E-I-E-I-O!

T (13 months) has been playing around with lots of different vowel sounds lately. For awhile, it seemed like he was mostly saying “ahhh” and “aaa,” but lately, he has added “ee,” “ayy,” “oh,” and “uh.” Some cute highlights – he’s started saying “uh oh” – usually while looking us in the eye, grinning, and throwing food/utensils off his high chair and pointing for us to pick them up (I don’t think that’s exactly an “uh oh”?!). And, out of the blue, he’s started singing “E I E I O”! I THINK this is because of the song “Old McDonald,” but I don’t usually sing this to him, so I’m not totally sure where he learned this (daycare?!). He’s also started very reliably saying “ohhh” to get us to open a box, which is something we’ve worked hard on with speech therapy, and it finally clicked this week!

I’ve noticed that, with all of these new vowels, T tends to say the vowel in isolation, rarely combining it with a consonant (when T says consonants, they tend to be combined with his earlier mastered vowels, like “aaa” and “ahh” – so he will say “ba,” “da,” etc.). But, after a few days of experimenting with his new vowels, I’ve noticed that T has just now started combining them with consonants – and, interestingly, he seems to mostly be combining them with “d.” So, he will babble “doh,” “duh,” and “die” now. I wrote here about how I thought T’s favorite consonant was “d” (based on when he first said it and how frequently he says it), so I wonder if he’s starting to combine his new vowels with “d” because it’s his favorite and/or the easiest for him to say? If that’s the case, I predict that we will next start to hear “bye” and “no!”

T has also started to pick up a few new words that he will say pretty reliably – he will say “buh buh” while waving goodbye, and just in the past two days, has started saying “all done” (pronounced “ah duh”). He has started saying “mama” quite a bit, as well, but I think I might have inadvertently taught him that the word for photograph is “mama” – I may have been a bit overzealous pointing out myself in photographs, and I’ve noticed that T will now excitedly point to ANY photograph, regardless of whether I’m in it, and shout “mama”!

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Consonant Confusions

One thing that always makes me laugh is hearing T confuse different consonants. Besides being really cute, the substitutions of one consonant for another makes sense based on the place of articulation and manner of articulation. (I wrote more about consonants here!)

For example, T has sometimes been substituting “ba” for “ma” – both of these have a bilabial place of articulation (the lips are pressed together when you make the sound), but “ba” is a stop consonant (that’s the manner of articulation – you stop airflow with the lips before you release the lips to make the “ba” sound), whereas “ma” is a nasal consonant (air flows through the nose while you make the “mmm” sound). I’ll often ask T to “say mama!” and he’ll grin and say “baba!”

One other SUPER cute thing he’s been doing this week is substituting kisses for “ba” and “ma” – if I ask him to say either “bubbles” or “mama,” he’ll sometimes blow a kiss! This was SO interesting to me, because while blowing a kiss isn’t a proper consonant, it is a bilabial action, just like “ba” and “ma”!

 

“No” and “Mama”

I have been trying to teach T to say “mama” for months now, but despite my effort, he will often look at me after I say “mama,” laugh, and yell “DADA” – until now!

This past weekend, T started saying “na” and “nuh nuh,” and once he started, that was pretty much all he said for two straight days. And then, within a few days of starting to say “na,” T started saying “ma” and “mama”! He doesn’t yet associate me with “mama,” but we’re working on that part now! Also, earlier this week, T’s speech therapist mentioned that T seems to have associated the concept of negation with the “nuh nuh” sound, so it’s only a matter of time before he starts saying “no!”

I thought it was really interesting that T started saying “ma” once “na” clicked with him, and I started thinking about this in the context of the order T has learned different consonant sounds and his preference for producing different consonant sounds.

