As your kid grows and develops, there are certain milestones you will celebrate together. Many of these milestones are speech-related: making baby noises, forming his first words, uttering his first sentence and so on. Some kids reach them faster than others. Some turn into real chatterboxes from a very early age while others are quieter and develop language skills later.
However, when kids experience a significant delay in language development and they have a hard time communicating and expressing themselves, parents naturally grow concerned and start looking into therapy options that can help their kids in this respect.
It can be difficult for parents to properly evaluate the speech and language problems their kids are dealing with. The first thing any concerned parent should do in this case is to contact a professional that will conduct a speech-language assessment and recommend the best approach and the right course of treatment, if needed.
A lot of parents choose to work with a speech and language therapist to help kids overcome their speech difficulties, but even if a kid is enrolled in speech therapy, it doesn’t mean home practice should be ignored. Regardless of the strategy you’ve adopted to support your child’s language development, working at home plays a major role in the equation. So here are some useful tips and tricks you should try at home to encourage your child’s language building skills and make speech therapy more efficient.
You know how this works. If your kid is having trouble pronouncing certain words or sounds, encourage him to repeat them as often as possible. That doesn’t mean you should force him to say the same sound or word over and over again until he gets it right. If you do this, you will only inhibit him and make him avoid the sound/word altogether. Let him practice freely and encourage him by repeating the words yourself like you’re both playing a game. Once it gets easier for him to pronounce it, try using it in conversations. And maybe you want to include some rewards after each victory.
Children learn by doing, and that’s also the case with language development. The more they speak, the easier it will be for them to perfect their language skills and overcome speech issues. Engage your kid in long conversations whenever you get the chance. Instead of having discussions that only imply short answers, try to develop a particular topic. Ask questions that will catch your child’s interest and make him offer detailed answers such as “what would you do if you were in x situation?”. Storytelling helps children learn how to put their thoughts into words and express themselves with ease.
As crucial as talking might be, listening is just as important when helping a child deal with speech and language issues. If you’ve managed to make your kid talk more, even if he still struggles a lot, you’ve made a big progress. Now you have to be very patient and listen carefully to what your child is saying. Don’t interrupt him when he’s trying to say something, even if he’s making long pauses. Don’t pressure him and give him time to find his words and express his thoughts. Although it might be tempting to jump in and help him when he’s struggling to utter a word or complete a sentence, let him work it out by himself.
When you’re working with your kid, make sure there are no distractions around that can make him lose focus. The last thing you want is to be in the middle of a learning session and realize your kid is no longer listening to you because something else caught his attention. It can be difficult to create a distractions-free environment, as kids can be distracted by so many elements, from traffic noises or the sound of the music playing in the background to other people talking nearby or the clock ticking in the room. So, turn off the TV, put your phone away, choose the quietest room in the house and start your session.
Reading is one of the most effective activities when helping your child overcome speech and language problems. Reading one of his favourite books together can be both helpful and fun. You can take turns reading and discuss the words and ideas you’ve found in the book. If your child is too young to read, hearing the words and having you explain their meaning and associating them with the images they see in the book can have a positive effect as well.
A lot of times, children who experience speech and language difficulties, also struggle with lack of confidence and low self-esteem. Focusing too much on the things that your child is not able to do and constantly pushing him to do better can make things even worse. That’s why it’s important to praise your child for his efforts, even when he doesn’t succeed. Kids can get easily discouraged if they can’t get something right or they can lose patience and give up if they can’t seem to make progress. So, make sure to boost your kid’s morale when he feels insecure by celebrating the effort as well, not only the victories.
It’s not a secret that children learn best when they’re having fun. Instead of making home sessions feel like work, make them feel like a playdate. And you don’t have to fake the playing either. Include as many interactive and fun activities as possible in your sessions. You should have no trouble as there are countless games you can play that can serve as great exercises for supporting speech and language skills. If your kid is having fun while learning, he’ll look forward to the next session of speech therapy and results will come much faster.