Help Your Child Communicate Using Longer Sentences

As children develop, their need to communicate grows as well. At very young ages, a toddler may use single words to communicate his/her needs and wants. It is very common for a 1 year old to say “ball” or “mommy”. Based on typical development, we expect children to start communicating with phrases or sentences instead of single words as they get older.

When talking about sentence length in children, Speech Language Pathologists often use the term “mean length of utterance” or MLU. The MLU is the average length of sentences that a child typically uses in day to day speech. For example, if a child only uses one word like “hi” or “ball”, their MLU is 1.0. If the child uses two words like “my ball”, their MLU is 1.5.

If you are worried that your child is only using single words instead of creating phrases or sentences, there is a lot you can do to help increase their mean length of utterance (MLU).

  1. Seek out a Speech Language Pathologist
    An SLP will be able to assess your child’s MLU and provide guidance on strategies and goals that can be used with your child.
  2. Increase your Child’s vocabulary!
    A child’s early vocabulary is usually full of nouns which are hard to combine if you are making a sentence. Encourage your child to learn verbs, verbs, possessives, question words, descriptive words, etc. This can be done through games, books, and commenting on daily activities.
  3. Use Grammatical Markers
    Children with speech and language delays often use shorter sentences because they don’t yet grasp how to use grammatical markers. They may say “want cookie” instead of “I want a cookie please”. Encourage use of grammar with fun games like dress up, Mr. Potato Head, and Grammar Gorillas.
  4. Model, Model, Model!
    You can help your child increase their sentence length by expanding on their words and phrases. For example, if your child says “ball” you can encourage them by saying “red ball” or “my ball”. It doesn’t matter which words you use to expand the sentence. As long as you model longer sentences, your child will eventually start to pick up on your cues.

If you are concerned about your child’s speech, always reach out to a Speech Language Pathologist for guidance or a formal assessment.

Our therapists are located all across the GTA and Southern Ontario. For more information, please fill out a contact form and a speech therapist will contact you on a priority basis.

Speech Specialists Offering Free Screenings!

Visit us on Sat May 30 or Sun May 31 2015 for a free speech screening at The International Centre

To help promote May’s Speech and Hearing Awareness Month, Speech Specialists will be offering free 15 minute screenings to the general public on Sat May 30 2015 and Sun May 31 2015. Check out the event details below:

WHO? Speech Specialists Canada Inc.

WHAT? Free speech screenings for children, adults, and seniors wanting to find out if they need speech therapy services. These screenings do not in any way replace a formal assessment done by a speech language pathologist.

WHEN? SAT May 30 2015 10 AM – 10 PM
SUN MAY 31 2015 10 AM – 8 PM

WHERE? The International Centre Entrance 5
6900 Airport Road Mississauga, ON
L4V 1E8

For more details, please call us at (647) 930-8340 or email us at

App of the Week – My PlayHome

App Name: 2 – 6 years old

Ages: 2 – 6 years old

Cost: Free on Itunes for Ipad (Full Version $3.99)

Description: An interactive home that allows the user to manipulate the people and things inside the various rooms. For example, it allows the user to open the fridge, make mom sit on the chair, make baby eat an apple, etc.

This app is great for:

  • functional vocabulary building (items around the house)
  • verbs (make people sit, sleep, eat, drink, jump, etc.)
  • pronouns (he is sleeping, she is eating, they are jumping)
  • working on following directions (put Mom on the bed)

Why We Love it? 

This is a very functional app for building vocabulary with young children in a fun way. Kids love the app because they are able to manipulate different things in all the rooms, including the people. Advanced communicators can use the app to work on action words, pronouns, prepositions and much more. It is also a great tool for getting children to follow directions and can be also be used to teach various routines such as bath time, bed time, dinner time, etc. 

Have you tried this app before? What did you like? Comment Below!

Encouraging Your Toddler to Communicate with Words

Learning to talk is an important developmental milestone in your child’s life. As parents, we are often anxious for our children to start talking. We try to encourage them to talk by asking questions such as “What are you doing”? or “What colour is the crayon”? Some parents will try to command their children to talk with instructions such as “say dog” or “say ball”.

What is the problem with this strategy?

Answering questions or following commands is not very tempting for children. A child who is just learning to talk may also become upset if they are bombarded with questions. They may learn to imitate language and say “dog” but they won’t learn the value of communication and how to maintain social interactions. Most importantly, this strategy teaches our kids to be the “responders” in a conversation.

How do we teach our children to communicate effectively?

Communication temptations teach children to be “initiators” of the communication process. These strategies work because they allow children to think and react to their environment.

If a child is not speaking yet, these strategies will help facilitate communication skills. They are also great for building vocabulary, teaching grammar, and building longer sentences.

How To Use Communication Temptations:

Here are some easy communication temptation strategies you can use with your children:

Start and Wait

  • Give your  child a colouring book but no crayons and wait
  • Blow bubbles for your child once, then close the lid and wait
  • Show your child a desired food that is out of reach and waitThe Power of Silliness
  • Pretend you can’t find something that your child can clearly see.
  • Put your socks on your hands or your hat on your feet.
  • Give your child a bowl of food but “forget” to give them a spoon to eat with.

