Advocacy- Stand Tall


Advocate: noun- a person who argues for or supports a cause or policyvoiceadvocate


If you walk away with only one thing from reading my blogs this past year, I hope you know how vital it is to stand up for what you believe in.  Start conversations. Share what is important and interesting to you, and people will learn from it. I have always believed that the best educators are the most passionate ones– those who truly want the best for their students are most effective.

Find something in life to fight for.  Advocacy leads to awareness which leads to change.

Whether you advocate for something as widespread as putting an end to bullying, or for something as personal as making someone smile more often, your goal is the same—to improve quality of life. And that is the underlying goal of all Speech-Language Pathologists, to improve the quality of life for patients they treat.


And with that, post number 30 is complete. Blogging over the course of this past year as I took my first steps toward becoming an SLP has been an amazing experience, one that I will always remember. Thank you to my family, friends, and readers for your support these past two semesters. I hope you found my blog to be fun, informative, and inspiring.


Your Everyday Language Blogger,


Semantics- the meaning behind it all


Semantics is the content portion of language, referring to the meaning of words.  Every utterance has some type of meaning to it, otherwise it wouldn’t be said in the first place. It is also possible for the utterance to code for more than one meaning. For example, you might say something like “I drove my new car” which includes attribution (referencing “new”) and action (“drove”).  As a child progresses from Phases 1 to 8 of language development, their utterances become more complex and are eventually capable of coding for more than one Content Category, just as adult speech can.

Here are some of the Content Categories as defined by Bloom and Lahey:

1)    Existence– Utterances in this category refer to objects or people that exist in the environment; they serve to either point out the existence of the object/person or to identify the object/person

Ex: “doggie” or “That’s a doggie” further on in development

2)    Recurrence– make reference to the reappearance of an object, or another instance of an object or event (this can be with or without the first instance still present)

Ex: “more cookie”

3)    Nonexistance-Disappearance– make reference to the disappearance of an object or the nonexistence of an object or action

Ex: “no wheels” as pointing to a car without wheels, or “no open” as trying to open a box

4)    Rejection– when a child opposes an action or refuses an object using a form of negation

Ex: “no bath” or “don’t touch me”

5)    Denial– if the child negates the identity, state, or event expressed in a prior utterance (their own utterance or someone else’s)

Ex: mother says, “It’s time for bed” and the child responds, “no bed”

6)    Attribution– make reference to properties of objects with respect to a) the state of the object, like “broken,” b) specification of an object that distinguishes it from others, like “red”

7)    Possession– indicate that a particular object is associated with a given person

Ex: “my chair” or “mommy chair”

8)    Locative Action– refer to movement where the goal of the movement is a change in location of the object/person

Ex: “put blocks on table”

9)    Action– refer to the movement relationships among people and objects where the goal is NOT to change location

Ex: “I eat cookie” or “I jump”

10)  Locative State– refer to static spatial relations where there is no movement within the context of the speech event established the location

Ex: “fish in pond”

11) State– references a state of affairs

Ex: “I like cookies” or “that’s mine”

12) Quantity– designate more than one object or person by use of a number word, plural –s, or adjectives (such as “many,” “all,” or “some”)

13) Notice– code attention to a person, object, or event and include a verb such as see, hear, look, watch, etc.

Ex: “I see birdie” or “Watch me jump”

14)  Dative– designate the recipient of an action or object, with or without a preposition

Ex: “give it to me”

15)  Additive– involve the joining of two objects, events, or states without a dependency relation between them

Ex: “I got a pen and paper”


There are so many possible categories we use everyday without conscious knowledge. This is why language is so amazing!

My last post will be up sometime this week! I hope everyone at QC has a great last couple days of classes. And to those of you who are on summer vacation already, enjoy!


No Shame in Earplugs!


Wearing earplugs at a rock concert seems counterintuitive, right? The whole point of going is to scream/sing as loud as humanly possible and experience your favorite band (like Bon Jovi for instance) in a different way than merely playing the CD. Although, looking back at those concerts after being introduced to hearing science, I realize that the ringing ears and overall muffled world I experienced when the concerts ended could and should be avoided. I’m not going to stop going to concerts– and you shouldn’t either– so I will absolutely be wearing those earplugs next time around! After all, the musicians themselves wear noise reducing devices when they play—one of the reasons they don’t realize it if their mic unexpectedly cuts out. Could you imagine the level of hearing loss they would experience if they didn’t do this?

