Back to Blog
Now that you know what Joint Attention is and why it is important (and if you don't, check out my last blog post: Sharing Experiences and Building Language with Joint Attention), let's talk about how to build joint attention.
1. Remember that you are trying to SHARE an experience with your child. Try to begin building joint attention using something your child enjoys or is actively engaged in. Your child will not be focused on you or the toy if they don’t care about it.
2. Decide how you can take part in their play in the most playful of ways.
-Use Simple Exaggerated Noises/Words: Ohh, Wow, Ooo, Look, (gasp), (your child’s name)- Draw your child's attention from their toy to you, then have the toy do something exciting, silly, unexpected, or fun that your child may enjoy. Be fun and exaggerate. Even if your child doesn't enjoy your first attempt at engaging them, you can try something different next time. And if you managed to get their eyes to alternate from the TOY, to YOU, and back to the TOY, then you have done your job (even if you shared an awkward moment).
-Use Gestures Too: Point, Show them something, Bring things closer to your face to draw attention up- A common complaint that I hear from parents is that their child doesn’t always listen. And some kids may need a visual to direct their attention and all kids benefit from visuals. Though not all kids know how to follow a pointing finger or notice gestures initially. But when you do these in an exaggerated manner and pair with words or attention-gaining noises.
-Be Silly/Make Mistakes/Use Pauses- Kids so often notice when you say something incorrect or funny (even they don’t seem to be listening). Make mistakes on purpose… “The cow says Baaaa. (gasp) Oops!” This is a great way for you child to take their eyes off that puzzle piece or toy animal to look at you. They may even jump at the chance to correct you and say “cow go moo”. Whether your child verbally expresses that they know what the cow says or visually showed you that they heard your mistake (and their receptive language is working), you and your child are sharing joint attention.
3. Pick Your Toys Wisely- These toys will be ones that will allow you to playfully participate or be the keeper of the pieces, special toys that your child may not see everyday, toys that require turn-taking….
4. Joint Attention Isn’t Just for Toys- Songs are another great way to share an experience with your child, especially ones with gestures and predictable patterns. And they are a great time to use pauses hoping your child will fill in the blank with the word of a well known song and/or share the moment with you with eye contact (aka joint attention shifting from you back to the songs’ gestures) Some of my favorites are:
Wheels on the Bus
Itsy Bitsy Spider
This is the Way the Lady Rides
Ring Around the Rosie
5. Don’t forget...Wait for that eye contact. Even if it doesn’t happen with every attempt, continue to pause and use the strategies and toys suggested above. This may take time, but continue to observe/analyze what and why things work/don’t work to improve joint attention with YOUR child.
If your child is struggling with Joint Attention or seems to be behind with their Speech, Language, or Play skills, Contact a Speech-Language Pathologist.
Back to Blog
As I planned and prepared to write my first blog post of 2018, it took me a while to decide what I should discuss. I wanted to pick something that parents and professionals would find useful and informative. Though I see children for therapy from birth to adulthood, I thought it might be best to start at the beginning. So let's begin the new year by talking about beginning speech and language skills.
I have parents that approach me at birthday parties, grocery stores, and any other random place to ask about their child's speech and language development. This is one piece of knowledge that I wish every parent knew about...Joint Attention. This foundational language skill is one that's often overlooked.
Joint Attention, also know as Shared Attention, is "knowing together." This occurs when two people (in this case: you and your child) are focused and alternate attention between each other and the item/activity, thereby sharing the experience. We hope to see this occur naturally in children. This skill occurs in most children before words even emerge. A few studies have indicated that these behaviors typically emerge between 8 and 13 months of age in normally developing children.
There are several skills are important for joint attention:
• Orienting and paying attention to a social partner
• Shifting eye gaze between people and objects
• Sharing emotional states with another person
• Following the gaze, gesture, or pointing finger of another person
• Being able to draw another person’s attention to objects or events for the purpose of sharing
Joint attention is important for so many reasons. According to Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist, Laura Mize, "When a child doesn’t [consistently] notice that you’re trying to get him to include you or share an experience, there’s not much real interaction going on between the two of you". Several research studies have indicated that differences in the ability of a child aged 6- to 18-month-old to respond to joint attention are predictive of language ability at 24 to 36 months. And as you may already know, language is such a social thing! We communicate for so many reasons: to request, to greet, to protest, to share opinions, to ask questions, etc. Joint attention is a precursor skill for being a great communicator and for great language skills. When you and your child are sharing each other's attention, this allows them to communicate socially (pragmatic language), focus on the language that you are saying (receptive language), and gives them an opportunity to use or learn to use language (expressive language).
If you have concerns with your child's Joint Attention or overall Speech, Language, and Play skills, don't wait and see. Contact us for a free consultation today.
And STAY TUNED for more articles about Early Communication skills and how to build them with your child. Follow us on Facebook to keep up to date on our blog posts and articles we share. Don't forget to check other resources on our Resources Page and previous blog posts on our Blog Page.
Resources Used for This Article:
2. Bakeman & Adamson, 1984; Bates, 1979; Leung & Rheingold, 1981
3. Woods & Wetherby, 2008, p. 181
5. Markus, Mundy, Morales, Delgado, & Yale, 2000; Morales, Mundy, & Rojas, 1998; Mundy & Gomes, 1998; Mundy, Kasari, Sigman, & Ruskin, 1995
Back to Blog
I hear the same statement over and over from so many parents (and my husband)...We Have Too Many TOYS! Regardless of whether it was a gift given to my kids, a pricier toy, or a toy that we picked up at the thrift store (or even hand-me-downs from family), I have a hard time getting rid of any toy. This is a problem on so many levels. My house becomes a disorganized mess with my daughter and son fleeting from basket to basket, dumping toys, and leaving a sea of toys in their wake. I felt like I was constantly nagging my daughter to clean up and spending the rest of the day on my hands and knees, breaking my back reorganizing piles and baskets. Let me share with you what changed all that and how it can keep your house a bit more organized and improve communication at the same time.
