddler you may want to consider baby sign language as a means of assistive communication even when your baby is already verbal. You see, for those with anxiety it is always easier to mimic a movement than to use their voices. Quiet interactions can help your child overcome social barriers and eventually serve as the tool that facilitates engagement. This is particularly useful if you are attempting to incorporate your kid into a daycare setting and you are having issues related to stress induced by social contexts.

Work on Signs That Help Your Child Overcome Difficult Situations

If your little one is refusing to eat outside the home teach him a few signs to express preferences. More, all-done, hot, cold and their favorite foods are the best choices to get started.

Teach and Use a Sign For Comfort & Affirmation

Believe me you will need it for years to come. My friend Kathy tells me that even now that her boy is in 1st grade she uses the sign for I love you to convey affection without embarrassing him in public settings.

Communicate With Your Daycare Provider

It is essential that your daycare provider is on the same page and understands sign language. Setting the stage for your child to have easy access to their caregivers when in need of something basic will without a doubt help in making him or her feel secure.

If you have not yet started teaching your baby how to sign we invite you to take a look at our free resources or consider adding our award-winning baby sign language kits to your personal parenting library. You can find our baby sign language kits here.