Parents, you are very perceptive. You seem to instinctively know if your child is having difficulty putting words together or using language to communicate (expressive speech delay). You seem to recognize a potential receptive language disorder when your child doesn’t understand words you say to him. Deep in your gut you seem to know when your child is having difficulty using language to communicate.
So, what can you do to help? How can you determine if your child is showing a speech and language delay? Let’s discuss some resources and suggestions on understanding and supporting your child’s expressive language skills.
Determine whether your child is showing a delay
There is so much you can do to help your child’s language development whether he is showing a expressive speech delay or not. One of the first steps, though, is to answer this question – Is my child showing a receptive or expressive speech and language delay or disorder? I have some suggestions for you regarding this question.
1. Developmental norms
- There are many lists of developmental norms and speech and language milestones accessible on the internet. One reliable resource is ASHA, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Go here, for a list of skills to expect at different ages from birth to age 5. For older children, ASHA also offers these free resources, . These resources will talk about the signs that show a child may have a receptive or expressive language problem.
2. Seek an Evaluation
- Seek an evaluation from a speech language pathologist (SLP). A speech language pathologist can administer standardized tests, take samples of your child’s speech and language skills, observe how your child understands and uses language, determine a child’s social skills, and much more. If your child is under the age of 3, there is an early intervention program in your state. You can search, early intervention in ______, and you will find a resource in your area to contact.
- You can also contact your child’s physician for names of speech language pathologists in your area. Do not hesitate using these resources. If your gut is telling you that your child’s communication skills are not developing normally, be persistent in finding support. If your child qualifies for speech and language therapy, do whatever you can to make that happen.
3. Have your child’s hearing evaluated
- Your physician can likely perform a hearing screening. A child’s ability to hear is crucial. Even if you think a child hears normally, get a hearing screen. Children who are visually attentive can fool you at times. They look like they hear what is being said to them but are really just seeing your gestures and facial expressions.
What can I do to help improve my child’s expressive speech delay?
Many parents over the years have asked me if their child will outgrow an expressive language delay or disorder. I have seen children that are late talkers and who show an incredible boost in their communication skills. Whether your child is one of those children or not is difficult to determine, because I have not met your child.
Regardless of your child’s age, there is so much you can do now to support your child’s communication. What you do to help your child now will have a direct effect on his communication and also on his readiness for school.
Here are 5 suggestions of how to get started.
WE CAN TALK speech and language techniques –
- This is a free guide for you that covers 9 techniques for helping develop your child’s speech and language skills. To access this guide and view videos describing these techniques, sign up for my newsletter here.
Talk during your daily routines –
- Your child needs to hear words over and over again. Because your child is not yet talking, use the same single words or simple phrases frequently and consistently during daily activities. For example, when walking up the steps with your child, say “up” for each step you climb. Combine that word with a gesture. Say it with inflection. Do this consistently every day, many times per day if possible. After a few weeks, be silent when climbing those steps and observe what your child does. Does he attempt to say, “up?” Do you see any gestures that he is imitating? Does he imitate the inflection of your voice? Whatever he does is acceptable, but his response will tell you how easy or hard that skill is for him to do.
Use music to improve imitation skills –
- If your child is not talking or is difficult to understand, sing a simple song that he can simply sing. Songs can help a child imitate gestures, imitate sounds and words, understand language, produce phrases, and much more. Our Talk It Rock It songs can be helpful to achieve a variety of speech and language goals.
Read to your child.
- Books are so crucial to getting a child ready for school. They can also be a greater starter for learning to talk. One of my favorite books is Talk With Me. This book was created by a speech-language pathologist, and it gives parents ideas on how to get imitation going of gestures, sounds, and words. I loved this book so much when I first saw it that I started selling it on my website. It is simply great. Check out Talk With Me here.
Pair your words with gestures.
- Never hesitate to use signs or gestures. I always told parents that you can never pull words out of a kid’s mouth, but you can guide their hands to use gestures. Do gestures and signs in a fun way. Always say a word or phrase with gestures and say them in a way that is verbally enticing. Gestures are one of the best ways to encourage talking. One of my favorite gestures is to teach, Cheers, when drinking milk, juice, or water. Say, Cheers, with gusto! See if your child responds!
Best wishes to you as your help your child find his voice!