There are 3 main features that distinguish different consonant:

  1. Place of articulation – this feature indicates the part of the mouth that’s involved in obstructing airflow to produce the consonant sound. Examples are: “bilabial” (with the lips pressed together, like in /b/, /m/, or /p/), “alveolar” (with the tongue touching the top of the mouth behind the gum ridge, like in /d/, /n/, or /t/) and “velar” (with the tongue pressed against the soft palate, like in /g/ and /k/).
  2. Manner of articulation – this feature indicates the configuration and interaction of the parts of the mouth involved in the obstruction. Examples are “stops” (where airflow stops completely during the articulation, like in /b/, /p/, /d/, /t/, /g/, and /k/), “nasals” (where air flows through the noise during articulation, like in /n/ and /m/), “fricatives” (where air flows through a small channel during articulation to make a “hissy” sound, like in /s/, /sh/, /f/, and /zh/), and “approximants” (where there is very little obstruction in airflow, like in /l/, /w/, and /y/).
  3. Voicing – this feature indicates when obstruction of airflow stops and vibration of the vocal folds begins. For example, /b/ and /p/ are both bilabial consonants (produced with the lips pressed together), but they differ in voicing – /b/ is “voiced”, whereas /p/ is “voiceless” – you can hear the difference in how /p/ has a kind of “pop” or attack when you produce a “pa” sound.

I started thinking about how T’s preferences for different consonants and the order that he started producing them aligns with these different features.

Here’s a chart showing when T first started producing different consonant sounds (purely based on my recollection – I never wrote any of this down!)

productiondate.jpg

When T first started producing different consonant sounds, organized by place and manner of articulation. For stop consonants, the top row indicates voiced consonants and the bottom row indicates voiceless consonants. The color of the consonant indicates when T first began producing the consonant, as indicated by the legend on the right.

And here’s a chart showing how frequently T says different consonant (regardless of when he first learned to say them), again based purely on my informal impressions:

productionfreq.jpg

Frequency with which T says different consonant sounds.  The color of the consonant indicates how frequently T says the consonant, as indicated by the legend on the right.

I think that T’s “favorite” consonants (based on how frequently he says them) tend to be those with an alveolar articulation (/d/, /n/, and /l/ in particular – I think you can kind of see this in the middle column of the second chart). Looking at the first chart (middle row), you can see that he started producing nasal sounds only recently (these are /m/ and /n/). It kind of makes sense to me, in hindsight, that of the nasal sounds, he’d start producing /n/ first, since he seems to prefer the alveolar place of articulation over the bilabial articulation. It kind of seems like T needed a little time to get the hang of the nasal manner of articulation, and that once he started with nasal sounds, he started with the place of articulation that comes most naturally for him (the alveolar articulation) before trying an articulation that’s more difficult for him (the bilabial articulation).

The order and preference of T’s consonant production development has been especially interesting to me in light of articles like this one (which I read before I had T!) that say that babies tend to say sounds that sound like “mama” first because it’s one of the easiest sounds. Clearly, T is an independent thinker!

 

Article Review – “Vocalizations of Infants With Hearing Loss Compared with Infants with Normal Hearing – Part 1: Phonetic Development”

As T’s (9 months) babbling has taken off, I’ve started to become interested in the order in which infants tend to acquire different speech sounds as well as how this might differ for infants with hearing loss vs. normally-hearing infants. I started doing a little Googling, and found this study (link to Abstract only) that compares vocalizations of infants with hearing loss to infants with normal hearing. (Moeller, M.P., Hoover, B., Putman, C., Arbataitis, K., Bohnenkam, G., Peterson, B., Wood, S., Lewis, D., Pittman, A., and Stelmachowicz, P. “Vocalizations of Infants with Hearing Loss Compared with Infants with Normal Hearing: Part 1- Phonetic Development.” Ear & Hearing, Vol. 28 No. 5, 605-627. 2007).

This study actually has two parts, the first looking at babbling with younger infants (up to 2 years old), and the second looking at older children and how they transition from babbling to acquiring words. This week, I’ll talk about part 1, and will hopefully write about part 2 next week.

