Just to recap: the purpose of the twin blog is not only to get to know these joyous little boys but also to raise awareness of particular things to think about with ‘multiples’… In the first part of the story we talked about multiple births in general and the different types of twins.
In part II we looked at the emergence of early skills and opportunities to support speech and language development.
Now, in part III we talk about play, interaction and look at how their speech and language skills are coming along.
The boys are now 4 months past their second birthday and are firmly established as individuals. They are physically very different. Their personalities too are quite distinct. Interestingly, their language skills are also developing along different lines – and this is of particular interest to us as speech and language therapists.
Both boys are physically very busy and every waking moment is filled with play of some description. They love the outdoors, kicking a football, climbing in the park or working hard in their mud kitchen. If there is mud or sand, they will be digging! Indoors at home play centres on small world toys but are starting to find it fun to join in imaginative play with characters currently in vogue with their older brother. Bath time is inevitably accompanied by pots, jugs and tubs for pouring and spoons for stirring – fighting for space with anything that can float. Any and all of these scenarios offer endless opportunities for language: naming, repetition and expansion.
Cuddly favourites are included in imaginary (and sometimes real!) mealtimes. Household routines are now very familiar and whilst Joshua loves to help with mealtime preparation, Finley is a dab hand at bringing out the dustpan and brush or vacuum cleaner when spillages occur – which they inevitably do from time to time as all the boys are encouraged to help serve themselves to their cereal choice and milk.
James and Laura have allowed their children to feed themselves with cutlery as soon as they showed the inclination to ‘get stuck in’. Not every parent is keen for this as it’s bound to be messy – but it is an important stage in so many ways. Food is fun: making choices is also fun and, in the same way, being able to eat at the pace dictated by the child gives some control – as well as encouraging independence.
If you are a parent reading this, try hard to allow as much independence as possible – the messiness doesn’t last for long, and the benefits can be enormous.
Bedtime stories are now much more meaningful – ‘lift the flap’ books have great appeal however, very recently, the joys of fairy tales (with all the thrill of those deliciously scary feelings being enjoyed from the safety of the bedroom bean bag) such as The Three Little Pigs have really come to the fore.
The perennial attraction of tried and trusted TV favourites such as Paw Patrol and Fireman Sam are the viewing of choice: every small boy wants to be a hero and absolutely no-one wants to be Naughty Norman with his propensity for arson and making unfortunate choices!
Interaction skills are lovely to watch: lots of sharing happens and if one brother feels the other might be missing out on an extra biscuit for example, he will rectify the situation. ” …and Joshy…”
If one of the boys might be struggling in the nursery rough and tumble, the other will be quick to weigh in and take steps to ‘make things right’ as he sees it – retrieving a toy which has been snatched or removing his brother from a scuffle.
All these situations are now accompanied by lots of talking!
Laura says: ‘We’re not sure if they have their own language (as some twin parents say) but when we listen on the baby monitor when they’re settling down for a nap together they certainly seem to know exactly what each other is saying as they will chat for ages…sometimes for over an hour so we end up foregoing nap time!’
Laura and James have observed: ‘Having a big brother has definitely increased the boys’ vocabulary – he is constantly asking them to say words or phrases, and both are so happy if they copy him and he praises them.’
This is where the boys’ language acquisition processes start to noticeably differ.
To help understand this, read the excellent blog item written by Abi V – one of our team – on Gestalt Language Processing. Abi says ‘We are all different in so many ways – but did you know that there is more than one way in which we can develop language?
Finley is developing language via the analytic route: starting with small building blocks and building up. Single words become 2 and then three-word phrases. Much of what he says is clear – with one or two sound immaturities which one would expect from such a young child.
Joshua on the other hand is a Gestalt Language Processor. ‘Some of us’ , Abi says, ‘start with large building blocks – the tune of a whole phrase. We are ‘intonation babies’ – we start by copying the tune of a whole phrase, and then gradually learn to break the tune down into sounds and words’.
Both ways are perfectly normal and equally valid. ‘Intonation baby’ describes Joshua to a T! It’s crucially important that we recognise that he knows exactly what he is saying and respond to his efforts in the same way as we instinctively do to the more ‘conventional analytic approach Finley is using.
More from Mum and Dad: ‘With Joshua knowing exactly what he wants to say with his babbling, he is the one who gets a little frustrated when we can’t understand what he says, but with lots of questions, suggestions and pointing at things, he’s then delighted when we do get what he wants or understand what he’s telling us about.
Finley is now at the stage where he just loves pointing at things, saying the right word and then testing out new words.’
Use questions with caution: sometimes too many questions can put extra pressure on your child. A good way to use questions is to give choices: ‘shall we watch Paddington or Peter Rabbit?’
Behave as if you know what message is being conveyed – you can usually pick this up from situational clues – in which case repeat, model and expand – and, if not, deploy some tried and trusted phrases which make it seem as though you do.
“ Oooh, tell me some more!”
” I know!” ” Did it really?”
If all else fails, distract the child!
Be animated, be enthusiastic, be interested. Never say ‘what do you mean? I don’t know what you mean.’ Or possibly even worse, never turn to the nearest adult and say ‘what’s he saying? What’s he talking about?’
Look out for part IV in the New Year.