Last week I talked about some speech and language red flags and when contacting a speech pathologist is warranted. Today, I want to provide simple strategies to help elicit language. These tips work great for any child, from those that don't stop talking to those that need a nudge!
If you are concerned about how your child’s pronouncing words (articulation), try these tips:
Model correct speech: While your child might have some adorable ways of saying certain words, it is best to not re-inforce these errors. You also want to avoid correcting mistakes. Instead, repeat the words correctly to your child (ex. child: “The toy is in my woom.”; adult: “Yes, your toy is in your room.”)
Face-to-face: While it might not seem like it, your child learns a lot about how to correctly produce sounds just by looking at your mouth. When possible, gain your child’s attention and get face-to-face when talking so that your child can watch your mouth.
If you are concerned about how much your child is talking (expressive language), try these tips:
Narrate everything: You might feel silly doing this, but just exposing your child to language is huge! For example, if you are in the grocery store with your child, talk about what you are doing, what you see, why you are putting an item in the basket, where you are going to go next, what you are going to do, etc.
Expand your child’s language: Add one or two more words to your child’s utterances (ex. child: “Dog"; adult: "A big dog”).
Model correct language: Repeat back to your child their utterances that they have said incorrectly in the correct way (e.g. child: "Me want that one"; adult: "I want that one").
If you are concerned about what your child is understanding (receptive language), try these tips:
Eye-contact: Make eye contact with your child before giving them an instruction.
Minimal instructions: Refrain from giving too many instructions at once. This can overwhelm your child.
Simplify your language: Speak at a level your child can understand (usually just above their expressive language level).
Emphasize the target word: And repeat the concept in a variety of situations (ex. “Lights on,” “On the table”).
Reduce background noise: Turn off the TV, tablet, etc. This helps reduce and minimize distractions.
If you are concerned about your child’s fluency (stuttering), try these tips:
Keep eye contact: Let your child know that they have enough time to finish speaking.
Don’t speak for your child: They know what they want to say, try not to fill in words or sentences.
What vs. how: Let your child know by your manner/actions that what they say, not how they say it, is important to you.
Model wait time: Take two seconds before you answer your child's question and insert more pauses to reduce speech pressure. This will help them realize they do not need to rush to get their thoughts/ideas out.
No remarks: Comments like “slow down,” “think about what you want to say, then say it” don’t help. Stuttering is a complicated issue that is not remedied with these well-meant reminders.
Next time: Why I love games...for more than motivation!