Friday, February 22, 2013

Enhancing Your Child's Communication Skills

By Liza Boudreau, NCSS CIS Early Interventionist

As a parent or caregiver it is never too early to enhance your child’s language and communication. Believe it or not, early communication begins in the first couple months of life. Newborns will coo and turn their head towards you as you talk to them. As your newborn grows they will begin to babble and have various types of cries depending on their needs. In the toddler years, children will begin to use gestures such as pointing and waving. They will also begin to make sounds with intonation and try to imitate words. All of these are early forms of communication.

Speech and language is beyond just talking. Pre-speech and language skills begin with the ability to imitate sounds; turn-taking skills (learned through games such as peek-a-boo); visual skills (looking at the speaker and looking at objects); auditory skills (listening to speech sounds); tactile skills (learning about touch, exploring objects in the mouth); oral motor skills (using the tongue, moving lips); and cognitive skills (understanding object permanence, cause and effect relationships). 

Parents and caregivers are the primary communicators interacting with their babies and young children. There is a great deal of things that you can do to help your children learn to communicate. Here are some tips to help enhance your child’s speech and language skills:

§   Remember that language is more than spoken words. When you are modeling words keep in mind that language can be reciprocated through gestures and facial expressions as well.

§   Provide many models. Many times repetitions and experiences are needed to happen in order to learn a word. Repeat and model what your child says.

§   Use real objects and real situations. When you are teaching a concept, use daily activities and real situations as much as possible. For example, teach the names of foods as your toddler is eating them. Name and ask them to identify body parts while you are bathing your child. It is important to keep in mind that communication is part of yours and your child’s daily life.

§   Make reading to your child part of your daily routine. Reading is a very enriching learning experience. Reading can simply be looking at the pictures and making up a story of your own. Asking your child to point to pictures in the book and eventually name them. Remember that this should be a fun time for both you and your child but keep in mind that offering information rather than drilling with questions is the best approach. This will put less pressure on your child and make them more comfortable to begin talking to you.

§   Follow your child's lead. If your child shows interest in an object, person or event, build off of that and provide them with a word for that concept. There are many milestones as the child progresses towards using speech.

§   Most importantly, take the time to get down to your child’s level and HAVE FUN playing with them. Learning happens through play!

If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s development, reach out to your pediatrician or you can also contact the Family Center at Northwestern Counseling & Support Services and speak with the Children’s Integrated Services Intake Coordinator, Heather Wilson, at (802) 393-6601. 


Submitted by Liza Boudreau, Children’s Integrated Services, Early Interventionist, NCSS Children, Youth & Family Services Division.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wintertime Family Fun!

It's finally winter in Franklin County and you are wondering what my family can do during this winter season.  In Franklin County there is plenty to do whether you are more inclined to spend your time playing in the snow or keeping warm inside your home.  For those who love to spend time outside I suggest exploring some of the numerous opportunities available in our community;


  • Hard'ack is located in St. Albans at 179 Congress Street.  Hard'ack provides great winter activities such as sliding, downhill skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, snowshoeing and cross country skiing on the numerous trails on the backside of the hill.  There hours of operation are Thursday-Friday 4:00pm-9:00pm; Saturday 12:00pm-9:00pm; and Sunday 12:00pm-5:00pm.  Best of all the recreation at Hard'ack is free of charge!
  • Jay Peak and Smuggler's Notch are close by and offer downhill skiing and snowboarding for beginners and experts.  Keep your eyes open for discount deals for Vermonters and daily deals which can be found on LivingSocial, 802shopping, Localvore Today, and Today's jumponit Deals.  This will certainly save you a little bit of money. 
  • The Missisquoi Rail Trail is 26 miles long and can be used for snowshoeing and snowmobiling.  You can find several pull offs to park your vehicle and begin your adventure. 
  • The Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge is open year round and will provide a great place to go snowshoeing.  It is located on Tabor Road in Swanton. Visit the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge website;  to read the activities newsletter and their upcoming events.  
  • Hazen's Notch which is located in Montgomery and has great trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and educational programs.  Visit their website; to learn about their events taking place throughout winter.
  • Ice fishing for Trout, Salmon, Bass on various different points around Lake Champlain.  Before heading out please adhere to Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department regulations and recommendations. 


Please remember before going outside to wear the proper gear to keep yourself and family safe and protected. 


Now for those who enjoy the warmth of their own home or want to travel out into the community here are a few ideas;


  •  There are many play groups/story times available to all families in each town. 
    • The St. Albans Playgroup located at the NCSS Family Center, 130 Fisher Pond Road. Children and care providers are invited to playgroup, which is every Wednesday morning from 9:00-10:30am. 
    • A mother of Preschoolers (MOPS) is located at 1091 Fairfax Road in St. Albans.  Moms meet for creative activities, advice, encouragement, and a light lunch.  The mothers meet the first and third Friday of the month from 8:45-11:00am. 
    • Another MOPS group is held in the Richford/Enosburg area at the Lighthouse Assembly of God on 878 Horseshoes Road in East Berkshire.  The meetings are held the second Tuesday of each month. 
    • Attend a Children's Story hour/playgroups at a library;
      • St. Albans City Free Library is located at 11 Maiden Lane. A story hour is held Monday and Thursday from 10:30-11:30am. Children 0-6 and care providers are welcome to join. 
      • Swanton Public Library located at 1 First Street has a story hour for children 0-5 on Wednesday's at 10:00am.  
      • Fairfax Community Playgroup located at 17 Hunt Street has a playgroup for children 0-6 and is every Friday from 9:00-10:30am. Enjoy circle time, free play, and a snack is provided. 
      • Georgia Public Library located at 1697 Ethan Allen Highway, offers preschool story time for preschooler on Friday morning at 10:00am. Success by Six Pajama Story time is also offered every third Tuesday from 6:30 to 7:30pm. The Library offers Family Game Night every second Wednesday 6:30-7:30pm. 
      • RU12 Rainbow Reading Hour at the Bent Northrop Memorial Library located at 164 Park Street in Fairfield, offers to all children at 6:00pm every first and third Monday from 6:00-7:00pm. 
    • A fun round of bowling at the St. Albans Bowling Center located at 133 North Main Street would be a great adventure.
    • A matinee at the Welden Theater located on Main Street in St. Albans could be a great afternoon activity.  
    • Yoga Tots in Highgate at the community room in the Town Office.  Yoga Tots is offered the first Saturday of the month at 9:00am.  It is designed for ages 3-6 and registration is required.  To register for Yoga Tots call 868-3970 or email Liza at
    • Water Babies at Branon’s Pools on Thursday at 6pm. Building Bright Futures created an opportunity for care providers and babies to enjoy fun and fitness together.


  • Begin a story hour at your own home with your children.  Have hot chocolate while reading a book and follow up with an activity, maybe lacing mittens for a fine motor activity?          


Please keep yourself and your family informed of ongoing events by Building Bright Futures. You can read more at

If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s development, reach out to your pediatrician or you can also contact the Family Center at Northwestern Counseling & Support Services and speak with the Children’s Integrated Services Coordinator, Heather Wilson, at (802) 393-6601. 


Submitted by Amber Stowe, Children’s Integrated Services, Early Childhood and Family Case Manager, NCSS Children, Youth & Family Services Division.