Frequently Asked Questions
- My child is bilingual- what should I know?
- Should a child with a language delay be raised with only one language?
- Why does my child mispronounce sounds?
- If I use sign language with my child, will it stop my child from talking?
- My child has a lisp. What should I do?
My child is bilingual- what should I know?
Watertown has a high population of students with two or more languages. There
are over 25 different languages spoken in the schools. The English Language
Learning Teachers and the Speech-Language Pathologists are collaborating to
ensure that the current research and best practices are being implemented. A
child may learn two languages from birth. A child may also learn the heritage
language at home and then English at day-care,preschool or beginning in
The route parents take depends on a number of factors. The language(s) spoken
by the parents and the extended family is often key. Some parents speak only
their heritage language. Families have different feelings about maintaining their
heritage language at home. If parents are conflicted we suggest that they do
what feels right for their family.
Should a child with a language delay be raised with only one language?
As more studies are conducted, findings indicate that a child with a language
delay can be exposed to more than one language. This is the case even for
children with a severe language delay. The most current research supports
bilingualism for those children where it is part of the family culture.
Families may wish to discuss their options with a Speech-Language Pathologist.
Any language intervention plan
should be based on your child's needs and the needs of the family.
Why does my child mispronounce sounds?
Your child does not intentionally mispronounce sounds. He or she has developed
a speech pattern over time that is unconscious, but usually can be adapted
We often don't know why children develop different speech patterns. In many
cases, the sounds are simply delayed in their acquisition, and with time will
develop on their own. Providing families with suggestions to encourage the
development of these sounds can be helpful.
Other children exhibit speech patterns that are more complex and vary from a
typical developmental pattern. Middle ear fluid or ear infections can also
affect sound acquisition. These children usually require direct speech therapy.
If I use sign language with my child, will it stop my child from talking?
No. Research supports this. Sign language is a type of Augmentative
Communication. Signs can actually
help a child to talk. Studies have demonstrated that children as young as 9
months have developed a large sign vocabulary, much earlier than their spoken
vocabulary, and that these same children spoke earlier than same aged children.
Talking is a very complicated process requiring the child to be able to know
what a word means, know when it is appropriate to use that word, remember how
the word is pronounced and then physically being able to put the sounds
together to produce the word.
Sign language helps a child understand what a word means because it is visual
and can be "seen", rather than just sounds in space. Similarly by observing
others using signs in conjunction with the spoken word, the child learns when
the sign/word is to be used. This then allows the brain to focus more on the
co-ordination of all the muscles required for the pronunciation of the word.
The added bonus is that during your child's learning of word pronunciation
(which can sometimes take months for this connection to occur) they have a way
to communicate with you that is not as physically challenging, thereby
reducing everyone's frustration!
My child has a lisp. What should I do?
Some children present with what is known as a lisp. There are two kinds of lisps:
* Frontal Lisp - is the most common and is characterized by protrusion of
the tongue tip between the front teeth usually during the production of 'S'
and 'Z' sounds resulting in a 'TH' sound, e.g. sun ® "THUN".
* Lateral Lisp - is less common and is characterized by the sides of the
tongue protruding between the molars also during the production of 'S' and 'Z'
sounds resulting in a 'slushy' 'SHLL' sound, e.g. soup ® "SHLLOUP".
Children learn to produce different sounds at different times. The 'S' and 'Z'
sounds are often only mastered by the time a child is 7 or 8 years old. The
presence of a lisp does not typically affect how well a child's speech is
understood though it does make his speech sound different from other children
If your child is demonstrating a lisp - model a clear and exaggerated 'S'
sound by clenching your front teeth and making a BIG smile. Emphasize the
spreading of your lips. When your child says "thun" for sun, it's best if you
repeat the word stressing the 'S' sound ("SSSSun"). You can remind your child
to keep his tongue in his mouth by saying "Oops! I saw your tongue. Stay in
your house Mr. Tongue!" Also encourage your child to keep his tongue tip
anchored behind his lower front teeth by saying "Let's pretend Mr. Tongue is
standing at the bottom window" (your teeth are like windows!)