Is your child showing signs of speech delay? Are they mispronouncing words too frequently? Do you notice signs of stuttering or speech-language development delay in your child? Several children exhibit speech and language issues early in life. As a parent, you have every right and reason to worry. You may worry about their quality of life, education, and career prospects. But, just worrying won’t get you anywhere. You need to take action.
Firstly, you need to find out the type of speech problem your child has. You may want to speak to a speech-language pathologist (SLP) or speech therapist. They have the training, knowledge, experience, and tools necessary for correct diagnosis.
Next, you can begin practicing speech therapy exercises at home with your child. When parents engage speech therapists online, help children practice certain exercises, or use cutting-edge speech therapy apps like Stamurai, there are ways to increase the overall effectiveness of speech therapy. Here are the 18 tips from our speech therapists for parents.
1. Use Your Speech as a Model
Never use telegraphic speech while talking to your child. It applies to all parents irrespective of their child’s age. Always speak in grammatically correct sentences. Its one of the most imporant aspects of any speech therapy strategies for parents at home.
Speak slowly, stress on the correct words, and pronounce every word correctly. Do not say, "Wabbit" instead of "rabbit" because that's how a child says it or because it sounds cute.
Serve as ‘the source of learning correct speech’ for your child.
2. Expand On What They Are Saying
If your child is old enough to say two–word sentences, try to add to their speech.
For example, if they say, "Mommy, go." Depending on the situation, you can say, "Yes, let's go." Or "Yes baby, you want to go? Do you want to go watch TV?"
3. Work On Name Recognition
Once you have decided on your baby’s name, greet them by their full name at least once whenever you see them. At other times, use their nicknames.
Once your child is around 6 months old, they should be able to look in the direction of the person calling their name. They should also babble in response.
Also, point at people and mention their relationship to your baby. For example, point and say, “Uncle Sean,” or “Grandpa.”
4. Parallel Talk
To master Parallel talk, begin by using child-friendly language. Then, narrate what your child is doing. Describe what they are seeing, touching, hearing, eating, or smelling.
For example, when they are playing with a toy, describe the toy in simple language. Say things like, “Oh! You are playing with the car. It’s a red car. The car goes vroom. Ooh. That is a fast car.”
5. Use Visual Cues
The visual cues can be tangible objects, photos, or symbols. It can be as simple as pointing toward an object and naming it. For example, if you have a toy car in front of you, you can say, "that's a car. A red car."
If your child is a little older, you can expand on this. For a 2 to 3-year-old child, you can point towards their shoes and say, "we put on the shoes, then we can go outside."
You can use the same strategy to draw their attention to a person’s feelings or emotions. You can use photos or picture cards for this. Sit with a collection of emotion/feelings cards. Show them a happy face and say, “That man’s happy.” Show them a crying face and say, “that man is sad and crying.”
6. Offer Two or More Choices
Your child should understand the concept of choices from a very young age. Make sure not to give them directives or commands at all times. Give them choices.
For example, when it is time to go out, lay out two sets of clothes and ask your child, “Which t-shirt do you want to wear? The blue one or the green one?”
Try to apply this technique in every aspect possible. It will strengthen their ability to make decisions for themselves and boost self-confidence in the long run.
7. Practice Expectant Waiting
Suppose you have asked a question to your child. Now, it’s time for you to wait. Don’t rush them. Wait for a response. If your child becomes distracted, ask the same question differently. There’s always a chance that your child hasn’t understood the question.
Waiting can be difficult for grown-ups. However, it is the most critical skill parents need to learn to teach their children timely responses.
Another way of exercising expectant waiting is to reverse the roles. When the child points towards an object, wait for 5-seconds before handing it over. Yes, they may lean over, and try to grab, but at the same time, they will feel eager to say the name of the object they desire.
8. Provide Positive Reinforcement
Whenever your child says a new word for the first time or pronounces a difficult word correctly, provide them with verbal reinforcement. Saying, "Wow. That was a difficult one, but you said it correctly!" or "Good job Max" can help build your child's confidence and self-esteem.
Do not discourage your child when they mispronounce words or misarticulate word sounds. Repeat the word correctly for them in your response. For example, your child says, "Look, mom, a wed bawoon." Respond by saying, "oh, yes. That's a big red balloon."
9. Use Self-Talk
Even before your child is old enough to babble, they are ready to learn. So, whenever you are around your infant, moving about, finishing your chores, engage in self-talk.