Background

It’s well-known that infants with hearing loss develop spoken vocabulary later than normally-hearing children. However, there’s a lot of language development happens before children start speaking words. For example, infants typically start off making vowel sounds, and then progress to babbling (like “bababa,” “dadada,” etc.). Less is known about how hearing loss affects this earlier stage of language development.

The Study

The researchers enrolled a group of normally-hearing (NH) infants and a group of infants identified as having hearing loss (HL). This was a longitudinal study, so each infant was followed over time – their spoken language was measured in an experimental session conducted every 1.5-2 months, from when the study began (generally when infants were 4 months old) until they were 36 months old. There were 21 NH infants, and 12 HL infants. All of the infants with HL had assistive technology, typically hearing aids, although 3 received cochlear implants (CIs) during the course of the study. The degree of hearing loss varied a lot for the HL group; on average, across the group of HL infants, they had a 67 dB HL Better Ear Pure Tone Average (BEPTA – meaning that the average audiogram for the infant’s better ear measured at 500, 1000, and 2000 Hz was 67 dB HL). All of the HL infants were involved in some form of early intervention.

To collect the data, at each session, each infant played with a caregiver while their interaction was taped and then transcribed. The infants would play with a parent or guardian, and the researchers transcribed each vocalization by the infant – for example, identifying a particular vowel or consonant, whether a sound was a grunt, cry, or squeal, etc.

There were 3 main categories of metrics the researchers looked, which were:

  1. Volubility – this indicates how much the infants vocalized over a session – were they pretty chatty during the session, or fairly quiet?
  2. Age at which the infant began babbling
  3. Speech complexity – here, the researchers looked at what types of consonants the infants were producing at a particular age, as well as whether they were able to string different types of sounds together to make more complex sounds.

Let’s get to the results!

Volubility

To measure volubility, for each experimental session, the researchers calculated the infant’s vocalizations per minute. Vocalizations could be any sounds other than stuff like grunts, screams, cries, etc. So, an infant with a higher volubility score would have vocalized more during the session compared to an infant with a lower volubility score.

FIG. 1 of the article (shown below) shows the volubility results for both NH infants (left) and HL infants (right). In the figure, volubility scores are shown for infants at 3 different ages – 8.5 months, 10 months, and 12 months. As you can see in FIG. 1, the volubility scores for HL infants was really similar to that of NH infants, and the researchers found no significant difference between the two groups. I thought it was pretty interesting that, at each age, the HL infants seemed to be vocalizing as much as the NH infants!

fig1.jpg

FIG. 1 of Moeller, et al. – Volubility of NH and HL infants as a function of age

Age of Babbling Onset

The researchers then quantified the age at which the infants began babbling. Although we (or at least, I!) tend to think of babbling as any infant pre-word “talking,” babbling technically requires a consonant-vowel (CV) pairing – examples include “ba,” “da,” “ga,” etc. CV pairs can also be chained together, either the same consonant and vowel (“baba”) or different consonants and/or vowels (“babo,” “bada,” etc.)

In order to set a criteria to define the age of babbling onset, the researchers identified the age at which the proportion of babbles out of the total vocal utterances exceeded 0.2 – so this was the age at which, during an experimental session, more than 20% of the infant’s vocalizations were consonant-vowel pairings.

FIG. 2 of the article (shown below) shows, at each age, the proportion of infants in the NH group (black bars) and HL group (white bars) who had started babbling (defined as having more than 20% of their vocalizations during the session include a CV-pairing). As you can see, NH infants tended to begin babbling much earlier than HL infants – it took roughly 6ish additional months for the HL group to reach the milestone of having 50% of the infants in the group babbling compared to the NH group. The researchers also stated that, for the HL group, there was a correlation between the age at which the infants first received hearing aids and the age at which they began babbling, although this wasn’t statistically significant (possibly because there were only 12 infants in the group, and they varied a lot in degree of hearing loss).

