5 Simple Things Parents Can Do to Help with Communication Delays
Therapies and Resources for Children with Autism & Families
For many parents, having a child with communication issues is one of their biggest fears. To think that your toddler is experiencing fear, discomfort, sadness or anger without being able to express it with words can be terrifying. But, it’s important to note that delayed speech and delayed language development are two different things. Here’s what we mean:
Speech delays refer to a child’s inability to produce specific sounds. This doesn’t have anything to do with being able to interpret or communicate emotions. This is truly the inability to make the sounds that lead to language.
Language delays refer to being able to encode and decode language. Language delays can appear in different forms, from difficulty with grammar to things like the inability to comprehend directions and instructions to a basic understanding of words.
Both types of communication delays can strike fear in a parent, but there is hope for your toddler; not only from people like the speech experts at Peak Potential Therapy, but also through activities you can do in your home to increase communication skills. Here are five things you can do with your toddler, no matter what type of delay they are experiencing, to help them progress with and improve their communication skills:
1. Slow it down.
Your toddler might be tuning you out. It’s not because he doesn’t want to learn or isn’t intelligent enough to comprehend – it’s because you are going so fast that he can’t keep up. Rather than struggle to figure you out, he tunes you out. Slow down and take your time when communicating. You don’t need to talk baby talk, and you don’t need to sound like a videotape being played in slow motion. Take the time to speak slowly and enunciate clearly so your child has time to process what you are saying.
2. Don’t ask him to repeat things.
“Daddy. Say, Daddy. Daddy. You can do it. Daddy.” While you might think that your child is ready to say the word, the truth is he might not be there yet. If someone told you to dunk a basketball, would telling you to do it over and over again make it happen? Probably not! Your child is just learning, and the process might take a little longer for certain sounds. It’s okay to repeat a mispronounced word once but having your child struggle with it over and over is just going to frustrate him and make him stop trying.
3. Do repeat things yourself!
While it can frustrate your child to have to repeat himself over and over, it can be helpful to hear you repeat the words and sounds with which they are struggling. If “Daddy” is a tough word for him, say it as often as you can when communicating and ditch the pronouns we use to shorten up phrases. Say “When Daddy wakes up, Daddy is going to take a shower and then Daddy is going to go to work. When Daddy gets home, Daddy wants to take you to the playground.” That’s 5 “daddies’” in a few seconds, and that reinforces that sound over and over again!
4. Read actively.
Storytime can be vital for both speech and language development. Hearing the words obviously helps your child get an idea of how things are supposed to sound, but the stories themselves can help with language cognition. Have your child help you tell the story. Change a familiar story and see if he is catching the difference. Buy “cause-and-effect” books with flaps and pop-up pictures so your child has more to interact with. Books unlock speech cognition just about as well as any tool at our disposal, so use storytime as an opportunity to grow!
5. Pay attention.
Step back and let your child run the show! Rather than trying to do all the talking, observe what your toddler is doing. Look for the extra attention he is paying to certain things because that could be a clue that he wants to express a word about that subject. Look for gestures that your toddler is making in lieu of words. That might be a word to come back to and focus on later. Just because your toddler is struggling to use words the way you want him to doesn’t mean he isn’t communicating with you every step of the way!
The biggest takeaway from this article is that there are many ways to help your child get better with language and speech. Peak Potential is here to help! You are never alone, and we have experts waiting to understand your child’s needs in order to help him find communication success. Contact us today and schedule a free consultation so that we can begin to unlock your child’s peak potential with speech therapy that works!