Use child-friendly language to narrate whatever you are doing around the house. You may be watching football on TV, doing the dishes, or washing dirty clothes. Just keep describing your actions to your child.
When they are a little older, describe everything you are doing in their line of sight. For example, when it’s bath time, you can narrate all the actions they can see and hear. “Here’s water. It’s warm water. Pour water. Put some soap/shampoo on. Rinse off all the bubbles. Dry baby off. Aaaand all done!”
10. Use Gestures and Signs
All children use gestures and signs almost naturally. The baby’s first smile, cry, or laughter are also part of communication. These are all parts of non-verbal communication.
It's common for a 1-year-old to point at something they want. Or, use gestures for "hi," "bye," "hungry," or "sleepy." Children who use gestures more frequently are more likely to develop expansive vocabularies when they are older.
You can teach your baby several signs and gestures. These may include – eat, drink, help, milk, hungry, water, please, more, and go.
11. Sing With Them
Is there a song you and your baby love listening to? It can be anything from “Wheels on the Bus” to “Piano Man.” If your child is old enough to speak and hum along with the song, sing with them.
Pick nursery rhymes, children's songs (Baby Shark will definitely do), and whatever you love. Make sure you know the correct lyrics, and that the lyrics are appropriate for a child. Hit the Play button on your phone and sing along!
This exercise is simple and fun. If your child mispronounces a word, correct them during the chorus or reps.
12. Recite Poetry
Reciting poetry to and with your child can boost their language skills. If your child hasn’t said their first words yet, you can read poetry to them. Make sure to emphasize and pause in the correct places. Pronounce the words carefully and correctly.
When your child is a little older, read simple poems and rhymes to them. You can find a collection of limericks too. Recite the short and funny ones with your child multiple times a day. It will help them learn about prosody and articulation organically.
Moreover, they will already know the popular nursery rhymes and children’s poems by the time they enter elementary school.
13. Give Them Simple Directions
Giving your child simple two-step directions (once they are at least 2-years old) serves two purposes –
- It gives you the idea of whether they can follow simple directions
- It enhances their comprehensive abilities
Ask them to do something simple, such as, “go to the living room, and bring the red ball.” Or, “Go to mommy and tell her dinner’s ready.”
Once they are older, you can graduate with three or four-step instructions.
14. Allow Them to Give You Directions
When your child asks you to find something, you can ask for directions to the item. For example, if they want their red coat. You can ask, “Can you tell me, how I can find it?”
It is a great way to exercise your child’s analytical abilities and logical thinking. They will also exercise their articulation and spoken language when they explain exactly how you can retrieve an item for them.
15. Get Rid Of the Distractions
When it’s time to sing, switch off the TV. When it’s time to play, put your phone on silent.
If you want your child to sing with you for 15-minutes, you must focus on your singing time. Be in the moment. Don't engage in texting or answering calls when you are spending time with your child.
Spending quality time with your child is critical to their cognitive and emotional development. Sometimes, after a long tiring day, doing nothing but reading to them can help you build fond memories.
16. Read With Them
When your child is old enough to answer simple questions, you should begin reading with them. Don’t just read whatever book you pick for bedtime stories. Make reading-time interactive.
Between reading, ask them simple questions like, "what color is the dog?" or "where did the bird fly?" Of course, these questions will depend upon what you are reading.
After finishing a story, you can try to create your own alternate ending. It is important to explore your child’s fantasies to boost the function of their prefrontal cortex (PFC). Ask “what if…” questions and try to explore the possibilities with your child.
17. Play Silly Games
Play your own version of Treasure Hunt. Get a bucket and put all the toys in it. Then sit down and dig through the bucket with your child. Take turns to pull out a toy, name it and describe it.
Play "Red Light, Green Light" with your child. When you say "Green" your child begins jumping up and down. When you say "Red" they stop. You can improvise the rules on spot. And pick activities they actually enjoy.
18. Name the Facial Expressions
You can teach your child to name or understand emotions from facial expressions. You can download emotion charts, watch movies together and pause to ask what the actors are feeling, or simply use your own face as a canvas.
This simple exercise can help children develop emotional intelligence and comprehend others feelings.
It is also a crucial part of speech therapy exercises for children with autism.
These 18 exercises are suitable for all children. You can do these speech therapy activities at home with your child even if they are late-talkers. However, if your child doesn’t take part or respond to any of the games, you should definitely speak to your pediatrician to get their hearing checked.