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FIG. 2 of Moeller et al. – Proportion of infants who had began babbling by age

Babble Complexity

The researchers quantified the complexity of the sounds the infants were producing by scoring each utterance as follows:

  1. 1 point for utterances that were vowels or primarily vowels – (like “ahhh,” “eeee,” “waaa,” etc.) – this was labeled SSSL1
  2. 2 points for utterances that had 1 type of consonant – (like “ba,” “da,” “baba,” etc.) – this was labeled SSSL2
  3. 3 points for utterances that had 2 or more types of consonants – (like “bada,” “gaba,” gabo,” etc.) – this was labeled SSSL3
  4. 4 points for utterances with consonant blends, like “spun.” – this was labeled SSSl4

FIG. 4 of Moeller et al. shows the proportion of utterances that belonged to each point category for both NH infants (top) and HL infants (bottom).

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Adapted from FIG. 4 of Moeller et al. – proportion of utterances in each babble complexity category as a function of age

As you can see, for both NH infants and HL infants, vocalizations by the youngest babies (10-12 months) were dominated by the simplest type of vocalization – primarily vowels. Both groups tended to increase the proportion of more complex vocalizations – those containing consonants and multiple types of consonants – with age. One really interesting thing you can see in the above figure is that HL infants at 18-20 months had a babble complexity pattern that was similar to the NH infants at 10-12 months (I highlighted these in the red boxes above) – this is a pretty substantial delay. However, by the time the HL infants were 22-24 months old, the pattern resembles that of the NH infants at 18-20 months (highlighted in the green boxes above), indicating that the HL infants were closing the gap! This could be the result of amplification for the HL infants, early intervention services, as well as the fact that three of the HL infants received cochlear implants during this time period.

Phonetic Inventory

The researchers then looked at whether NH infants and HL infants differed in the rates at which they started saying vowels and different types of consonants. FIG. 5 of Moeller et al. (reproduced below) shows the infants’ progression in acquiring both vowels and consonants broken into different classes based on place of articulation. A consonant’s place of articulation indicates what part of the mouth is involved in obstructing the vocal tract – I wrote more about it here. Here’s a quick overview of the different classes of consonants shown in FIG. 5 below:

  1. bilabials – these are consonants produced with the lips pressed together (e.g., p, b, m, and w).
  2. labiodentals & interdetals – labiodentals are produced with the lower lip between the teeth (e.g., f and v). interdentals are produced with the tongue between the teeth (e.g., th).
  3. alveolars – these are produced with the tip of the tongue behind the top teeth (e.g., d and t).
  4. palatals – these are produced with the body of the tongue raised against the hard palate (e.g., j).
  5. velars – these are produced with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate (e.g., k and g).

Each panel in FIG. 5 shows the percent of sounds within a given category that the infants produced at a particular age. So, for example, there are 4 bilabial consonants (p, b, m, and w), and infants who could produce 2 out of the 4 at a particular age would receive a score of 50% for that age.

fig5.jpg

Adapted from FIG. 5 of Moeller, et al. – % of sounds produced in different phonetic categories as a function of age.

One thing that was interesting to me is that bilabial consonants seemed to be one of the “easier” sounds to produce in general (look at the top row, middle panel) – for both NH and HL infants, scores were fairly high at every age range, and the gap between NH and HL infants was fairly small as well. The researchers said that this might be because bilabial consonants tend to be very visually salient compared to other places of articulation – it’s pretty easy to see lips pressed together compared to where your tongue is inside your mouth! This might make it easier for infants to acquire bilabial consonants, since they can more easily see how they are formed.

Another interesting thing about Fig. 5 – the researchers found that acquisition of these different classes of sounds generally fell into 3 different categories, which I’ve highlighted by color in the above figure. For vowels and alveolar consonants, the HL infants were generally delayed relative to the NH infants, but their rate of acquisition was parallel (this is highlighted in blue above). For bilabial consonants and velar consonants, the HL infants seemed to be closing an initial gap relative to the NH infants – that is, their acquisition of these classes of consonants was converging with the NH infants (this is highlighted in green above). Conversely, for palatal consonants and labiodentals/interdetals, the HL infants seemed to be acquiring consonants in these classes at a slower rate than the NH infants – that is, over time, the gap between the HL infants and the NH infants widened. One thing to note is that, for both NH and HL infants, palatal and labiodental/interdental consonants (highlighted in red above) occurred less often in general compared to other consonants – regardless of hearing, children tend to take longer to produce these types of sounds, perhaps because they tend to be less common in English.

