Story Time

Story Time

In an era where children spend more and more time in front of televisions, computers and video-games, it is important not to forget how important stories are!

Hearing stories regularly allows pre-readers become familiar with narrative patterns, speech rhythms, and the flow of language.

Knowledge of story structure contributes to a child’s understanding of how the world functions, facilitating the ability to

–       Predict actions and consequences

–       Understand cause and effect

An understanding of narrative structure reduces the processing load and facilitates the use of prediction to aid comprehension and word recognition


The ability to comprehend and express stories is an integral part of life and academic success:

  • It allows the child to sequence ideas or information
  • It promotes reasoning skills such as inferential thinking and problem solving.
  • It encourages the use of complex sentence structure and vocabulary and correct grammar.
  • Reading stories helps with the development of listening skills and memory.
  • Storytelling fuels the imagination and allows children to develop mental imagery.
  • Stories help children adapt to new experiences

Narrative language skills in pre-school and early primary school are excellent predictors of literacy skills in later primary school.


How do children develop story telling/narrative skills?

Children as young as 20 months, have elements of storytelling in their play. However once verbal language develops it can be classified into developmental stages.

Stage 1: Heap Stories (2 years)

Heaps consist of labels and descriptions of events or actions. There is no central theme or organization. There is no real high point.

 Stage 2: Sequence Stories (2 -3 years)

Sequences consist of labeling events about a central theme, character, or setting. There is no plot. The events could be listed in any order without changing the meaning.

 Stage 3: Primitive Narratives (3 – 4 years)

Primitive narratives contain three of the story grammar elements: an initiating event, an action, and some result or consequence around a central theme. There is no real resolution or ending to the story.

 Stage 4: Chain Narrative (4 – 5 years)

Chain narratives include four of the story grammar elements: an initiating event, a plan or character motivation, an attempt or action, and some result or consequence around a central theme. There is usually either cause-effect or temporal relationships, but the plot is weak and does not build on the motivations of the characters.

 Stage 5: True Narrative (5 years +)

True narratives have a central theme, character, and plot. They include motivations behind the characters’ actions and include logical and/or temporally ordered sequences of events. Stories at this stage include five story grammar elements: an initiating event, a plan or character motivation, an attempt or action, a consequence, and a resolution to the problem.


Why do children like the same story?


The “Read it again,” phase that preschoolers go through is perfectly normal. Children love the sense of power that comes from knowing what’s on the printed page, and since they cannot read it for themselves, the next best thing is to memorize it. To do that they need to hear the story read over and over.

Toddlers love repetition because that the way they learn best. Hearing something many times helps them remember information for increasing periods of time. Hearing a story over and over helps children better understand the characters and the important events in the story.  Children get an idea of story sequencing, as in beginning, middle and ending of a story.  It also helps children understand some of the standard story “language” such as “once upon a time” or “happily ever after

Once your child has learned something, he’ll enjoy repetition because he can anticipate what comes next. After many readings of a familiar book, your child may even remember it well enough to add the endings to most of the sentences. This accomplishment means that he can participate more actively in story time. This is also why simple songs and nursery rhymes have such an impact on a toddler: Not only can your child practice his speaking skills and vocabulary by singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” nine times in a row, but he also has the satisfaction of feeling he’s added something concrete to his repertoire.

During the extraordinary early learning years, stories, songs and rhyme plant the seeds of sounds and language. So talk, sing and tell stories, and don’t give up on “reading again.”


Help! My toddler isn’t talking!

Help! My toddler isn’t talking!

Your son is 2 years old and still isn’t talking. He says a few words, but compared with his peers you think he’s way behind. You remember that his sister could put whole sentences together at the same age. Hoping he will catch up, you postpone seeking professional advice. Some kids are early walkers and some are early talkers, you tell yourself. Nothing to worry about…



This scenario is common among parents of kids who are slow to speak. Unless they observe other areas of “slowness” during early development, parents may hesitate to seek advice. Some may excuse the lack of talking by reassuring themselves that “he’ll outgrow it” or “she’s just more interested in physical things.” After all, wasn’t Einstein late to talk? This can be a very confusing situation for parents who want to do the best for their child.

Whilst it is important to recognize that every child is unique and develops at his/her own pace, knowing what’s “normal” and what’s not in speech and language development will assist you in making a decision regarding referral to a speech and language therapist. Below is a chart of “typical” language development in children.



