Happy New Year!
After the pandemic, the beginning of this New Year feels especially exciting! I don’t know about you, but my family and I have goals this year to take a vacation somewhere...anywhere, get together with friends and family again and enjoy some normalcy at some point (hopefully soon) this year!!
Although I know it has been hard for many, I feel very blessed that my family of 5 have all been able to stay home together and spend more time with each other. It’s been challenging, yes - with school at home, work at home, and everything at home, and with 3 kids, it seems like I have not had a spare moment alone these days! As I’ve been sitting here trying to write this, I’ve already had to get up several times (one child spilled something, the dog needed to go out, and another child was hungry). Can any parents out there relate?! :) But, it’s been nice to have the opportunity to bond more as a family, play board games, and I’m pretty sure we’ve watched more movies in the last year than any other year!
I currently work as a Speech Language Pathologist in the schools, and although I already had a position doing mostly teletherapy from home, I did have to travel occasionally. So, it’s been nice to take a break from work travel and just be home.
As SLPs, we are always talking about goals for our students. We create individualized goals for every student on our caseload in schools. Although I do, of course, include parents in this process, it’s often difficult for them to know what their child should work on. Often the goals for parents to work on at home are not the same goals their child is working on in speech therapy at school.
Why? Well... when we develop goals at school, we are considering what is impacting a child in their educational setting, as well as the child as whole. But, we do have certain requirements to follow in the school system as far as how their speech and language difficulties are impacting them in the classroom, which definitely influences and even guides our goals.
I absolutely love getting parent input when I’m writing an IEP (Individualized Educational Program) for a child. As a parent, you know your child better than anyone! Also, you are focused on what is impacting your child in their life and on a daily basis.
I know sometimes it’s overwhelming for parents when they are sitting in an IEP meeting and they are asked for their input on a goal. Also, a lot of times the goals that are written have to do with something related to the curriculum, or a very specific articulation goal or language skill.
So, the goals for your child at home do not (and often should not) need to be the same for at home.
As a parent, when you are thinking about your child’s speech and language goals at home, here is what you should consider:
Identify your main concerns about your child’s communication
Hopefully this is already obvious, but it bears repeating: Any time you are concerned about your child’s communication, please refer your child to a Speech Language Pathologist to see if they need to be evaluated and determine what the concerns are. These ideas are meant to supplement your child’s speech therapy and should not replace a professional evaluation or treatment.
Ok, so let’s talk about your concerns as a parent. Notice how I worded it as ‘communication’ and not just ‘talking’. Communication includes how your child communicates with others in every way: not just verbally, but nonverbally- gestures, signs, eye contact, - it includes how your child interacts with others and gets their wants and needs met.
For example, early in language development, your child uses many ways to communicate with you other than verbal speech. Pay attention to your child’s non-verbal communication as well as their verbalizations. If your child is not talking much yet, notice what else your child does to communicate- Point? Grab your hand and lead you to something? Look at you expectantly?
These all count as communication! So make sure you are paying attention to more than just the verbal words your child uses. And, that you are enjoying your child’s communication attempts and successes along the way!
Communication also, of course, includes speech. You may be concerned about the way your child produces sounds. It may be hard for your child to be understood by others, or he may struggle to produce only a few specific sounds, like ( r, th, or s).
Communication includes so many things: speech sounds, use of voice, fluency (stuttering), how your child uses language, how your child understands language, etc. There is so much to consider when you are looking at your child’s communication as a whole, but the point of this post, is not to give you an extensive review of each area of communication, but to get you thinking about your concerns for your child in terms of your child’s overall communication, and more than just the words your child uses to talk.
Identify the skills your child already has related to the above concerns
It’s important to consider the skills your child already does have and build from there. If your child is at the 12 month stage with language skills, you don’t want to be trying to work on things that are at a 2 year old level, or your child will not make progress and you will just be creating more frustration for both of you!
If your child says 2 words at a time, you don’t want to work on producing long sentences. You want to be building on and working from the skills your child already has, and then work on goals just slightly above your child’s level.
When you notice that your child struggles with specific sounds, it’s always a good idea to model the sounds correctly for your child. Notice what sounds your child says in error and emphasize the correct production of that sound when you model it for your child.
For example: Your child says, “I like maf.” You say, “Oh, math, I like math too!” Add emphasis to the ‘th’ sound and make sure your child sees your mouth when you say it.
You can try modeling it for your child one sound or one word at a time and see if your child can easily do the sound correctly when it’s by itself. If your child can’t easily do it from your model when the sound is by itself , I would suggest that you go back to just modeling the sound and don’t continue to try to teach it. Why, you say?? Well, I’m glad you asked...
Remember…. When figuring out how to help your child at home, you want to help your child at home with something they can already do on some level, and then you will build on and expand on what they can do to make improvements.
Leave the explicit instruction and teaching of sounds to your child’s SLP, especially when it’s a tricky sound for your child to do and your child can’t easily do it from your model. You do not want to be teaching your child the incorrect way to produce a sound or ask your child to do something he truly cannot do (is not stimulable for).
If your child is already in speech therapy, you should have a very good idea of your child’s speech and language skills and levels. If your child is not in speech therapy and you are concerned- don’t wait! Have your child evaluated by a SLP. I know I may be repeating myself, but hey, it’s important!
If you are waiting for an evaluation and want to start working with your child at home, you will want to take a look at what is expected at your child’s age for speech and language development. Remember, there is a wide range of what is ‘typical’, but it’s nice to at least have an idea of the skills expected around your child’s age.
If your concerns are related to speech sounds, make sure you understand what sounds are appropriate and typical for your child’s age.
Reference this updated speech sound chart to see the average age that 90% or more of children acquire sounds. Again, there is a range, and every child is different, so use caution when looking at these charts.
Whatever area of communication your child is struggling with, remember to see and look for the things your child is doing well and what is going right in the area of communication. Then, get the support your child needs, and start building from there. You can make wonderful progress with your child if you are working on the right things in the right ways at the right levels.
You can do this!
If you want to learn more about what to do to help your child with speech and language at home, or you need specific activity ideas, check out www.schooledinspeech.com
Wherever you are in your communication journey with your child, I want to encourage you to recognize and embrace your child’s communication strengths, celebrate their progress (however small) in every area of communication (not just words/talking), and above all, find those quiet special moments and enjoy your time with your child. And, maybe enjoy those not so quiet moments too :)
See what ASHA (American Speech-Language Hearing Association) says on this topic and look up your child’s speech and language skills by age here. https://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/chart/
See updated speech sound chart as reported on csu.edu.au Updated Speech Chart - Space
American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA). “How Does Your Child Hear and Talk?” ASHA, https://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/chart/ Accessed 1 January 2021.
McLeod, Sharynne, and Kathryn Crowe. “Children's Consonant Acquisition in 27 Languages: A Cross-Linguistic Review.” from Charles Sturt University website, https://www.csu.edu.au/research/multilingual-speech/speech-acquisitionhttps://cdn.csu.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/3330307/world-space-chart.pdf Accessed 1 January 2021.