Did you know you are already doing a lot of things right to help your child with communication?
I know this post is about what NOT to do, but first it's important to realize what you are already doing to help your child.
You might not realize it, but:
You are already doing so many things to help encourage your child’s talking!
The problem is, if you have a “late talker” or a child with some kind of communication disorder or delay, you may need to go above and beyond all the great things you are already doing to help your child overcome this, since it is an area they are struggling in.
Just like for some kids who seem to struggle more than others to learn a sport, or to ride a bike or swim, and may need additional, focused and intensive instruction and help…
kids with communication delays need additional, repeated and focused intervention in order to improve their communication.
*If you have concerns and/or your child is significantly behind in communication compared to other children her age, please reach out to a licensed Speech Language Pathologist for an evaluation if you are concerned about your child's speech, language, or hearing.
While you are waiting for that evaluation, continue doing these things to encourage communication.
Paying attention to your child
I know you are not doing this all the time, no one could! But, think about the times throughout the day you include your child in what you are doing while completing daily routines, or when you have quiet or special one-on-one time.
If you have multiple kids, maybe this is during a meal when you have time to sit down and feed him/her, or maybe it’s during bath time. These times are so important for communication!
Keep doing what you're doing and spend quality time with your child during everyday routines. Even if you are not talking during some of times, there is still nonverbal communication going on all the time! Even hugs and snuggles convey positive nonverbal communication- so keep it up!
Talking to your child
This is another thing I know you are already doing, which is something that will definitely help your child's communication!
Make sure you are talking throughout the day to your child as you go about everyday activities. Also, make sure you use complete sentences and not only single words at a time, or only 'baby talk'. Your child needs to hear natural language and talking and an adult model of communication.
Make sure you get at your child's eye level and make lots of eye contact with your child while talking!
Reading with your child
Anytime you can fit reading into your schedule, you should! If you are already reading with your child regularly or even daily, great! Reading with your child, even at a young age, is so important!
Reading time should be fun and you definitely want to follow your child's lead here. You should stop throughout your reading time and point to pictures with your child.
If your child is not able to attend to a book for very long yet, don't worry!
Take a break and come back to it, and overtime your child's attention will gradually increase. Especially if you are consistent with reading time and you choose books that are of high interest for your child.
Don't just read the book, but talk about what's happening, talk about the pictures, have fun!
Playing with your child
It's amazing how important playing with your child is to your child's communication development. Have you ever seen a SLP working with a young child during a speech session? There is a lot playing and fun, because your child is the most motivated to communicate when he is enjoying the time and having fun. When your child is engaged in a fun activity, this is a great time to jump in and play along with your child and have fun communicating!
Now, let’s talk about what NOT to do….
Do NOT Ignore your child’s communication attempts
Whatever stage your child is at, make sure you are responding in some way to their communication. If they are pre-first words, this may be a sound, a gesture, or a sign....this is still communication, and you should respond to it as if they really said something.
If they do have some words, but you don’t understand (and don’t worry, it’s normal not to understand everything they say- (you should understand about 50% of what they say at age 2, and about 75% of their speech at age 3), you can still respond and ‘take turns’ communicating with your child as if you are having a meaningful conversation!
Do NOT repeat and do nothing else
You can repeat what your child says, but to encourage talking, you should add more to what your child says (be one small step ahead). For example, if your child says, “da” for ‘doggy’, you can say, yes, “DOGGY- ruff ruff!” So, you said the whole word clearly and you added just a little more to what your child said.
If your child is saying 2 words already, you can repeat what they said and make it a few words longer. If your child says, "Car, go!" You can say, "Yes! I see the car go! Vroom Vroom!"
So, here you affirmed that the child labeled the item correctly (Yes), modeled a complete sentence (I see the car go) and added a little to what your child said, including the sound a car makes- (Vroom vroom).
Do NOT repeat everything exactly how your child says it
This relates to the above tip, but it is important to rephrase what your child says so it makes sense. If you are only repeating something the way your child says it, this is not very helpful to communication growth. For example, if your child says, "poon" for spoon. You can say, "Yes, spoon!" You are acknowledging that you understood your child (yes... he said the correct thing to label the item), but you are modeling the word for him so he can learn the correct production eventually.
Remember, you are just modeling it, not correcting your child or asking her to say it again.
Or, if your child says, "Kitty!" Instead of just repeating exactly what your child says, "Kitty!" You can repeat and then add a little to what your child said, to encourage language growth. "Kitty says, meow!" Again, just model this. You do not need to ask your child to repeat or say it like you did.
Do NOT constantly correct your child's communication attempts
Modeling the correct production of a word or sound is much different than stopping your child, and correcting them by saying, "No, say it like this..." and asking them to repeat. Please don't do this!
Leave this work to the SLP. It can be very frustrating for your child, especially if you are asking her to: do things she does not yet have the ability to do, correct things that are developmentally appropriate, or feel as if every communication attempt is met with a correction. Your child will not be very motivated to communicate in this situation.
There are times you might want to work specifically with your child on things she may be learning in speech therapy, but please get guidance from your child's SLP on this. It's important you are working on the right things in the right way with your child in order to make progress and avoid frustration.
I always recommend that parents pick one specific time of day (for 5-10 min) to work on those specific things that the SLP has recommended, so your child is not being corrected every time they make a communication attempt throughout the day.
Do NOT pressure your child to talk
RELAX! Have fun with your child!
Be playful! Play peek-a-boo, play toys with your child and make comments while playing and model talking for your child.
It is important that your child's communicating time with you is relaxing and fun. If your child feels pressured to communicate, that will only cause more frustration for both of you!
Instead of asking question after question, make comments to your child about what you are doing.
Instead of saying a word and asking your child to repeat that word, just say the word to your child as a model for communication. Make sure they are looking at you and listening and over time, they will learn from your model.
Hopefully you found some helpful tips that you can start including in your interactions with your child.
Remember - You are already doing so many things right just by naturally interacting with your child, spending time together and having fun.
So keep up the great job you are doing and keep communicating!!
If you need activity ideas and want a weekly plan on how to support speech and language at home, check out Blossoming Speech here.