How can I help my child talk?
In my You are a Therapist series on Instagram, I touched on a few strategies that you can use to help your child learn words and to communicate with you. Before we dive into these strategies, let's talk about the important of parents practicing these strategies.
When a child sees a speech-language pathologist, they may get 1-2 hours a week with them if they're in a program that is well funded, but there are 168 hours in a week. Let's take out the number of hours that a child is sleeping so around 100 hours give or take a week they are awake. So really, 1-2% of the time that the child is awake, they are receiving therapy services. BUT, what if you are practicing the strategies as well? What if you are practicing these strategies during mealtimes, bath time, your daily routines, or when you are outside playing in the playground. Imagine how many more hours of therapy they would be getting.
But it's really not just the amount of hours that is important. You KNOW your child best. You know how to meet their needs. You know how to push them. You know when they will cooperate. You know what pushes their buttons. Once you learn these strategies, you can combine it with your expertise to really help your child succeed.
These are some strategies that you can try to help your child learn language and to provide opportunities for them to use it to communicate:
1) Be a sportscaster. Describe play by play what your child is doing. Children need to hear the words before they learn them, but the trick is to be a sportscaster and not an interviewer. Imagine constantly being asked, "What's this? Where is this?" Does this actually show your child what to say? As a child, if I don't know the word, but being asked, "What's this?", how can I even answer the question? That's why it's important to model language and to describe what your child is doing.
2) Be persistent. Repeat the words, don't just model it once. When the opportunity arises, you can model the words & don't give up! It takes many repetitions for children who are language delayed to learn knew words.
3) Be patient. Sometimes, children need more time before they are able to copy or use a word. Provide opportunities for your child to talk with you by WAITING. You can hold a toy and say the name of the toy, then WAIT 10 seconds to give them an opportunity to copy you before giving them a toy. Or, put toys in clear container. Say "open" and then wait 10 seconds for them to copy you. Or, during bath time, you can keep their rubber ducky out of reach and wait 10 seconds for them to say "ducky" before you give it to them. The key is keeping things just out of reach and modeling the word that you want them to say then WAIT 10 seconds. Count in your head...one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand...
4) Be a copycat. When your child attempts to vocalize, or says a part of the word, or even says a word but incorrectly, copy them (but of course, don't copy the error, repeat back the word correctly). This teaches them that you can copy and imitate each other. This is such an important skill! Child imitate adults all the time, but if they don't have this skill, it will be harder for them to practice using words.
These strategies don't replace professional advice from a speech-language pathologist that has met your child. When we work with children, once we have met them, we are able to tailor these strategies to best suit your child's needs. If you are ever concerned about your child's speech and language development, always consult your local speech-language pathologist.