1. Create Jobs
-Find some toys that your child may not notice you sneaking out of the toy box. I picked toys like puzzles with many pieces, playdough, crafts, and a magnetic doll set with small pieces. These toys are ones that I found to be messy or have too many pieces for my daughter to manage independently. If you have little, little ones (as my son is), this is the perfect opportunity to keep track of your older children’s toys that can be a choking hazard. Messy toys or crafts also make great jobs because I can watch over her as she plays where I can see her (we do this at our kitchen table). When my daughter says she’s “Bored” or I want to redirect her attention, I have her pick a “job”. She loves getting to choose a special toy and has learned to initiate asking for them, as well.
Benefits: Your kids will be excited to see their “new” (old) toys again, the less toys out and about for your kids to access will immediately cut down on the messiness, new target language can be focused on each time.
3. Donate, Swapping, and Selling
- Your kids may get to the point whether their toys are no longer interesting to them no matter how you present them or even are a little babyish (as SLPs say “not developmentally-appropriate”). Don’t be afraid to let them go. Your children may be old enough to understand this concept and you can explain it to them and talk through the why/how you will do this. Or if they don’t understand, you can do this on your own. I suggest “rotating” these unused toys to storage first and when you are sure they are forgotten, begin the process. Find these toys that you are ready to part with and decide whether to Trade (donate to a local store to help a good cause and select a new one for cheap), Swap (with a friend, family member, or on a local mom group for some of their unused toys), or Sell them (to a secondhand store or online).
Benefits: You will cut down on the number of unused toys in your house (or even cut down on the total number of toys), your kids may have new toys or at least increase their attention span with the toys they have, again messiness is cut down, this will give you child new things to talk about and may even help them develop new play skills (which is so important-see my previous posts on play).
As we speak, I have boxes of toys above my china cabinet which contain “jobs” that my daughter asks for or is directed to play with at designated times. I have baskets of toys for my 1 year old to keep him focused on one task at a times, even if his attention span is only about 1-2 minutes. We have “rotated” some toys to the basement storage for the time being. I also have a bag full of stuffed in my car, which I plan to drop off at a local Foster Agency. And overall my house is slightly less messy at the end of each day, my kids have had less “boredom” and chaotic flitting around from toy to toy lately, and I have a little more piece of mind. But most importantly, it gives my kids a reason to communicate with me to request a toy that they can't reach or find; gives them a chance to focus, instead of being overstimulated from the chaos; and builds their focused attention.
These tips are meant to helpful to all parents. But if your child is having trouble communicating with you, doesn't seem to follow directions, doesn't show typical play skills for their age, or you have other concerns relating to their development, contact Black Oak Therapy for more information on how to help your child.
Back to Blog
Every speech-language pathologist (even those who don't work with children) seems to get asked the same few questions by parents about early speech and language development. And hopefully this post, and the ones to come this month in my Series: The Early Years, will help clarify things for all you dedicated moms and dads.
How do I know if my child’s speech is delayed?
-This question is a big one! There has been extensive research conducted on children’s speech and language development to help us figure this out. By 1 year old, your child should be saying single words, following 1-step directions (i.e, Come to Mommy), and you should be able to understand about 25% of what your child says. By 2 years of age, your child should be combining words into at least 2-word phrases and following 2-step directions, and you should be able to understand about 50% of what your child says. By 3 years of age, your child should be speaking in sentences, following complex multi-step directions, and you should be able to understand at least 75% of what your child says. If your child is not meeting these big milestones, you should consult a Speech-Language Pathologist.
My child hasn’t said their first words but they will catch up, right?
-It is impossible to say without meeting your child, however there are some strong indicators that we can look out for. Language abilities at 12 months appear to be one of the better predictors of communication skills at 2 years (Reilly et al., 2007). Recent research also suggests that a child who is late putting two words together are at a higher risk for language problems than children who were just late saying their first words (Rudolph & Leonard, 2016). So those first two years of language development are invaluable. Without specialized training in speech and language development, it is impossible to expect that parents will recognize red flags in development. We all want the best for our kids (and I want the best for yours). If your child is not meeting the above milestones, contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. At the very least, you may walk away with peace of mind and tips for boosting speech & language development. Or you may walk away with a new member of your team to help you and your child.
What causes speech and language delays?
For healthy children there are many reasons for language delays. Several research studies have looked into risk factors for language delays/disorders. Risk factors identified include:
-Boys are at 3 times higher risk than girls
-A child with delayed motor development are at higher risk
-Twins were found to have between 32-48% higher risk
-23% higher risk for those with a family history of late language skills
-Larger family size; Late-talkers are less likely to be only children
-Lower maternal education
-Lower family socio-economic status
If you think your child has a language delay, what do I do?
If you would like more information about Play & Language or have more questions about speech and language development, Contact Black Oak Therapy.
Rudolph, J. M. & Leonard, L. B. (2016). Early language milestones and specific language impairment. Journal of Early Intervention, 38(1) 41 –58.
Reilly et al. (2007). Predicting language at 2 years of age: a prospective community study. Journal of Pediatrics, 120(6): 1441-9.