Signs of speech delay are not always obvious in children under 18 months of age. When you approach doctors, they may tell you not to worry and wait until your toddler is of school age. And in most cases, the doctors are right.
But, the questions and doubts about your child’s speech development are not easy to ignore. So, this is what you should know.
By the time your child is around 2-years (24 months) old, they should be able to communicate with you using a combination of small words, gestures, and one or two-word questions.
Here’s what a child of 2-years should be able to do –
- Use simple phrases to communicate their needs or demands. Most of these phrases come as requests like "more milk," "mommy cookie," "banana," etc.
- They may be able to use one or two words to ask questions like "Go out?", "Mommy?", "Daddy go?” etc.
- They should be able to use about 50 or more words daily.
- They can follow simple instructions, commands and understand questions.
- Parents and caregivers should be able to understand what they say.
By the time children are 3-years old, they can –
- Say two and three-word phrases. Some even speak short and complete sentences.
- They can use over 200 words and as many as 1000 words daily.
- Toddlers can typically say their name by this age.
- They can use simple pronouns like I, My, and Me to refer to themselves.
- Parents and caregivers should be able to understand them clearly.
Are you currently asking questions like "Is my child not talking enough?", "Should my child be using more words?" or "Does my toddler need an SLP?".
If your toddler isn’t meeting the speech development benchmark for their age, you may need to consider speech therapy.
Sometimes, helping children at home with speech therapy can aid their speech development. Exercises for speech delay in toddlers can motivate them to learn and use more words in their daily interactions.
How Can You Help Your Child Develop Their Speech and Vocabulary?
Here are seven exercises for speech delay in toddlers that can help improve their speech and expand their vocabulary –
Exercise #1 for Speech Delay: Read To Your Child
Several parents believe that leaving the TV on or giving an iPad to their toddlers will encourage them to speak. However, research shows that it may not be the case.
Children require interaction with a human to develop their speech. The best way to do this is to read to them every chance you get.
When a parent reads to a child, they listen to how you are saying these words. They are learning new words, and the use of words they hear every day.
Find picture books with short stories that will intrigue your child. Read to them before naptime and bedtime. Look at our list of books for preschoolers that your child will enjoy no matter how many times you read these out to them.
Exercise #2 for Speech Delay: Use Self-Talk
Your grandparents and parents probably used this strategy cum exercise to boost your vocabulary when you were young. And now, it's your turn.
Talk about what you are doing around your child. If you are playing with blocks, point to the blocks, and say "blocks" throughout the playtime. Point to the ball and say, "ball. Throw ball" as you throw the ball.
Don’t be afraid of being repetitive. Children learn through repetition. The more you repeat the simple words or two-word phrases, the more are your child’s chances of learning those words and phrases.
Exercise #3 for Speech Delay: Use Parallel Talk
This exercise is similar to self-talk, but instead of describing your own actions, you will be labeling your child's actions.
One way to assist this process is to label the things your child is using. For example, you can use hand-made, color-coded labels for their toys. Or, you can say the name of the things they are using like a chair, table, spoon, bowl, etc.
Always be sure to use phrases or sentences that are slightly longer than the sentences your child is using. For example, if your child says, "juice." Be sure to say "juice. You want more juice?" back to them.
Exercise #4 for Speech Delay: Build On Your Child’s Speech
As a part of this exercise, you will build on what your child says or gestures. Try repeating whatever they say and add one or two meaningful words to it.
For example, if your child says "ball." You can say "want ball" or "throw ball" or "my ball" back to your child. You can also name the object your child is pointing at or reaching for.
You can use more than one word to refer to the same object to boost your child’s vocabulary. Make sure you don’t use words that are too big or complex for your child.
Exercise #5 for Speech Delay: Sing to Your Child
You don't have to be a great singer, and the songs don't need to be ballads. You can sing simple nursery rhymes to your child.
Years of research shows that singing to your child can enhance their ability to speak. Interestingly, the centers for singing and speaking are different in the brain.
There have been instances where a child was able to sing a nursery rhyme long before they could form complete sentences.
Exercise #6 for Speech Delay: Boost Receptive Vocabulary
Receptive vocabulary may include all the words that your child understands, even though they may not use these words.
Just like us, children must first understand the meaning and then use the words. To help them understand the meanings of new words, you can try using them in conjunction with words they already know.
For example, when they point at your spouse or partner, you can say, "where's daddy?" or "where's mommy?”. When they point at food, you can specify the name of the food like chips, cookie, candy, apple, etc.
You can then move to the next step by asking your child to point to specific objects like “where’s the book?”, “where’s the fruit” or “show me the dog”.
Exercise #7 for Speech Delay: Praise Their Efforts
No matter how small the improvement, you need to make sure that it doesn't go unrecognized. If they have learned or used a new word, be sure to praise them.
Verbal positive reinforcement can go a long way in shaping their personality as an adult. So, even if they fumble a little while using a new word or forming a whole sentence, be sure to praise them for their efforts.
Wrapping Things Up
It is imperative to spend time with your toddler. Quality time is of utmost importance if you want to help your child overcome speech delays. Apart from the usual playing, try to incorporate these 7 simple exercises into your child’s daily routine. Speech delay may not always be a sign of autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, and auditory disorders. However, you should always consult a pediatrician, as well as a speech-language pathologist, if your child is showing delays in speech development. At the same time, it is important to avoid falling for common myths about speech delay in children.