 6 – 8 months
  • Vocalization with intonation
  • Responds to human voices without visual cues by turning his head and eyes
  • Responds appropriately to friendly and angry tones
  • Enjoys social games like peek- a- boo
  • Babbling sounds include p, b, m


12 months
  • Uses one or more words with meaning (this may be a fragment of a word)
  • Understands simple instructions, especially if vocal or physical cues are given
  • Practices inflection
  • Is aware of the social value of speech
  • Responds to name


18 months
  • Has a vocabulary of 10-20 words.
  • Produces more than 5 consonant sounds, like m, w, n, p, and b.
  • Begins to use two words together (“mommy shoe” meaning “mommy’s shoe”).
  • Points to some body parts
  • Follows simple commands (“Give me the ball”).
  • Pretend play beginning.



2 years (24 months)
  • Approximately 2/3 of what child says should be intelligible
  • Vocabulary of approximately 150-300 words
  • Rhythm and fluency often poor
  • Volume and pitch of voice not yet well-controlled
  • Can use two pronouns correctly: I, me, you, although me and I are often confused
  • My and mine are beginning to emerge
  • Responds to such commands as “show me your eyes (nose, mouth, hair)”
  • Puts many actions together during play like stirring, pouring, scooping, and feeding a doll.


3 years (36 months)
  • Use pronouns I, you, me correctly
  • Is using some plurals and past tenses
  • Knows at least three prepositions, usually in, on, under
  • Knows chief parts of body and should be able to indicate these if not name
  • Handles three word sentences easily
  • Has in the neighborhood of 900-1000 words
  • About 90% of what child says should be intelligible
  • Verbs begin to predominate
  • Begins to use negative words – no, can’t don’t
  • Understands most simple questions dealing with his environment and activities
  • Relates his experiences so that they can be followed with reason
  • Able to reason out such questions as “what must you do when you are sleepy, hungry, cool, or thirsty?”
  • Should be able to give his sex, name, age
  • Should not be expected to answer all questions even though he understands what is expected


4 years
  • Asks lots of questions.
  • Most regular and irregular past tense verbs are used correctly.
  • Understands most questions but has difficulty answering “how” and “why.”
  • Can retell stories and recent past events.
  • Uses the pronouns: they, us, hers, his, them, her, its, our, him, myself, ours, their, theirs, herself, himself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves.
  • Knows names of familiar animals
  • Can use at least four prepositions or can demonstrate his understanding of their meaning when given commands
  • Knows one or more colors
  • Can repeat 4 digits when they are given slowly
  • Can usually repeat words of four syllables
  • Demonstrates understanding of over and under
  • Has most vowels and diphthongs and the consonants p, b, m, w, n well established
  • Often indulges in make-believe
  • Extensive verbalization as he carries out activities
  • Understands such concepts as longer, larger, when a contrast is presented



Many late talkers do “grow out of it,” but many do not. It can be difficult to predict which children will not catch up to their peers. However, a list of risk factors has been identified, which suggest that a child is more likely to have continuing language difficulties. These include:

  • quiet as an infant; little babbling
  • a history of ear infections
  • Limited number of consonant sounds (e.g., p, b, m, t, d, n, y, k, g, etc.)
  • does not link pretend ideas and actions together while playing
  • does not imitate (copy) words
  • uses mostly nouns (names of people, places, things), and few verbs (action words)
  • difficulty playing with peers (poor social skills)
  • a family history of communication delay, learning disabilities, or academic difficulties
  • a mild comprehension (understanding) delay for his or her age
  • uses few gestures to communicate


What about the group of late talkers who seem to catch up on their own without intervention? 

Even though a large percentage of these children appear to catch up to their peers by the time they enter school, studies are showing that this group of children do not perform as well as their peers in certain aspects of language use such as language complexity and grammar.

So, back to my maxim – when in doubt, check it out, 

When you toddler is unintelligible.

When you toddler is unintelligible.

When my son was a toddler he said “doddles” instead of goggles, “tote” for Coke, and “tows” for cows. It was really cute and in fact today “doddles” has become a family word which we all use.

However, on the whole, most people understood what he was saying and by the time he was 3 and a bit, he had outgrown his speech idiosyncrasies and he spoke in clear sentences.

What my son was doing was typical of many young children because they have difficulty co-ordinating the movement of the oral and vocal muscles and they therefore simplify the production of words. These simplifications are not random but predictable. These sound pattern errors are called Phonological Processes.

For example, very young children (ages 1 to 3) may say “wa-wa” for “water” or “ephant” for “elephant.”

Other children may leave out the final sound in words (for example,“pi” for “pig” or “ha“ for “hat.”)



In order to identify when intervention is necessary for toddler’s speech, the following can be used as a guideline.

  • Parents should understand at least 50% of what a toddler is saying by age two
  • Parents should understand about 90% of what their child is saying by age three.
  • Strangers should understand about 50% of what the child is saying at age three.
  • Strangers should understand about 100% of what the child is saying by age four.