It only takes 1 concert or major sporting event to cause temporary hearing loss or temporary tinnitus (ringing of the ears). Two factors that have to do with levels of hearing loss are the intensity of the sound and the duration of the sound. Exposure to levels above approximately 85 dB (decibels) may cause hearing loss. But remember length of exposure also must be taken into consideration.

To give you some perspective on what different dB levels sound like, here is a link to the CDC website. This page is interactive, so play around with it! The bar at the top allows you to match up the intensity of a sound measured in dB with the length of exposure it would take for hearing loss to occur.  For example, a chain saw reaches levels of 110 dB. You only need to be exposed to this noise for less than 2 minutes for it to cause hearing loss.  The maximal tolerable noise levels for humans are about 120-140 dB.  Above these levels you would experience tickling in your ears—but the painful kind, not the fun kind.  Sound becomes uncomfortable to listen to for a length of time at about 95-100 dB.

Earplugs are a must in loud situations if you want to protect your hearing!

Protect Your Voice

In honor of Better Hearing and Speech Month:

Vocal hygiene isn’t something we constantly think about, but it’s important for preventing voice disorders such as laryngitis and laryngeal carcinoma (cancer of the larynx and vocal folds). After all, we use and abuse our voices so frequently that we do need to take precautions to protect them.

One thing all people are guilty of is clearing his/her throat. Bad idea. How fast do you think your vocal folds slam into each other when you do that? Think about it, the answer is at the end of this post.  Healthier alternatives to clearing your throat are swallowing, taking a sip of water, and clearing your throat silently/without your vocal folds touching (which an SLP can teach you).

I understand that teachers feel the need to yell at their classes to get their attention when they’re too loud but this is technically breaking two rules of vocal hygiene at once! You should limit talking in loud environments and you should be within 3 feet of the listener when you speak. From personal observations, I can tell you that yelling won’t make kids want to listen to you anyway, so there really is no point. Sometimes it causes the kids to get even louder to talk over your yelling! So instead, to grab their attention, try flickering the lights or clapping your hands a couple times.  Teach them these are signals for them to pay attention to.

keep hydrated!

keep hydrated!

Eliminate or reduce smoking, alcohol, and caffeine. Not much to explain here, smoke is a known cancer causer. This has to do with the inhalation of pollutants in general, so second-hand smoke is equally harmful.  Caffeine can dehydrate you, so combat this by drinking plenty of water.




Answer: Vocal folds slam into each other at speeds of about 70 miles per hour when you clear your throat!

May is Amost HEAR!

May is Better Speech and Hearing Month! ASHA has recently launched a campaign called “Identify the Signs” to highlight just how important early detection of communication disorders is. The campaign also highlights “the ability of certified speech, language and hearing professionals to provide quality treatment and help.”

Communication disorders cause an estimated 40 million Americans to have trouble speaking or hearing.  Each of those people directly affected by a communication disorder have family and friends who are affected as well, indirectly.  By providing treatment, SLPs and audiologists provide an improved quality of life for their patients.  If early detection of the disorder occurs, there is a big improvement in academic, social, and career outcomes.

Knowing the signs of communication disorders is half the battle, since you are unlikely to seek help for something that you consider to be typical development.

ASHA’s campaign website- – provides signs of Speech and Language Disorders and Hearing Loss in both children and adults. For example, one sign for a child is that they “do not follow or understand what you say” beginning at about 1 year old.  There are also links here to additional resources for topics such as Noise Induced Hearing Loss.


Let’s Play! (Part 2)

Carol Westby refers to the Symbolic Levels of play development as “not just the addition of skill, but the reorganization of thought.”  She defines the following 4 dimensions of play which are used when analyzing play activity:

  1. Decontextualization and object substitution: allows play to occur with decreasing environmental support or changing reliance on props from realistic to invented; includes increased use of language
  2. Thematic content: play themes develop from themes in which the children have been frequent active participants, to themes  in which they have participated less frequently, to themes they have only observed, and finally to themes they have invented
  3. Organization of themes: sequential combinations or integrations of actions lead to sequentially and later hierarchically organized play with greater coherence and complexity of action representations
  4. Self- other relationships or decentration: children adopt the roles of others in pretend activities and include others in their pretend; Theory of Mind development is a critical part of this dimension




In Symbolic Level I, children require life-size, realistic props during pretend play.  They only represent events that they frequently participate in such as sleeping, eating, or washing. At this level, there is very little fluidity in play actions. For example, a child may go straight from pretending to be asleep to pretending to eat without any links in between. The beginnings of true verbal communication occur in this level as well. Previously (in the Pre-Symbolic levels) there was only single-word use that was very much context-dependent. So if the child was riding in a car, he might say “car,” but he would not say it if he merely saw a car.


