child's word garden

A growing child’s brain is always building links – between sounds and images, emotions and experiences, tastes and smells.  An infant’s mental development is a matter of linking new information, feelings, and sensations to old.  Just like building an elegant palace brick by brick, each new part is built on a foundation of material that has already been put in place.  This building and linking of words, sounds, and experiences continues throughout our lives.

Children are said to have a certain number of words stored in their word bank at a given age.  As they grow, it is vital for them to learn the meanings of thousands of individual words to succeed academically and socialize with ease.  Vocabulary grows in two directions:

  • Vertically – Listening and later reading new words that get stacked and stockpiled on top of the ones we already have learned.
  • Horizontally – by forging new semantic links – additional meanings of words, new words that describe details associated with those old words, and establishing relationships between new words or meanings we’ve already collected.

Vocabulary needs to be both a wide collection of individual words, and also a broad assortment of associations and meanings that distinguish words from each other and link them together for the fullest possible use in language. Every new word a child learns can link to additional meanings and uses.

When a child is struggling with developmental problems, listening difficulties or an Auditory Processing Disorder, both vertical and horizontal word growth are in danger. Because he is unable to listen to each word spoken to him, and is not equipped to focus and remember multiple words and multiple meanings, the kid with APD has to battle with the growing demands of vocabulary.

You can help your APD child grow his “word garden” with simple activities.  Take a word that you may encounter and use it to extend in both directions by providing categorizations, descriptions, multiple meanings, synonyms and antonyms to help him build links to things he’s already familiar with. Develop a habit of assisting your child in the collection of more vocabulary words.  Every interaction doesn’t need to be a lesson – but every lesson can be an opportunity to connect and bloom.

Photo credit:  digitalart/

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