by Anya Candor
Children in foster care may need additional attention in certain areas of learning, including language development. A 2020 study in Sciencedirect.com examined the cognitive function of children in foster care versus that of their peers using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children – Fourth Edition intelligence test. Although the scores of the foster children reached the expected age norms on almost all index scores, researchers reported their scores are lower than the mean test scores and can even qualify for mild cognitive delay. The study concluded that language development is a shared difficulty for children in foster care, which influences their cognitive development and IQ as they grow older.
If you believe your child requires additional support in language development, there are multiple strategies available to improve overall cognitive function.
Provide an array of learning materials
Parents can develop a conducive learning environment at home with books and toys. Researchers at the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories and University of Bamberg on Frontiers discovered that stimulating books and toys can enhance a child’s language development during the first two years. These language materials assist parents by creating responsive activities which help develop a child’s vocabulary knowledge as early as 14 months. By maximizing these materials, you can speed up your child’s vocabulary progress during their first few months.
Model appropriate speech and vocabulary
If you read children’s books aloud to your child, you’re on the right track. As your child’s first language teacher, children will mimic your speech patterns and the words you use as they grow.
This requires parents to be good role models, even for children as young as 6 months old. Maryville University’s guide to language acquisition milestones and speech disorders points out that babies as young as 6 months old try to repeat sounds. To maximize this learning period, communicate with younger children using true baby talk, wherein you introduce proper grammar and full words at a higher pitch and slower speed. The guide also highlights the ability of children to repeat sentences as early as 3 years of age, which is why parents should constantly encourage children to use their imagination to describe and explain their experiences and feelings or encourage them to talk with you.
Encourage your child to write
Most kids start to write letters by the time they turn 4 or 5. Once they reach this age, expose them to numerous opportunities that can strengthen their writing skills in the long run.
For instance, you can encourage them to write their name or to create a list of animals during the preschool stage. You can then give them opportunities to write more about their personal experiences through a diary or even an essay by the time they reach first or second grade. You can further strengthen their writing skills over time by motivating them to join journalism training programs like Youth Voices Rising. These programs allow young kids to strengthen their competencies through workshops, participate in writing contests, and even have their works published, which can boost their confidence in their writing skills.
Provide mental health support
Older youth in foster care may also require help with their language development, however, most parents fail to realize mental health can affect language skills.
In fact, a joint study by researchers from Queen’s University Belfast and Southern Health and Social Care Trust in the UK emphasized that mental health difficulties significantly impact the language and communication skills of kids between 4 and 16 years old. Researchers discovered that children in foster care who spend a long time in environments that aren’t adequately nurturing and stimulating are more likely to experience negative impacts on their language development. So, give the children in your home extra love to help them hit language acquisition milestones associated with 4-year-old kids, such as understanding complicated questions and describing certain actions.
Your time, love, and effort can assist the children in your care to hit language acquisition milestones at the right age. By taking note of these strategies for various age groups, you can support children at each stage in their life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Anya Candor is an aspiring writer who wants to help others develop their talents and skills in writing and other fields. When she’s not writing, you’ll often catch her reading Disney fairy tales with her kids.