When your child has a speech or language delay, it’s easy to focus on all the things your child can’t do yet. This is especially true if you have a toddler who is a late talker, a child who is difficult to understand, or a child who has limited vocabulary.
It can be very frustrating when you see your child struggling and you want your child to make progress, but you just aren’t seeing it.
One thing that I do as a Speech Language Pathologist when I first evaluate and work with a child, is look to see what they CAN do… what are their strengths? I am not just looking at their overall strengths (although this is important too), but I am specifically looking for their strengths in the different areas of communication.
I wanted to share this with you, because as a parent, it can be a tough journey sometimes when your child has a speech or language delay, so having something positive to focus on- like what your child CAN do is helpful and rewarding.
Communication is so much more than talking! As parents it is very easy to just focus on the words our child says, but speech and language involves so much more than just the words our child is able to say.
Much of communication is nonverbal, like eye contact, smiling, gestures, hugging, etc..
Communication also involves what your child understands, like following a direction (go get your shoes), or understanding the meaning of words even before they say them, like mama, dada, cup, spoon, dog, etc..
There are, of course, speech sounds, like babbling (badaba), making noises (ahh, whee), and specific sounds, like consonants and vowels.
Besides sounds and words, there is also expressive language, which includes how your child uses language to communicate including making their needs and wants known, initiating communication with others however they can (pulling you towards something, making noises, looking at you, reaching out).
There is also social interaction, which includes how your child relates to you and others, how they play, take turns, show feelings, etc..
When you just focus on one area of communication (like how many words your child has), you may be missing a whole bunch of exciting progress your child is making towards talking more!
Ok, let me explain… In order for your child to start using lots of words, talk in phrases, and eventually sentences, A LOT of other things have to be happening in order for your child to do that!
Your child needs to be able to do many other communication skills before talking, like: look at you, pay attention, understand simple directions, use gestures, play & be social, and must understand many, many words before being able to SAY a lot of words.
So, before you start focusing on what you want your child to do, like talk in sentences, or be understood by others, take some time to find out what your child can already do.
When you take the time to look at your child’s skills in each area, you will find that your child is doing a lot of things to communicate with you! Your child may even have strengths you hadn't realized before!
Another benefit to looking at and even writing down, what your child can do in each area of communication is that you can look back and see the progress your child is making when it may not have been very obvious to you before.
I have included several categories of communication below to give you some ideas of what skills your child does have in each area. Write them down, date it, and continue to fill in new skills every month or two. Then, look back on these to see all the progress your child is making!
Even if they are just small successes, it’s encouraging to be aware of even those little things that your child can do and is making progress on.
Does your child...
Does your child…..
Does your child….
Does your child….
Does your child…..
This activity is so beneficial because you will learn about what your child can already do, and that is where you will start in helping your child when you are going to develop goals for your child to work on at home.
It is especially exciting when you start to see progress. Also, hopefully you are also noticing more progress, since you are more aware of and focusing on lots of different areas of communication.
All of these areas of communication, remember, are so important to your child’s overall development and their skills in these areas will help them eventually learn to talk and say more and more words!
Have fun celebrating your child and all the things they can do! Over time, you can add more and more to the list of things your child can do.
Here’s a fun activity idea printable. You can grab it for free here!
For and fun and easy way to work on speech and language at home, check out Socky and Puppy, a fun puppet show to watch with your little one- includes a free speech & language learning guide!