Posts Tagged ‘families’

Be Amazing Learning client featured on ABC News

June 17, 2011

Be Amazing Learning client Sami Merit was featured on San Francisco Bay Area ABC 7 News, as part of a story that looked at Fast ForWord use at home and at an Oakland elementary school.

Hooray Sami!

Great news! Parent’s language stumbles are good for kids!

April 27, 2011

It seems like most research studies we read about the impact parents have on the development of young children make us wish we had a do-over card. But here’s some refreshing news for those of us parents who doing the best we can: some of our mistakes can actually help our kids!

From Science Daily:

A team of cognitive scientists has good news for parents who are worried that they are setting a bad example for their children when they say “um” and “uh.” A study conducted at the University of Rochester’s Baby Lab shows that toddlers actually use their parents’ stumbles and hesitations (technically referred to as disfluencies) to help them learn language more efficiently.

For instance, say you’re walking through the zoo with your two-year-old and you are trying to teach him animal names. You point to the rhinoceros and say, “Look at the, uh, uh, rhinoceros.” It turns out that as you are fumbling for the correct word, you are also sending your child a signal that you are about to teach him something new, so he should pay attention, according to the researchers.

The conclusions are from a study published online on April 14 in the journal Developmental Science.

Quoted in the Science Daily article, lead study author Celeste Kidd, a graduate student at the University of Rochester, says “We’re not advocating that parents add disfluencies to their speech, but I think it’s nice for them to know that using these verbal pauses is OK — the “uh’s” and “um’s” are informative.”

If you’re interested in more about how parents can support their children’s language development, check out this post on the developing brain.

Simon Says “Pay Attention!”

January 12, 2011

Play is emerging as a theme in this week’s posts. Today, we look at games that can improve children’s attention skills and reduce impulsivity.

At her Parent Smart blog, Dr. Martha Burns, a Speech-Language Pathologist and Adjunct Associate Professor at Northwestern University, highlights Simon Says… and Clap When I Say… as games that can develop impulse control. What is impulse control and why is it important? According to Burns:

An example of impulsivity in a classroom might be yelling out questions , comments or answers  instead of raising one’s hand, or popping up from a desk at inappropriate times, or even looking a someone else’s paper during a test. Impulsivity on the playground might include chasing a ball into the street without checking for cars or hitting someone who accidently bumps into you.

Learning to control these impulses, says Burns, “requires us to stay alert and purposeful and it is a skill all of us must master to reduce impulsivity; so that we stop and think before we act.”

Check out Burns’ post for details on these games that can help your child “play attention!”

What’s going on in there? A look inside the teenage brain

November 12, 2010

Research tells us that significant brain development occurs in the first few years of life: the brain reaches 95% of its adult size by age 6.

But recent brain studies show that significant brain development occurs around adolescence. Up to age 12, the brain is adding gray matter (or, to put it more technically, “cortical thickness” increases), at which point, gray matter begins to thin, as the brain prunes connections that developed in childhood, but are no longer deemed necessary.

The PBS series Frontline recently dedicated a show to the teenage brain. The show’s Web site is loaded with content, including the transcript of interviews with several researchers who are looking at the development of the teenage brain. One in particular that caught our eye is with Dr. Jay Giedd, a neuroscientist at the National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Giedd is focused on how to turn what we’re learning about the brain into practical advice for parents, teachers and teenagers. Now that we have established the concept of brain plasticity, says Giedd, researchers are turning to:

… the forces that can guide this plasticity. How do we optimize the brain’s ability to learn? Are schools doing a good job? Are we as parents doing a good job? And the challenge now is to … bridging the gap between neuroscience and practical advice for parents, teachers and society. We’re not there yet, but we’re closer than ever, and it’s really an exciting time in neuroscience.

At Be Amazing Learning, we regularly work with teenagers who themselves (or whose parents) are looking for solutions for their developing brains. In many cases, these teens have difficulty planning, organizing, and paying attention to and remembering details. Cogmed and Fast ForWord programs can be effective interventions for children and teens with these “executive function” deficits because they develop and strengthen the cognitive skills associated with successful executive function, including working memory, attention and processing rates.

The Frontline series on the teenage brain is fantastic, and there’s a bunch of information available on the show Web site. We’ll be highlighting additional interviews in future posts.

November is Family Literacy Month

November 8, 2010

Many factors contribute to academic success, including a family’s income, education level, or cultural background. But research shows that a home environment that encourages learning is more important than any of these other factors.

We’ve previously posted on the importance of providing early language exposure to young children. As children get older, exposure to print is a critical determinant in students’ reading abilities. So in celebration of Family Literacy Month, here are a few suggestions from on how to increase children’s exposure to the written word:

  • Make reading materials available
  • Be a reading role model
  • Read aloud to children
  • Encourage personal libraries
  • Limit television, computers and video games

You might want to check out these other reference articles, also from



Can we be serious here for a minute?

October 21, 2010

Last week, we posted about kids’ recognition and use of ironic language. Today, it’s the serious stuff.

Dutch researcher Lotte Henrichs has examined what she terms “academic language.” It’s not a unique language, but rather is:

Characterised by difficult, abstract words and complex sentence structures. The language often contains a lot of clauses and conjunctions and due to the methods of argument and analysis it has a scientific appearance.

