Little Voices, Big Changes! How Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers Acquire Language

I like to tell a story that makes a lot of our friends who have kids laugh: my son pronounces “st” as “d”.  So a “stegosaurus” is a “degosaurus”.  Well, one day last summer, he was helping me in the garden.  I was putting sticks near the tomato plants to hold them up.  My little guy became very curious about what I was doing and grabbed a stick and ran off with it. When I took it back, he demanded in his very loudest voice that I return the stick to him. “NO, MOMMY! I WANT MY….” Well, you can fill in the blank.

So why is this story so funny to parents? Because it’s eminently relatable. Even if you are lucky enough to have a child who doesn’t scream… well… “STICK!” so loudly that the neighbors can hear it, you know that every kid has some linguistic quirk or foible.  Some kids don’t use prepositions, and others like to use the same pronoun for everyone and thing, regardless of gender.  Some kids don’t talk for a very long time and then burst out in a stream of language that amazes.

If you’re anything like me, you have also wondered whether you are simply wasting your time reading to your 8 week old baby – especially when he grows up to love degosauruses and … sticks.  Should I keep reading to his baby sister, despite the fact that she just falls asleep after I turn the first page?

It’s only natural, of course, for us to wonder if our babies and kids are on track, if those quirks are just that, quirks, or if they are evidence of a gap in learning or ability.  Linguistic benchmarks seem to be quite vague, or largely useless in the case of bilingual or trilingual kids.  And assuming that everything is in order, what can we parents do to help make sure it stays that way? 

Please join us for a special evening with Dr. Sudha Arunachalam, Assistant Professor in Boston University’s Department of Speech, Language, & Hearing Sciences and the director of the BU Child Language Lab, for a discussion of how language acquisition actually happens. She will explain the most cutting-edge linguistics research showing that language comprehension can be manifested in kids as young as 6 months of age, and how that changes as kids age. She will review the latest updates to developmental milestones, and she will provide a practical discussion of strategies that parents can use to support and enhance their children’s language development. Dr. Arunachalam’s research is focused on language development in infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, and specifically on how they learn about meaning and grammar as they hear people speaking to them and around them.

The lecture will take place at North Hill in Needham from 7-8:30pm, beginning with a wine reception and registration. Click here to register for this event.

About the author:
A former middle school teacher, administrator, and corporate bankruptcy attorney, Shalini now faces her toughest but favorite audience: her kids, husband and cat Bishop. A Needham resident since 2012, Shalini is enjoying all the community-building opportunities offered through Parent Talk!


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