An evaluation from a speech language pathologist is helpful to determine your child’s strengths and weaknesses. There are many components of communication, from understanding language (receptive language) to using words to talk (expressive language). Communication includes how a child uses gestures, achieves eye contact, follows directions, imitates, requests, comments, protests, answers questions, pays attention, understands and give and take of a conversation, and more. Because there are so many factors, a speech therapist, or speech language pathologist (SLP) can guide you in what is best to focus on at home. Seek out your local school district, medical clinic, or private speech-language pathologist for an evaluation or go here to locate one near you.
If your child has a speech and language delay, there is much you can do at home to develop his communication skills. Here are some suggestions for helping your child with speech and language therapy at home.
Think about all of your daily routines and how your child interacts and communicates during those times. Daily routines are the best activities for helping your child with speech and language therapy at home.
When an SLP works with your child, that therapist comes with an understanding of the many components of communication. They do not, though, know your child like you do. They also don’t know the routines that you do every day. I worked in a children’s homes for over 25 years, and being a team with the parents was one of my favorite parts of the job. I would ask you many of these questions about your daily routines:
Does your child participate in these routines?
Give your child a consistent job or jobs during every routine to help your child with speech and language therapy. If your child isn’t talking yet, help them to be capable. The speech and language comes after a child understands the routines and what is expected of him.
Does your child understand the words that you say during these routines?
If a child does not understand the simple directions and the vocabulary associated with your routines, he will not be able to say the words. When children are first learning to participate in these routines, use words and phrases that are simple and consistent. Combining words with gestures can be helpful. Even singing a little song related to the words of the routine can be helpful. Children can often learn the words of a routine when placed to a tune.
Practice imitation during your routines.
If your child is not using gestures, signs, or words to communicate, teaching your child to imitate is a place to start. I love using little phrases such as “Ready, Set, Go!” during routines. Repetitive phrases like this are helpful to encourage your child to do a gesture such as a high five on the word, “go.” Using inflection and excitement in your voice and waiting before saying the final word can give your child the cue to start imitating the word. Check out this video for more thoughts on using gestures, inflection, and excitement in your voice.
To help your child learn to verbally imitate, think about all the times when you hear your child make any sounds such as laughing. Those can be shaped into a back and forth turn taking of these sounds. Imitate your child with whatever your child is currently able to say. Help him understand the process of taking turns by imitating back and forth as many turns as you can.
Help your child get interested in books.
If your child has a speech delay, one of the best ways to work on speech and language skills is to look at books with your child. One of my favorite books I use to encourage a child’s verbal and gestural imitation is the book, Talk With Me, The Big Book of Exclamations 2. This book was created by a speech language pathologist, Teri Peterson, who knows how to get imitation going. You can purchase this book on the Talk It Rock It website. Take turns pointing to a picture, saying something simple, and waiting for your child to take a turn. There are many silly sounds that I encourage with children who are pre-verbal. For example, when looking at a puppy in a book, I may tickle his nose and pretend the puppy is biting me by saying “Ow!” Then I would wait for the child’s response. Is he amused, curious? Does he attempt to imitate your gesture or sound? Keep it going, adding a resounding, “No, no,” while shaking your finger at the puppy. Getting creative with gestures and words is a great way to get speech going.
Best wishes in your journey in helping your child learn to communicate. Do not hesitate to contact us at Talk It Rock It if you have specific questions about what Talk It Rock It products would benefit your child.