Why is academic language important for children? From a Science Daily summary of Henrich’s research:

Children at a primary school need a certain type of language proficiency: academic language. Academic language …  is the language that teachers use and expect from the pupils. It enables children to understand instructions and to demonstrate their knowledge in an efficient manner.

Henrich says that how parents approach language interactions with their children has a significant impact on the children’s development of academic language: “Those who address children as fully-fledged conversation partners lay an early basis for the development of ‘academic language'”:

If children are given the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to conversations, they often use characteristics of academic language proficiency naturally. In addition to this, the knowledge of academic language depends on the extent to which parents read to their children, tell them stories and hold conversations about interesting subjects.

We’ve also previously posted about the importance of engaging children with language.


Isn’t it ironic?

October 15, 2010

A recent study, published in The British Journal of Developmental Psychology, examined how children recognize and use ironic language (defined as sarcasm, hyperbole, understatement and rhetorical questions) in natural household conversations.

Previous research, performed in a laboratory setting, indicated that children had no comprehension of irony before age 6, and little before age 11. This study looked at normal conversation in the home, and determined that even very young children understand and can use ironic speech, even if they can’t describe what they’ve done to a researcher.

Here’s the lead author of the report, Dr. Holly E. Recchia, an assistant professor of education at Concordia University in Montreal, quoted in a NY Times summary of the study:

You really see that they respond appropriately to this language in conversation. That’s not the same as saying they can explain their understanding explicitly.

The researchers identified a few patterns in the use of ironic speech. From the Times summary:

Although it is unclear why, compared with fathers and children, mothers used ironic language more in negative interactions than in positive ones, and rhetorical questions more frequently than any other form.

With all the children, hyperbole and rhetorical questions were most common. When the children were involved in a conflict, rhetorical questions and understatement were used more, while positive interactions usually involved sarcasm and hyperbole. Unlike their younger brothers and sisters, older siblings used sarcasm (“Thanks a lot — now you wrecked my collection”) more often than understatement (“I’m just a tiny bit angry with you right now”).
Compared with their parents, the children were more likely to use hyperbole, typically to emphasize grievous injustices done them by their siblings and parents: “You never give me an allowance, even when I’m good.” Older children used more irony than their younger siblings, and while younger ones were less likely to understand the meaning and function of the remarks, the differences were not large.

We should note that while we didn’t participate in this study, our families would fit squarely into the norm of those who did!

So what’s the relevance of research into children’s use of irony? Dr. Recchia, the study’s author, says that even though children’s understanding of irony was limited, it could still be useful:

“Parents tend to view ironic language negatively, but it’s not always negative or nasty. Sometimes it’s quite playful. It may be that humor and irony can help to defuse situations that might otherwise cause conflict. It may be an effective tool.”

Babbling Babies

October 14, 2010

On a visit to the pediatrician’s office, parents of newborns can expect to be asked about whether or not their kids are making noise. Recent research, highlighted in the NY Times, suggests that we should be looking for a specific kind of utterance from babies as young as 7 months old: their sounds should have developed into “canonical babble” that includes consonant sounds as well as vowels:

Babies who go on vocalizing without many consonants, making only aaa and ooo sounds, are not practicing the sounds that will lead to word formation, not getting the mouth muscle practice necessary for understandable language to emerge.

“A baby hears all these things and is able to differentiate them before the baby can produce them,” said Carol Stoel-Gammon, an emeritus professor of speech and hearing sciences at the University of Washington. “To make an m, you have to close your mouth and the air has to come out of your nose. It’s not in your brain somewhere – you have to learn it.”

The consonants in babble mean the baby is practicing, shaping different sounds by learning to maneuver the mouth and tongue, and listening to the results.” They get there by 12 months,” Professor Stoel-Gammon continued, “and to me the reason they get there is because they have become aware of the oral motor movements that differentiate between an b and an m.”

What’s the best way for babies to learn? Sorry parents, but it’s on us: “Babies have to hear real language from real people to learn these skills. Television doesn’t do it, and neither do educational videos: recent research suggests that this learning is in part shaped by the quality and context of adult response.”

Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention

October 11, 2010

NPR’s Talk of the Nation last week featured an author interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Katherine Ellison, whose new book Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention chronicles her struggle to effectively parent a child with ADHD, while dealing with her own ADHD symptoms.

You can hear the entire segment on the Talk of the Nation web site, or view a transcript of the discussion. There’s also an excerpt from Ellison’s book.


The Dreaded Parent-Teacher Conference

October 8, 2010

It’s back to school week. Then you turn around and it’s already time for the fall parent-teacher conference.

It’s hard to know who dreads the conference most. Parents? Teachers? Kids?

Does it have to be so bad? The Wall Street Journal describes efforts underway to improve the parent-teacher conference for all parties so that teachers can be less stressed, parents can get more (and more useful) information, and students don’t have to fear the post-conference dinner table.

On multiple fronts, there are now efforts under way to repair and improve how conferences are conducted. Researchers and consultants are touting new techniques to ease tensions. They’re focusing on how teachers should choose their words, where parents should sit in a classroom, how divorced couples should be accommodated, and how to avoid bruised feelings on both sides of what should be a “partnership.”

Some communities are trying unconventional approaches, such as asking students to lead the conferences or having parents and teachers meet at “neutral” locations, such as coffee shops and public libraries.

The article includes a list of 10 ways for parents to get the most out of the conference, covering everything from talking to your child before the conference to following up with emails. Definitely worth a look as we head into conference season.

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