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Leap in speech problems blamed on overuse of gadgets

An article in Britain's Daily Mail claims the number of children with speech difficulties has risen a massive 70% in only 6 years and blames the propensity of parents to leave their children with electronic babysitters for the rise. The study also claims that half the children who start school are unable to put sentences together.

Bills and long working hours were cited as factors leading to the demise of conversation and one child who was struggling to speak was given a Blackberry as a present.

Today's tots are growing up in a world where language is sparse. Sound bytes, bursts of news headlines, snippets of information on YouTube, text messaging, twitter and so on lead to the demise of conversation. Long gone are the days of storytelling, sitting together around the radio listening to the news or a book being read aloud. Many households don't have time to chat even over the dinner table.

Here are five ways to improve your child's speech and help his communication.

Play simple word games whilst riding in the car or waiting at the dentist office and so on. This site has two great suggestions. http://voices.yahoo.com/simple-games-help-child-improve-their-speech-407563.html?cat=4

Singing with your child can help improve his speech. Find some simple nursery rhymes or rhythmic tunes he can sing along with. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/may/08/singing-children-development-language-skills

When you are with your child talk to her all the time. You may drive yourself a little crazy but describe everything you are doing and seeing. "Mummy is making dinner. She is making pasta. First we will find a pan and fill it up with water. Do you hear the sound the water makes as it fills the pan?" and so on. Try and engage your child as much as possible. An infant finds nothing more interesting than her mother's face and the sounds she makes. Make sure to talk with her at every opportunity, even getting dressed in the morning is the opportunity for conversation. "What shall we wear today? The weather outside is very cold, the thermometer is showing 3 degrees and the air is very crisp. We should wrap up warm with lots of layers"! Your baby will delight in listening to you and will soon attempt to imitate you.

Have your child read with you. Reading to your child has enormous benefits such as his learning to recognize speech patterns and sentence structure without even trying. Your enthusiastic approach will help him want to learn to read too. More reading will undoubtably increase his vocabulary and the inclusion of classic books will round out his language skills tremendously. When reading with your child, have him retell the story back to you in his own words. This has two benefits, firstly it will show you whether he understood what he heard and secondly it will stretch his vocabulary and of course improve his communication.

Learn a new word every day and try to use it in a sentence. As a child I remember doing that with my Dad. "The tactile taciturn pussycat usurped my spot!" As your child develops confidence in speaking and reading unfamiliar words his language and communication skills will flourish. Find words that are fun to say such as onomatopoeia or squelch. Use a thesaurus to discover new ways to say familiar phrases.

None of these things have to take a lot of time but they will make a big difference in your child's future. The way we communicate is certainly changing but the basic skills are still necessary today.

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