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Letter: Speak up, for and with your young child

Dear parents and grandparents,

I am scared.

After 32 years of being a speech therapist for 3- and 4-year-old children, I am retiring from my position. And I am scared. Not for me. I am scared for your son, your daughter, your grandchild.

As I leave my position, I am noticing a trend in speech delay that is alarming: 3-year-old children who think that they are talking, but are saying nonsense sounds that sound like conversation, with inflection and intonation. My theory: along with TV, tablets and smartphones are now replacing parent duality time with children.

Parents can prevent this trend by talking to their children.

Parents, you play a critical role in your child's intellectual development, speech development and social and school success. This role begins the moment your child is born.

What happens to a baby in their first year of life lays the basis for the brain to be smart, creative and adaptable. And for a baby to be smart, creative and adaptable, research points to adults direct interaction with children.

In the book "Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children," researchers studied 42 children during the first two and a half years of their lives. The scientists spent an hour each month recording every spoken word and every parent-child interaction in every home. The data include 1,300 hours of everyday interactions.

Then, at age 3, each child was given standardized tests for cognition. The children who heard an average of 2,100 words per hour scored higher than the children who heard an average of 1,200 words per hour. There is one catch — the words the children hear must come from an adult who is actively engaged in interactions with the child. The words cannot come from electronics: TV, computers, tablets or phones.

Just as Art Linkletter once said, "Kids say the darndest things." Moms and dads, you can only catch them doing this if you are talking to and with your child.

Erin K. Marcks

Hager City