Library Helps Bell Gardens Mothers Understand Children’s Speech Development Issues
Part 3 of an occasional series on local libraries.
By Nancy Martinez, EGP Staff Writer
For the past three or so years, Speech Therapist Vanessa Cervantes has been conducting mini-workshops at the Bell Gardens Library where she provides information to local parents about how a child’s speech develops.
Early Tuesday morning, as their children laugh, listen to stories and take part in arts and craft activities just a few feet away, Cervantes addressed the concerns of the mostly Spanish-speaking mothers and grandmothers who fear their child may be having a speech problem. Some of the women just want more information on how to help their child who in most cases hears Spanish at home, but English at school.
“These workshops are about parent education,” said Cervantes, who works at the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey. “They’re informal so parents are more inclined to participate,” she said. Her being there gives the mostly low-income parents access to a speech therapist, at no charge.
With their children happily engaged in other activities, the dozen or so women use their time with Cervantes to ask for advice and to share their personal experiences. Some of the women prefer to just listen, and that’s okay.
Their concerns range from stuttering, language development, how to access services and the role of bilingual education, Cervantes told EGP.
“I have noticed that my son has trouble pronouncing words in Spanish even though he has no trouble in English,” Daisy Pocasangre, 42, said in Spanish. “For example, he couldn’t pronounce the word escuela (Spanish for school).”
Cervantes advised Pocasangre to not correct her four-year old son Anthony to avoid discouraging him from speaking, but to instead repeat and emphasize the word correctly in a question.
“The most natural part of that interaction is he will correct it without making it a negative experience,” the therapist responded in Spanish.
Some of the mothers wanted to know if being bilingual, speaking both Spanish and English would affect their child’s speech development.
Cervantes reassured the women that while it might appear in some cases that their child is developing more slowly, they would be fine.
She told the parents to be patient, because the child is doing “double the work.” Do not rush to assume there is a speech development problem, she said.
“They take time trying to translate it [words] in their heads,” she said. “If they’re doing double the work we give them more time to develop.”
There are times, however, when there is a need for intervention. And while a few of the women at Tuesday’s workshop noted they had had a child professionally evaluated and it was determined that the child needed speech therapy, the general consensus was accessing those types of services is very challenging, prompting Cervantes to provide referral phone numbers or her own business card to help direct the parents to the appropriate agency or resource.
“There’s quite a lot of red tape to get through, or they [the parents] just don’t know about the services,” Cervantes told EGP.
During the workshop, several of the children walked over to their mothers to hand them the bunny-shaped paper they had decorated or, as in the case of four-year-old Leonardo, to inform his mother Monica Romero, 32, that he would be playing with the other kids in the nearby children’s section.
In each case, the mother diverted her attention from the grown-up conversation to praise the child’s artwork, hugging the child before he or she ran off, and before returning her attention back to the discussion that had turned to overprotective mothers who don’t wait for their children to ask for what they want.
Thirty-six-year-old Norma Colon told the group that her two-year-old child rarely speaks, and instead points to what he wants.
Children develop at different times, Cervantes reassured Colon. However, by the time they are 2 years old, children should be using at least two words at a time to communicate, she added. But that may not be a sign of a speech development issue, “It can just be their personality… it can be the people around them,” she said.
“It’s part of our culture,” Cervantes said in Spanish. “It’s just part of motherly instinct, but you have to try to stop when you’re not busy and push them to ask for [what they want] themselves.”
The women agreed. “Every time we do something for them it’s a moment when they don’t do something for themselves,” Cervantes explained. “But I know it’s easier sometimes to just give them what they want.”
Leonardo seems drawn to children who speak English, said his mother, but sometimes he has trouble translating words to Spanish when he gets home. Romero asked Cervantes if she should continue talking to him in English and Spanish.
You can keep speaking both languages but don’t mix the two languages in the same sentence, responded Cervantes. “Say ‘Do you want milk’ and repeat in Spanish ‘Quieres leche?’” she told the women. “Don’t say ‘Quieres milk?’”
“They have the capability” to speak well in both languages, she emphasized. “Take the time teaching them the right word so they use it next time.”
The speech development workshop is held Tuesdays and is part of a month-long family workshop series offered by the Bell Gardens Library. Adults take part in the workshop discussions as their children take part in group activities. Weekly workshops are open to the public and cover many topics, such as the Head Start program, obesity and child literacy. They are aimed at parents with children up to the age of three.
For more information about the workshops, contact the Bell Gardens Library at (562) 927-1309.
Family Place Workshop Series at the Bell Gardens Library will be held every Tuesday in April from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. for children ages 0-3 and their parents. The workshops are designed to provide early childhood information, parent education, socialization and family support. The scheduled topics are:
• WIC – April 8
• Head Start – April 15
• Literacy – April 22
• Obesity Prevention – April 29
EGP’s Library series explores the way today’s libraries serve a larger role in the community by providing services beyond just a place to find books.
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April 3, 2014 Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.