The researchers then broke the consonants up in a different way – into fricatives and non-fricatives. Fricatives are consonants that are produced by forming a small opening with the mouth and forcing air through – they include sounds like “ssss,” “shhhh,” “f,” and “zzz” – fricatives are the ones that sound kind of “hissy”! This hissyness also makes fricatives generally hard for people with hearing loss to hear – fricatives tend to have a lot of high frequency components and are often low in intensity. FIG. 6 of Moeller, et al. (reproduced below) shows the rate of acquisition of non-fricatives (left) and fricatives (right) for both NH and HL infants.

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FIG. 6 of Moeller, et al. – Acquisition of non-fricative and fricative consonants.

As you can see, acquisition of the non-fricative consonants was parallel for both the HL and NH infants – both groups had a steady increase in production of non-fricative sounds. However, for fricatives, while the NH infants steadily increased their production of these sounds, the HL infants didn’t – they seemed sort of stuck from 10 months to 24 months and, in general, didn’t really add many consonants from this group into their repertoire. As I mentioned above, this might be because fricatives tend to be really hard to hear for people with hearing loss, so the HL infants might have not had enough exposure to these types of sounds to begin producing them.

My Reflections

I was particularly interested to read this study since T’s consonant inventory seems to have grown a lot just in the past 2 weeks. Although he’s been saying “da” for awhile (EVERYTHING is “dada”!), he’s started more consistently saying “ba” and “ma” (both are bilabial) and, just in the past few days, has started saying “la” (I think this is alveolar). From the data presented in this study, it seems like bilabials tend to be one of the “easiest” categories of consonants – babies tend to produce the highest proportion of consonants in this class at earlier ages relative to other categories, and this might be because of how easy it is to see the lips pressed together when producing bilabial consonants. Although T’s preferred consonants (the ones we hear more often) are “da” (alveolar) and “ga” (velar), I think we’ve heard him produce most of the bilabial consonants at least a few times now. And, lately, if we really emphasize the position of our lips while saying “pa,” “ba,” or “mmm,” he’ll try to imitate us!

One of the things I think I gained from reading this study was an appreciation for the activities we do at speech therapy and a deeper understanding of how those activities will help T acquire different speech sounds. One thing we really focus on is drawing T’s attention to different sounds by pairing the sound with something interesting and visually salient – this gets him to really listen to the sound rather than just have it be background noise that he might not pay attention to. We’ll do this in different ways, for example, pointing at our mouths, waving toys or ribbons around as we make the sound, etc. I think that, especially for children with hearing loss, merely passively hearing different sounds isn’t quite enough, and having their attention drawn to the sound and the way your mouth looks when you make the sound can help tie everything together.

Once again, this study highlighted the importance of T wearing his hearing aids! I think it’s really important for him to get as much good, high-quality exposure to all these different speech sounds so that he can start to produce them, and this is especially important for fricatives (like, “sss,” “shhh,” “f,” etc.). The “s” sound in particular is really important for English grammar – it’s what turns a singular noun into a plural – and the study that I wrote about here found that children with hearing loss tend to have more trouble with this grammar rule than normally-hearing children.

Finally, on a happy (for me) note – there are a few bad words I’ve been known to accidentally say in front of T that start with fricatives (I’ll let you figure out what they are) – I’ve been thinking I need to clean up my language, since I’m been worried that once T really starts talking, he’ll out me by repeating something he’s heard me say totally out of the blue. But, from the results of this study, it looks like children, whether normally-hearing or with hearing loss, don’t tend to really start producing fricatives until they are quite a bit older than T is now – so it looks like I have a little while before I have to be worried about T surprising me by dropping a fricative-bomb!