Bit By Bit

  • Give your child a little piece of cookie. Let him/her ask for “more”.
  • Build a tower with blocks and be the “keeper” of the blocks. Give your child one
  • block at a time to increase requesting opportunities.

In the early stages of communication, don’t expect perfection. If your child says “m” for “more”, praise them for trying, imitate the word, and reward them! The most important thing is for children to understand the importance of communication and to enjoy the process.

Apraxia of Speech – What is it and how is it treated?

Apraxia of speech (AOS) is an acquired oral motor speech disorder which affects

Speech Therapy Brampton
Speech Therapy Brampton

an individual’s ability to translate conscious speech into motor plans, which leads to limited and difficult speech ability. AOS affects willful or purposeful movement patterns, however AOS usually also affects automatic speech. Individuals with AOS have difficulty connecting speech messages from the brain to the mouth.

Children with AOS have problems saying sounds, syllables, and words. This is not because of muscle weakness or paralysis. The brain has problems planning to move the body parts (e.g., lips, jaw, tongue) needed for speech. The child knows what he or she wants to say, but his/her brain has difficulty coordinating the muscle movements necessary to say those words.

What Causes Apraxia of speech?
AOS can be caused by impairment to parts of the brain that control muscle movements and speech. However, identifying a specific region has been controversial. AOS diagnosis has been made in various patients with damage to the left sub-cortical structures, regions of the insula and Broca’s area.
There is something in the child’s brain that is not allowing messages to get to the tongue musculature to produce appropriate speech. In most cases, the cause is unknown. However, possible causes include:
-Genetic disorders or syndromes
-Stroke leads to brain injury(vascular injury and trauma)

What are some of the signs and symptoms of AOS?
Apraxia of speech (AOS) is a neurogenic communication disorder affecting the motor programming system for speech production. Individuals with AOS demonstrate difficulty in speech production, specifically with sequencing and forming sounds. The individual does not suffer from a language deficiency, but has difficulty in the production of language in an audible manner. Notably, this difficulty is limited to vocal speech, and does not affect signed language production. The individual knows exactly what they want to say, but there is a disruption in the part of the brain that sends the signal to the muscle for the specific movement.
General things to look for include the following:

A Very Young Child

Does not coo or babble as an infant
First words are late, and they may be missing sounds
Only a few different consonant and vowel sounds
Problems combining sounds; may show long pauses between sounds
Simplifies words by replacing difficult sounds with easier ones or by deleting difficult sounds (although all children do this, the child with apraxia of speech does so more often)
May have problems eating

An Older Child

Makes inconsistent sound errors that are not the result of immaturity
Can understand language much better than he or she can talk
Has difficulty imitating speech, but imitated speech is more clear than spontaneous speech
May appear to be groping when attempting to produce sounds or to coordinate the lips, tongue, and jaw for purposeful movement
Has more difficulty saying longer words or phrases clearly than shorter ones
Appears to have more difficulty when he or she is anxious
Is hard to understand, especially for an unfamiliar listener
Sounds choppy, monotonous, or stresses the wrong syllable or word

Potential Other Problems

  • Delayed language development
  • Other expressive language problems like word order confusions and word recall
  • Difficulties with fine motor movement/coordination
  • Over sensitive (hypersensitive) or under sensitive (hyposensitive) in their mouths (e.g., may not like toothbrushing or crunchy foods, may not be able to identify an object in their mouth through touch)
  • Children with AOS or other speech problems may have problems when learning to read, spell, and write.

How can you manage Apraxia of Speech?
Research shows the children/patients with AOS  have more success when they receive frequent (3-5 times per week) and intensive treatment. Children/patients seen alone for treatment tend to do better than children seen in groups. As the child improves, they may need treatment less often, and group therapy may be a better alternative.

The focus of intervention for AOS is on improving the planning, sequencing, and coordination of muscle movements for speech production. Isolated exercises designed to “strengthen” the oral muscles will not help with speech. AOS is a disorder of speech coordination, not strength.

To improve speech, the child/patient must practice speech. However, getting feedback from a number of senses, such as tactile “touch” cues and visual cues (e.g., watching him/herself in the mirror) as well as auditory feedback, is often helpful. With this multi-sensory feedback, the child can more readily repeat syllables, words, sentences and longer utterances to improve muscle coordination and sequencing for speech.

Practice at home is very important. Families will often be given assignments to help the child progress and allow the child to use new strategies outside of the treatment room, and to assure optimal progress in therapy.

One of the most important things for the family to remember is that treatment of apraxia of speech takes time and commitment. Children with CAS need a supportive environment that helps them feel successful with communication. For children who also receive other services, such as physical or occupational therapy, families and professionals need to schedule services in a way that does not make the child too tired and unable to make the best use of therapy time.


