Tips & Strategies from a Speech & Language Therapist
Don’t panic! Sometimes children can be late to start using their words to communicate, but there are some simple things you can do to help encourage their speech development!
- Follow the child’s lead: You may have bought, what you think is an absolutely amazing toy and you were convinced that your little toddler would LOVE it. However, you show them the toy, they look over briefly, and turn back around to continue with what they were doing. This must be because they haven’t seen all it can do, so you move in front of your child, showing them the toy and its functions, ‘look, look at the lights, look at the buttons…’. Still no joy, your child keeps moving himself away as you persistently follow him around trying to get him to play with this toy. GIVE UP. If you are wanting your child to engage in something with you, engage in what he or she is already showing an interest in. Then follow the next few strategies:
- Commenting: Describe, narrate, comment on what you and your child are doing or playing with. For example, if the child is playing with a train, you say ‘train’ or ‘fast train’ or ‘I am pushing the train’. And be REPETITIVE – it may sound silly to you, but the more your child hears the target words, the more likely they will be to repeat it back to you appropriately at another time.
- Use a ‘sing-song’ voice: Another way to engage children is by using lots of intonation and being very expressive with your gestures and facial expressions. A ‘sing-song’ intonation will encourage them to engage in and listen to your commenting, and therefore more likely to repeat.
- Expansion/Scaffolding: If your child is using some single words but not quite at the stage of putting two or more words together, EXPAND their utterances. g. the child is playing with a balloon and says ‘balloon!’. You can expand this utterance by saying ‘yes, this is a balloon!’. You can also SCAFFOLD, or ‘build-up’ their utterance by adding a descriptor, eg. ‘BLUE balloon’ or ‘BIG balloon’. As with before, REPETITION is important.
- Context: It is important for your child to understand the words they are using. It is natural for parents to want to celebrate their child’s achievements and it’s very tempting to say to Grandma, ‘Bobby said “blue” the other day! Bobby! Say “blue” for Grandma!’. However, this is highly confusing and completely meaningless for a child.
- Asking questions is a NO NO!: Try to avoid asking your late talking toddler questions. Again, it is tempting to demonstrate what your child can say, but avoid bombarding them with questions like ‘what’s this?’ ‘what colour is that?’. They will feel less pressured with commenting (as described above) or, if you want a response, a ‘lead-in’ phrase can be an indirect way of asking questions. For example ‘this car is yellow and this car is……..?’.
Written by: Nisha Mistry, Speech & Language Therapist @ Sensation Station
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