MOUNT VERNON — Some children, for a variety of reasons, start talking later than other children their age, and those language delays sometimes concern parents, caregivers and teachers. To help interested parties learn strategies to help late talkers, several area agencies recently teamed up and sponsored a two-day Play to Talk workshop. About 150 individuals attended the program.
Held at Mount Vernon Developmental Center, the workshop featured James MacDonald, a nationally renowned speech and language therapist. “Because young children cannot adapt to adult ways of interacting and communicating,” he said, “it is up to the adult to adapt to the child’s ways.”
MacDonald elaborated on that premise, giving examples, outlining strategies and demonstrating techniques with the assistance of children in the audience. He emphasized the importance of using daily routines, activities and play as the platform for language instruction.
Kevin Peterson participated in the workshop along with his 5-year-old daughter Lucy. He said he was learning useful things in the sessions. “We expect a lot of our daughter and this is helping us learn what’s next,” he said. “I’m learning how to help Lucy be all that she can be. That means going to her level, wherever she is at and helping her go one step at a time to the next level, taking her forward so that she can achieve.”
Jennifer Highnam, director of the Knox County Early Childhood Center, said the audience reaction to MacDonald’s presentation was positive. “I think it has been interesting, too, with the audience that we’ve had,” she added. “We had many early childhood professionals, speech therapists, physical therapists, Help me Grow people who work with very young children, birth to three. We had preschool people and we had parents, students, Teacher Academy students from the Knox County Career Center and students from the career center’s early childhood program.”
Highnam said the program was made possible because of a big effort on behalf of a lot of people. “It wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t all gotten together,” she said. The program was sponsored by the Knox County Educational Service Center in partnership with the Knox County Board of Developmental Disabilities and Knox County Head Start Inc. The Community Foundation of Mount Vernon and Knox County provided funds to defray the speaker’s cost and lunch was prepared and catered by students from the Knox County Career Center as part of the Learn and Serve grant which also helped provide the seminar. Because of the sponsorship by the various agencies and Edward Jones Investments, each workshop participant took home a free [to them] copy of “Play to Talk: A Practical Guide to Help Your Late-Talking Child Join the Conversation.” That book was written by MacDonald and co-authored by Pam Stoika.