A child in Symbolic Level I would be too young to play with these particular figures (above).  Beside the fact that they are very small in size, these would not be good because children in Level I need very life-like props when they play.  Notice that these figurines are not very life-like at all since they are basically a head and a tube functioning as the rest of the body. It is not until Symbolic Level VI (3 to 3 ½ years old) that children begin to carry out play using replica toys.

A toy kitchen would be a great set for a child in Symbolic Level II (19-22 months). The thematic content of this stage includes acting out activities that the people around them regularly participate in, such as cooking, cleaning, or reading.  This was the kitchen I had when I was little!

A toy kitchen would be a great set for a child in Symbolic Level II (19-22 months). The thematic content of this stage includes acting out activities that the people around them regularly participate in, such as cooking, cleaning, or reading. This was the kitchen I had when I was little!



Let’s Play!!!

The good old days of Pre-K… going back to the classroom after lunch and playing… different stations set up around the room: puzzles, the kitchen area, a store complete with a cash register, maybe even a space to play doctor. Today we expect so much from children, too much sometimes.  We can’t forget how important play time is for healthy development (it certainly touches social, cognitive, physical, and language elements of developing). What will happen when the day comes where our school systems become so focused on 4-year-olds sitting rigidly at desks reciting things and supposedly learning to read? Little kids aren’t built to sit still all day, they need time to explore and interact with their peers. Playing IS learning.

Play is one of the 3 behavioral aspects of the Sensorimotor Stage of cognitive development. As mentioned in my previous post, play allows children to learn about their world and the people in it.

Carol Westby is a Speech-Language Pathologist who has written articles about play development in young children. SLPs often use play as a way of assessing a child’s cognitive abilities. Westby explains that play is “a means of expression and a means of interpretation.”  The expressive aspect of play allows the child to show us what their mental representations of the world are. They exhibit their knowledge and how they apply that knowledge to real world situations.  As an interpretive tool, play allows children to learn about people and events.

Westby categorizes different levels of play, breaking them down by age. There are 2 Presymbolic Levels and 8 Symbolic Levels that children go through during development. Here are the ages corresponding to each stage:

play          Presymbolic Level I- 8-12 mos

          Presymbolic Level II- 13-17 mos


          Symbolic Level I-       17-19 mos

          Symbolic Level II-     19-22 mos

          Symbolic Level III-    2 yrs

          Symbolic Level IV-    2 ½ yrs

          Symbolic Level V-     3 yrs

          Symbolic Level VI-    3-3 ½ yrs

          Symbolic Level VII-   3 ½ – 4 yrs

          Symbolic Level VIII- 5 yrs


[Objects start to enter infant’s play environments around 6 months of age. Prior to this, play is mostly social (doing things like imitating the mother’s gestures). It is also important to note that an infant’s first meaningful word will be produced at about 12 months.]

Object permanence is established in Presymbolic Level I, so that in Level II, the infant starts to become active problem solvers. They are now able to navigate a toy with levers and buttons, learning cause-effect relationships of their actions (if I push this button, music will play). Problem solving is also important for meeting needs of the child.  If an object is beyond their reach, they might point to that object while looking at an adult. Another variation on problem solving is being aware of “in-ness”. Instead of trying to stuff their hand through a small opening of a container to retrieve the contents, the child will turn the container over for the contents to spill out. Much more effective!


In my next post I’ll describe some features of the Symbolic Levels of play development. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!  

Cognition- The Sensorimotor Stage

If you have taken an introductory psychology course you probably remember learning about Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development. They are Sensorimotor (birth to 2 yrs), Preoperational (2 to 7 yrs), Concrete Operational (7 to 11 yrs), and Formal Operational (11 yrs and up). The most critical of these stages relative to language development is the Sensorimotor Stage so let’s discuss that in more depth.

The Sensorimotor Stage can be broken up into 6 substages, 3 of which are conceptual and 3 behavioral. One of the concepts developed in this stage is object permanence. I love this one! Peek-a-boo is such a fun activity for caregivers at this stage. You put your hands in front of your face and the baby genuinely thinks you disappeared because he can’t see you. When object permanence is fully developed at around 8 to 12 months, the infant knows you are still there—that things are permanent and now can be represented cognitively (and most likely is wondering why you find this game so amusing). A second concept that develops is causality. Infants learn that one event causes another event and that their behaviors can lead to certain effects. The third concept is means-ends. They figure out a way to get to a goal. Infants figure out there is a cause/effect relationship that can be used to solve problems. When infants start to use words at about 12 months, they can start using language to get what they want, but before this they can use gestures as communication tools.


