Importance of "WH" Questions by Speech Pathologist Lauren Horton

Stop and take a minute to think about how many questions you ask and answer throughout your day. Sources show that we ask upwards of one hundred questions per day. We just ASK that many questions a day, we ANSWER just as many if not more. Imagine being asked upwards of one hundred questions a day in a language you don’t understand. Now imagine wanting to ask questions, but not having the words to do so. Welcome to the life of a child that has a language delay.

Research by the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) shows that approximately 3.3% of children between the ages of 3-17 have a language disorder. 1 So what exactly is a language disorder? Language can be classified as expressive (language we speak) or receptive (language we understand). Everything from following directions, asking and answering questions, formulating sentences, turn taking, grammar, and conversational skills all fall within the category of expressive and receptive language. Questions are the building blocks of language. Without questions, conveying and understanding a message immediately becomes much more difficult.

As a speech pathologist, the first question out of my mouth in a language evaluation is almost always, “Does your child have difficulty answering questions?” The ability to answer and ask questions is one of the most essential elements of language and as a speech pathologist is one of the most common goals I write following an evaluation. When working on questions we often begin with what and then progress to who, where, when, and finally why.

When Mary asked me to co-author Hoo Hoo Who?, her son Max, and I had just started working on answering questions. Some days Max would yell at me while working on questions- “LAUREN, NO MORE QUESTIONS!” I get it, questions are hard, but questions can open up so many doors to fun! As a speech pathologist, one of my very favorite things to do is to practice asking and answering questions. Fast forward several months; Max and I have been working on who, what, and where questions. In a recent session, Max said, “Hey Lauren! Who am I? Arrgh.” So, guess what, I jumped right in and our speech session turned into a pirate treasure hunt. The language skills we are working on helped during our adventure together. The child that used to hate answering questions had one of his best days in speech on a treasure hunt and felt confident in every single question he asked and answered! It’s a skill that helps children fell confident in play and in social situations. It opens doors previously locked.

I share this story for encouragement. Encouragement that your child is not alone in their language delay. Encouragement that you are doing a great job integrating language into your life. Encouragement that speech therapy can be fun!

 --Lauren Horton SLP

You can find out more information or purchase Hoo Hoo Who? here!

1 Almost 8 Percent of U.S. Children Have a Communication or Swallowing Disorder. The ASHA Leader, 20(8), 10. doi: 10.1044/leader.NIB1.20082015.10.

author story autism children's book conversation developmental delay expressive language how illustration language delay language development new book preschooler signs of autism speech delay speech pathology toddler wh-questions what where who why

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