Many parents ask, “How should I respond if I don’t know what he’s saying?”  My advice is to reword what you think he intended to say to ask for clarification.  Hopefully, he’ll try to correct you if your guess was wrong.  Other advice is to encourage your child to SHOW you what he wants or is talking about.  If your child becomes overly frustrated when you don’t understand, you may be able to slide by with nodding or offering a general comment such as, “Oh!”  However, if your child is adamant about telling you something or asking you for things you don’t understand, “faking it” may not work.


What should you do when your child mispronounces a word? 

Model the word correctly and move on.  Your child asks for, “tate?”  You say, “cake? Do you want cake?”

Being understood is an important part of communicating.  However, until a child’s language skills (sentences that he is using and vocabulary) are age appropriate, intelligibility cannot be the sole focus. Over correcting a 1 or 2 year old child’s speech errors can lead to frustration and a shutdown of progress faster than anything else you can do to a new talker.


What is the difference between articulation and phonology?

Articulation can be defined as the production of a speech sound by the movement of the organs of speech.

If any of these mechanisms are not working properly, weak, damaged, malformed, or out of sync with the rest, then a speech disorder may be classified as an articulation disorder. The age at which a child generally masters specific sounds is tabled below

This chart depicts a range of development and should only be used as a general guide.


Phonology, as discussed above, encompasses the rules of the sound system of language. Some children outgrow these errors; whilst others have errors that persist. This could make speech virtually unintelligible and negatively impact the child’s academic and social success.

Phonological Processes are typically gone by these ages (years; months)

Caroline Bowen  PhD (Speech Language Pathologist)

Pre-vocalic voicing pig = big


Word-final de-voicing pig = pick


Final consonant deletion comb = coe


Fronting car = tar
ship = sip


Consonant harmony mine = mime
kittycat = tittytat


Weak syllable deletion elephant = efant
potato = tato
television =tevision
banana = nana


Cluster reduction spoon = poon
train = chain
clean = keen


Gliding of liquids run = one
leg = weg
leg = yeg


Stopping /f/ fish = tish


Stopping /s/ soap = dope


Stopping /v/ very = berry


Stopping /z/ zoo = doo


Stopping ‘sh’ shop = dop


Stopping ‘j’ jump = dump


Stopping ‘ch’ chair = tare


Stopping voiceless ‘th’ thing = ting


Stopping voiced ‘th’ them = dem




As children stop using phonological processes, their speech becomes more understandable. This allows them to become better communicators.

Your child’s age and intelligibility are key determinants in deciding the course of treatment in most instances.

When in doubt, check it out!

 The earlier intervention occurs, the less the chance of compounding difficulties developing. 






What is Auditory Processing?

What is Auditory Processing?

I am sure that you know the feeling that there is so much noise you can’t think straight!  Imagine having that feeling all day long!

Auditory processing refers to “how well the ear talks to the brain and how well the brain understands what the ear tells it” (Musiek).

Children with Auditory Processing difficulties may seem to have a hearing problem or “selective hearing.”

In its very broadest sense, Auditory Processing refers to how the central nervous system (CNS) uses auditory information.  Auditory processing refers to the ability to identify, interpret and attach meaning to sound that is heard.  This can be in the absence of a physical hearing loss.

Children with auditory processing difficulties are often easily distracted because they find it difficult to filter out the meaningless background noise and pay attention to the meaningful information.

Auditory Processing difficulties may cause delay in development of receptive and expressive communication skills. The disorder may be evident in a toddler or preschooler (i.e. failure to follow commands correctly, difficulty following conversation, difficulty reciting nursery rhymes), but it will be much more evident when the child begins more formal education (Grade 1- Foundation Phase). Reading and writing difficulties are likely to emerge due to the child’s confusion regarding speech sounds.

Phonological processing is an auditory processing skill.  It refers to the ability to reflect on and manipulate the sound structure of an utterance as distinct from its meaning. The terms auditory processing and phonological processing are therefore often used interchangeably.

A child with auditory processing/phonological processing difficulties may present with the following difficulties:

Speech production errors, including:

  • Omitting a sound or sounds in spoken words
  • Speaking in an inconsistent speech pattern
  • Mispronouncing frequently-occurring words
  • Making articulation errors in speech
  • Have difficulty in producing rhyming words

Auditory perception errors include:

  • Misperceiving a word to be a similar-sounding word to that which was spoken.
  • Difficulty paying attention to and remembering information presented orally
  • Difficulty carrying out multistep directions
  •  Poor listening skills
  • Need more time to process information

Reading and written language problems, including difficulties in:

  • Learning pre-literacy skills
  • Sounding out words as they read
  • Substituting words with the same initial letter when reading
  • Using inventive spelling beyond the early primary grades
  • Omitting vowels when spelling words

Early intervention is the key.

When in doubt, check it out.