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A Note to New Parents

Pulling from research gathered during field and case studies, observations and reflection on early childhood language gurus have created a unique blend of 'How-to' for new families obsessed with early learning.

Young children have a built-in program that enables them to process patterns and rules of language, or grammatical rules (Berger, 2018). Infants have the ability to make nonsense sounds (baby babble). As they develop and move towards distinguishable speech, they utilize this 'program', known as the language acquisition device to sort the rules of grammar and apply them when deciphering appropriate word strings (Smidt, 2013). This could be why your child says things like "Daww, Jush uh-oh", when communicating "Uh-oh the dog drank juice". The child hears correct sentence structure, listens for patterns of speech and develops a perspective. This is an example of Chomsky's theories that "Infants Teach Themselves" (Berger, 2018). Next, we look at what appears to be an opposing theory concerning how babies communicate.

A different perspective comes from behaviorists (Berger, 2018). In direct contrast to the information contained above, this approach states that "well-taught infants become well-spoken children" (Berger, p. 174, 2018). The theory relies heavily on the parent/child relationship and is a proponent for the Parents as Teachers (PAT) model. Parents as Teachers utilize home visits in which caretakers can learn from the student' s original "expert teacher" (Berger, 2018) and provide in-home training to deliver best-parenting practices directly (Wagner, Clayton, 1999). When applied to language learning, home to school matching language utilizing self and parallel talk, and repetition and extension practices consistently are proven to be highly effective (La Paro, Hamre, & Pianta, 2012).

Infants and toddlers could be viewed as self-taught, becoming learned in language arts through "association and reinforcement" (Berger, 2018), or both. In any case, young children are social beings. As they begin to explore language through listening, babbling and eventually creating formal dialog and sentence structure, they are learning to navigate one of the timeless forms of social interaction. Talking is a culturally universal method of communication that can aid in multi-domain development. Theories discussed previously concerning methods of children obtaining language can be observed in the following scenario; One child has an emotional episode after a physical altercation with an inanimate object. He produces inaudible speech in an attempt to express negativity. This is heard by students and a caregiver. The caregiver models a calm demeanor and awareness language concerning the facial expression and emotional state of the upset child. A child that is close to the situation moves to a different caregiver. The emotional child and the caregiver continue to deescalate through appropriate conversation. The child's outburst and subsequent response from a different child moving away and towards another caregiver are examples of the individuals teaching themselves (Berger, 2018). The caregiver expressing appropriate affect, demeanor, tone, and language are indicators that they were being intentional and instructing through language modeling (La Paro, Hamre, & Pianta, 2012).

Berger, K. S. (2018). The developing person through childhood (8th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishing

LaParo, K. M., Hamre, B. K., Pianta, R. C. (2012). Classroom assessment scoring system (Class) manual, toddler. Baltimore: Paul H. Brooks Publishing Company

Smidt, S. (2013). Developing child in the 21st century. A global perspective on child development.

Wagner, M., & Clayton, S. (1999). The Parents as Teachers Program: Results from Two Demonstrations. The future of children. 9(1), 91-115 doi: 10.2307/1602723

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