Now on to the 3 behaviors that develop during the Sensorimotor Stage. Communication advances so much during this stage. From being a newborn who cries to get attention, to a 2 year old who speaks in 2 or 3 word utterances this is certainly a critical point in language development for children. Imitation, the duplication of a behavior, is also a factor in language and cognitive development. There can either be immediate imitation, or deferred imitation. In deferred/delayed imitation the child will do the imitating later on, when the model is not present. Chances are if your child says something you think is out of the blue, it is actually an imitation of something they heard in their environment (from hearing you talk or from watching TV). So again, be careful what you say even when you think your kids aren’t listening! They pick up on more than you think. Last but certainly not least, play. Play is used as a learning tool for children at all ages. Children use this to learn about the world around them and the people in it as well. In the Sensorimotor Stage, one form of play that is exhibited is symbolic play, where children use one object to represent another. So a plain old box may now represent a house or a rocket ship, etc.

More to come on play interactions…definitely a topic worthy of 1 or 2 more posts. Stay tuned!

Syntax- There is a Method to Our Madness

I know you just read that in Yoda's voice! Inverted syntax at its finest.

I know you just read that in Yoda’s voice! Inverted syntax at its finest.

Toddlers have quite an impressive and expressive vocabulary of 150- 300 words in their lexicon, or personal dictionary. The early word combinations children use at around age 2 are already following predictable word-order patterns. Even though they are only saying a couple words at a time, they will typically be in the subject-verb-object order that the English language employs.

By the time children are preschool age, there are dramatic changes in syntax. Their MLU increases (average length of utterances) and there is an increase in the complexity of sentences they communicate. Children start using interrogative and imperative sentences, and are able to use several bound morphemes. This is the point in a child’s life when they ask so many questions. “Why mommy?” over and over again.

Syntax is sentence structure which contributes greatly to the meaning of sentences. There are 3 main functions syntax performs:

  1. Creates basic structures for sentences
  2. Combines simple sentences to form complex ones
  3. Moves/ reorders elements of sentences

It is not until about age 6 that they start to master the use of complex sentence structure. They will now start to use and comprehend figurative language — such as idioms, metaphors, and similies—to represent abstract concepts. Between the ages of 6 and 12 is also when children start to understand poetry. They now have the cognitive abilities needed to sort through these abstract and sometimes out of order syntactic structures found in poetry. Poets change this subject-verb-object order to place emphasis on specific words or ideas. It causes the reader to slow down because the word order is not what we are used to seeing.


Morphology and MLU


My post from two weeks ago, Form, Content, Use- Repeat., spoke about phonology, so now it’s time to talk about the next component of form in language: morphology. A morpheme is the smallest unit of a word that carries meaning. Take the word “kick” for example. This word has one morpheme since it cannot be broken down into smaller components each with their own meanings. The word “kicks” has 2 morphemes (1st= kick, 2nd= s).

There are two categories morphemes can be placed into. Free morphemes can stand on their own, like “kick”. It doesn’t need to be attached to anything to make sense. Bound morphemes, on the other hand, need to attach onto another morpheme. Prefixes and suffixes fit into this category (the fancy categorical name for these is “derivational” morphemes because they can change the class of a word) as well as the plural “s” added to the ends of words (a kind of tense marker in the category of “inflectional” morphemes). 

Now onto MLU…which is pretty impossible to understand without knowing what a morpheme is, but we have that covered.  MLU stands for mean length of utterance. To calculate the MLU, first you need a language sample from a child consisting of about 50-100 utterances. To get this sample the SLP can record a session in which they ask the child questions and create a dialogue through play interactions. After the language sample is attained, the SLP then counts the number of morphemes the child said and divides this by the number of utterances.

Counting morphemes in child samples is a bit different than counting morphemes in fully developed adult speech. Young children often say words together, as if they were one word. If a child says “choo choo train” when you ask what he is playing with, it would count as one morpheme if there is no other evidence that he says “train” by itself.  Same thing goes for catenative forms of words such as “gonna.” It would count as one morpheme instead of the normal two for an adult who knows it is a shortened way to say “going to.” Fillers such as “um,” “oh,” and “well” do not get assigned morphemes at all.

After the MLU is calculated (total number of morphemes divided by number of utterances), the SLP will be able to see which developmental stage the child is in with regards to language development. There is a high correlation between MLU and chronological age of the child. This is partly due to the child’s increase in working memory (short term memory) as they get older allowing for sentences to be longer. A longer sentence has a better chance of having more morphemes.

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