Playing With Bubbles

One of my favorite things about T’s speech therapy sessions is that we learn new ways to interact and play with T, including playing with toys we already have at home. At our very first speech therapy session (when T was only 4 months old!), T’s speech therapist showed us ways to play with T while playing with bubbles.

T’s speech therapist’s eventual goal was to get T to produce “ba” and “pa” sounds. However, when we first started, our initial goal was just to reward T for producing any sounds at all. So, we’d count to 3, and then wait for T to say something (anything!), and reward him by blowing bubbles. To be honest, it took about a month or a month and a half for T (until he was 6ish months old) to be interested in the bubbles – I think he had trouble visually focusing on them at first. After that, he started to really love looking at the bubbles floating around, and especially loved when we caught one on the bubble wand and brought it to him to pop. He soon got the hang of “asking” for bubbles (he’d mostly say “da!” or “ga!”).

After that, we started trying to make the game a little harder for T. First, a little background – one of the things T’s speech therapist has talked to us about is pairing consonants that are similar but different in some context so that T can hear the two consonants together and try to hear the difference. An example of this (that we use in our bubble games) are “ba” and “pa” sounds. “Ba” and “pa” are really similar in that both are bilabial consonants – meaning they are formed with the lips pressed together (if you look in a mirror while making “ba” and “pa” sounds, you’ll notice that they visually look really similar!). However, “ba” and “pa” differ from each other in a parameter called “voice-onset time.” In the case of “ba” and “pa,” voice-onset time refers to the amount of time between when the lips are opened and when vibration of the vocal folds begins. The time is much shorter for “ba” than for “pa,” and you can hear it in how “pa” has sort of a more explosive attack than “ba.”

Anyway, we’ve been trying to get T to hear and produce “ba” and “pa” sounds using bubbles. Now that T is a bit older, we count to 3, and try to wait for him to make a “ba” sound (and if he is reluctant, we’ll say “ba-ba-ba-BUBBLES!”). Then, we’ll show him how to pop the bubbles, while saying “Pa-Pa-Pa-POP!”). T has become somewhat consistent in saying “ba” to get us to blow bubbles, and he is working on the “pa” sound – we’ve heard him say this a few times in the context of popping bubbles, which is exciting!

Speech Therapy Session – February 1, 2016

We started today with working on identifying Ling sounds. Today, T was able to pick out the toys paired with “mmm,” “ooo,” and “ahh”! When the speech therapist said “can you show me mmmm?”, T was able to point to the corresponding ice cream toy out of 4 or 5 toys in a bin (and did similarly for the “oooo” ghost toy and the “ahhhh” airplane toy). I was so surprised he remembered these pairings, since we don’t have these toys at home and so aren’t able to practice this at home. I think it’s possible he identified them by chance, but I do think he’s getting the hang of this each time we try!

One really interesting thing we learned about today from T’s speech therapist was about “prosodic bootstrapping.” (Note: I am not a speech therapist, and really don’t know much about linguistics, so the explanation below is just to the best of my understanding!)

Prosody relates to the larger parts of speech than vowels and consonants, like syllables, words and phrases. Prosody gives us information about speech like the speaker’s mood, whether a sentence is a question or a statement, whether a sentence is said sarcastically, etc. Prosody also helps indicate a language’s underlying grammar. For example, prosody can indicate clause boundaries within a phrase or sentence. Consider the sentence “he walked the dog.” – In English, it would be unlikely to insert a pause between “the” and “dog,” because that splits the phrase “the dog.” The locations and durations of pauses within phrases are one example of prosodic information. Other auditory cues used to convey prosody include: loudness or stress (e.g., which parts of a word or clause we emphasize), frequency or pitch of the voice and how it changes (e.g., in English, pitch tends to rise as we ask a question), and duration and timing of pauses (e.g., to mark clause boundaries, as mentioned above).

