Lots of parents and caregivers get concerned about their child’s speech and language development. Are they meeting all of their milestones? He/she has friends who are talking in phrases already, why isn’t my child? What can I do to help him/her? There are speech and language delays and speech and language disorders, so it is important to first distinguish between these terms. See below for a clear and concise explanation:
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, you should talk to your pediatrician. He/she can refer you to a Speech-Language Pathologist who can administer an evaluation to obtain more information about whether your child is an appropriate candidate for Speech and Language Therapy. If your child is younger than 3, this type of therapy is called Early Intervention.
Tips for parents and caregivers to help you child who might be a late talker:
- Model good speech, but don’t criticize your child’s speech if it is not perfectly clear. For example, “You are playing with a red truck and I am playing with a blue truck.”
- Imitate the sounds and words your child makes. For example, “Moo, moo, the cow says moo!”
- Speak slowly so that a child can understand each part of a word.
- Listen and respond to your child even if they do not speak in full words or sentences. For example, if your child says, “Car go fast,” you can respond, “Yes, that white car is going really fast. It should slow down!”
- In bilingual households, talk to your child in your primary language.
- Pay attention to what a child says and not how they say it. Use many different words to help develop vocabulary. For example, if your child is looking out the window and talking about the weather, you can engage your child by saying something like, “Today, the sun is shining! It is still winter, so it’s cold outside, brrrrr. We need to wear our jackets, hats and gloves to keep us warm! Soon, it will be springtime and the flowers will bloom. It will get warmer in the spring.”
- Follow your child’s lead by talking about things that catch their attention. For example, if your child is interested in the mail truck outside the post office, you can stop and say, “This is the post office. This is where post officers sort the mail and then they put the big heavy bins of mail in their trucks. Then, they drive around to deliver all the mail to everyone in our community!”
- Limit technological distractions and reduce screen time. Of course, this is challenging in our busy lives. If you can engage with your child daily in a conversation and eliminate distractions, this will help accelerate their speech and language development. Make it a point in the day, whether while getting ready in the morning or getting ready for bed, to communicate with your child and allow for a few exchanges. Opportunities are EVERYWHERE!