West, Carolyn; Hesketh, Anne; Vail, Andy; Bowen, Audrey; West, Carolyn (2005). “Interventions for apraxia of speech following stroke”. Cochrane Database Syst Rev(4): CD004298

“Apraxia of Speech”. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved 12 April 2012.

Morgan AT, Vogel AP (March 2009). “A Cochrane review of treatment for childhood apraxia of speech”. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med 45 (1): 103–10.

Vargha-Khadem F, Gadian DG, Copp A, Mishkin M (February 2005). “FOXP2 and the neuroanatomy of speech and language” (PDF).  Rev. Neurosci. 6 (2): 131–8

Maassen, B. (Nov 2002). “Issues contrasting adult acquired versus developmental apraxia of speech.”. Semin Speech Lang 23 (4): 257–66.

Does Learning Two Languages Cause Speech Delay?

Canada is a wonderful mosaic of different cultures, traditions, and languages. According to the statistics from 2012, Canadians speak over 140 languages other than English and French. This means a lot of people have questions about teaching their children a second or third language. Since there are so many myths about bilingualism, let’s take some time and talk about them.

Speech Therapy Pickering

First, the facts!

FACT# 1:  The world is becoming increasingly multilingual.

In Canada, 30% of the population speaks a language other than English and French in the home. Worldwide, there is a slightly higher number of bilingual children than monolingual children. Bilingualism is a norm!


FACT # 2: Learning two languages is beneficial! 

Consider this: Research has found that bilingual children have a better attention span, are better at problem solving activities, and are more creative than their monolingual peers. Bilingualism has also been found to delay the onset of dementia by 4 years!


FACT # 3: Bilingual children can have the same speech delays as children who learn one language. 

Bilingualism doesn’t necessarily cause language delay but it doesn’t protect from delays or disorders either. If you are concerned that your child has an underlying speech or language disorder, it is important to get it checked right away.


Now, some myths surrounding bilingualism. 

Myth # 1: Growing up with more than one language is confusing for children. 

False. This was a very prevalent misconception in the past and many therapists and teachers encouraged parents drop their native language. However, we now know that even as early as 6 months, children can tell the difference between two different languages. They are not going to confuse two languages even if they are taught both at the same time.


Myth # 2: Bilingualism causes speech delay.  

While some children who learn two languages at once take a little bit longer to start talking, this delay is temporary and bilingual children catch up to their monolingual peers very quickly. Even if a child has been diagnosed with a speech delay, exposing him/her to two languages will not make speech any more delayed

Now that we have separated fact from fiction about bilingualism, we want to know what you think. Do you think it’s a good idea to learn two languages? Have you ever been told bilingualism causes speech delay?

Share your stories in the comment box below!


App of the Week – Peekaboo Barn

App Name: Peek – A – Boo  Barn

Ages: 0 -3 years old

Description: An interactive barn that allows the user to tap the door to find out which animal is hiding inside! The app is available in 10 different languages and allows you to record your own voice.

Can be used to work on:

  • Increasing vocabulary and labeling skills (animal names)
  • Matching – animal sounds to animal names
  • Pragmatic Skills – can be used to work on eye contact and turn taking
  • Prepositional concepts – in, on, under, behind, next to.
  • Wh – Questions

Cost: Lite version is free/$2.29 on Iphone/Ipad

Why We Love it? 

It’s so darn cute! Peek-A-Boo Barn is great for young kids because it’s so interactive and young children enjoy the repetitive nature of the app. The music and animal sounds are great for keeping the child’s attention and it also works to teach basic vocabulary. It’s an inexpensive resource that SLPs can use with their clients and is also suitable for parents to try with their children at home.

Have you tried this app before? What did you like? Comment Below!


Importance of Family Centered Speech Therapy

Some things are common sense. Speech therapy that focuses on the family is just one of them!

speech therapy toronto

In the past, therapists used traditional approaches to speech therapy. This meant that the therapist decided the goals and how to work on them. Parents, caregivers, and the client had little to no say in the therapy process. In recent years, doctors, speech therapists, and educators have begun to realize how important the family really is. Afterall, the family knows the client better than anyone else.

In Canada and around the world, Family Centered Service (FCS) is starting to gain popularity. The question is, what does family centered care involve?

  • Family Centered Care is an approach that focuses on providing support to children with special needs and their families
  • FCS accounts for the fact that each family is unique and has its own goals and needs
  • The family is the focus of the therapy and is intimately involved in all decisions made during the therapy process.
  • Support, education, and resources are provided to the family so they can also become “experts” and help the client on a daily basis

What are the benefits of a Family Centered Approach to Speech Therapy?

  1. therapy is more effective – better outcomes for child & higher family satisfaction
  2. family has increased knowledge about child’s development
  3. family feels more confident with child’s communication abilities
  4. client has a better support system on a long-term basis

As therapists, it is our goal to provide therapy that is effective and beneficial for our clients. A family centered approach to therapy allows us to empower not only the client, but the family as well.


Thoughts? Ideas? Comment Below!


Corks, I. (2004, June 14). The Case for Family Centered Approach: A Best Practice Approach for special needs children. Retrieved November 18, 2012.