Bootstrapping refers to way in which infants naturally acquire their native language, just by hearing it around them and spoken to them. In particular, bootstrapping refers to the idea that infants use innate statistical learning abilities to learn small bits of information about language and build on these small bits to build up their understanding of their native language. A particular example of this is how infants use statistical learning to identify word boundaries (see [1]) – in English, the letter combination “st” is fairly common (as in “sting”), but the combination “gb” is not. Just by hearing streams of speech, infants learn that “st” is common, but “gb” is not, and this knowledge helps them segment words within a stream of speech. Take the example of the stream of speech “stingingbee” – this can be broken into the words “stinging” and “bee,” and “gbee” not likely to be a word, because in English, “gb” is not a common combination.

So, “prosodic bootstrapping” is how infants learn to use the auditory cues that indicate prosody to learn about the intent of speech (is it a question? said angrily or sarcastically?) or the underlying grammar (which are the clauses that are grouped together). One really cool thing is that newborn infants cry with a prosody that is similar to their native language (see [2]), which may indicate that they are learning prosody of their native language heard in the womb! I hope to learn more about how infants (particularly those with hearing loss) learn to use prosody information, and will hopefully write more about this as I learn more.

So, to get back to T and our speech therapy session – T’s speech therapist asked if we had noticed him babbling with different prosody – for example, “ba da ga ba?” or babbling with excitement versus irritation. We have definitely noticed that when he’s ready to get up for the day in the morning (or, at 2 am in his case!), he will start off babbling happily, and then his voice gets more and more insistent and agitated until we finally get him up. Also, he seems more likely to respond vocally to us when we ask him a question (with a rising tone at the end of the question) than when we make a statement and then pause, which indicates that he is picking up on the auditory cues that indicate questions versus statements. We will definitely be paying more attention to this now that we talked about this today!

 

References
[1] Saffran, Jenny (1996). “Word Segmentation: The Role of Distributional Cues”. Journal of Memory and Language 35 (4): 606–621.
[2] Cross, Ian (2009). “Communicative Development: Neonate Crying Reflects Patterns of Native-Language Speech”. Current Biology19: R1078–R1079.

 

Speech Therapy Session – January 11, 2016

T (7.5 months old currently) had a speech therapy session today.  Most of our sessions consist of playing with different toys and encouraging him to vocalize to continue playing.

We started by playing with Sophie The Giraffe, a really popular squeaky teething toy.  T LOVES Sophie – the therapist began by hiding Sophie under the table and making her squeak, and waiting for T to localize the squeaking sound by trying to find Sophie.  He’s gotten good at localizing sounds in the last few months, and started trying to find her right away.  The therapist moved Sophie towards him, tickling him, then quickly moving Sophie away – encouraging him to vocalize, and rewarding him by moving Sophie closer when he did so.  Eventually, Sophie just ended up in his mouth!

We later moved on to playing peekaboo.  T has recently gotten REALLY into peekaboo!  The therapist hid herself under a blanket, and T got excited, knowing she was under there.  From under the blanket, she asked him where she was, and then after hearing him vocalize, she pulled off the blanket – and he was so excited to see her!

Up until now, we have been encouraging T to vocalize by pausing before performing an action that he wants – for example, giving him Sophie or pulling off the blanket during peekaboo, and then only performing the action after hearing him make a sound.  When we first started speech therapy 3 months ago, T was inconsistent about vocalizing, but he’s come so far since then!  Now, the speech therapist said we should be pushing him to make more “specific” sounds.  For example, going forward, we will start pushing him to make “mmmm” sounds when we ask if he wants “MOOOOORE Sophie?”  And, instead of rewarding him by performing a desired action after hearing any vocalization from him, we’ll wait until he makes a more specific, desired sound that we’re encouraging him to produce.

T has been babbling “da da da da” for a few weeks now, so as his mom, I’m excited for him to get the hang of “mmmm,” so he can say “Mama!” 🙂