What To Do If Your Child Is A Late Talker
By Deborah Hoch
Deborah Hoch, MA, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist with a practice in South Huntington.
Your child is not speaking at all or is not putting words together like his/ her peers. How do you know if your child will eventually catch up without any help? Well, no one has a crystal ball so you don’t know for sure but here are some questions you should ask yourself:
-Does my child understand language well?
-Does my child use different toys together in an imaginary way (“pretend play”)?
-Does my child use appropriate gestures to try to communicate?
-Does my child point to things that are of interest to call attention?
-Is my child interested in other children?
-Is my child using a variety of different speech sounds ( the earliest sounds to typically emerge are b, p, m, w, t, d, n and h)?
If you answered “no” to any of the above questions then you should probably have your child evaluated by a speech language pathologist to rule out any possible problems. If you answered “yes” to all of the above questions then things are not as clear. It is possible that your child is a “late bloomer” who will eventually catch up to his/her peers if no other delays exist. It is also possible that your child may need help to communicate more effectively to prevent later language difficulties You may seek out the advice of a speech-language pathologist who can guide you, work with your child and teach you strategies to improve your child’s communication and reduce frustration. At the same time, there is a lot that you can do to make language easy and fun! Below are suggestions of how to use your daily routines and everyday play activities to stimulate your child’s language development:
-Don’t feel pressured to set up a specific time to work on getting your child to speak. You can stimulate language all day long by commenting and asking questions about vocabulary and actions during bath time, getting dressed, mealtimes, going shopping, playtime, watching TV and riding in the car.
-Talk about activities that are meaningful to your child such as his/her body, toys, food, family, friends, clothing, experiences and movements and actions.
-Read repetitive books and sing familiar songs. Don’t be concerned about always reading the words on the page- talk about the pictures, make it fun and be silly. Use a lot of inflection and voice changes to help draw attention to your voice and words. Try leaving out a word so your child can finish a sentence, helping him/her to predict what language comes next and to learn to say the words.
-Be a good speech model for your child! Remember that your child learns by imitating you. Speak clearly, look at your child when you are speaking and listening and slowly expand on his/her utterances while not demanding that he/she imitate you exactly.
Any form of praise (hug, smile, kiss, hand clapping) will help your child feel more successful in his/her speech attempts. This will also give him/her confidence to try to speak again. Always try to have realistic expectations and keep in mind what your child is capable of saying. If a sound, word or sentence are not said perfectly that is OK, as long as your child is trying to communicate. Each child is an individual and learns at different rates.