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Sometimes, the lines of communication between a child and parent can be very difficult. Imagine if you are dealing with a toddler that knows exactly what he/she wants but you can’t figure it out. At this point, tempers may run pretty high. Some of this is typical considering your toddler is learning effective ways of communication. But when do you take it from something that is typical to being concerned? In this article we will outline what speech therapy is as well as speech therapy techniques you can use to help your child.
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What is Speech Therapy and what does a Speech Therapist do?
Speech therapists work with children and adults. However, today we are going to focus on speech therapy and children. Speech therapy techniques are used to help individuals be able to communicate more clearly and effectively. A Speech therapist works with a wide range of defects and issues involving motor movements of the mouth and communication in general. By using speech therapy intervention to correct some of these struggles, many children outgrow the need for future speech therapy.
Depending on your child’s needs, the speech therapist can focus on articulation, fluency, speech apraxia, and other speech disorders. These are just a few topics we are going to touch on today. However, a speech therapist does so much more. Let’s break these down below…
Articulation is the clarity of speech sounds. This area can be of concern if your child struggles to make certain sounds correctly. Some parents may notice that their child has a lisp that is noticeable when he or she goes to say the letter “s”. Other parents may notice that their child cannot say specific letters such as “r’s” or “l’s” or they are substituting sounds such as, “tat” for “bat” or “wabbit” for “rabbit”. This would all fall under articulation which could possibly be solved with speech therapy intervention.
I know when we think of fluency, reading often comes to mind. However, fluency skills can even be strengthened in your toddler. If your child does struggle to get their ideas across easily, the speech therapist will use this as a focus area. Here are a few things to keep in mind. Make sure you are allowing your child time to respond to a question or request. Allowing natural periods of “thinking time” is important for increasing language skills. Make sure you are being a good listener. Yes, parents, I’m talking to you. Don’t finish your child’s sentences. Allow them to formulate their own ideas and try to communicate them.
Speech apraxia is a disorder in which the child’s brain has a difficult time coordinating complex oral movements needed to create certain sounds, syllables and eventually words. A child is not normally diagnosed with speech apraxia until at least age 3. There may be some concern earlier than three years of age but an official diagnosis is not made until around the age of three. The reason for this is because we want to give children an opportunity to fix some of the sound errors that they are making. This is where Early Intervention (birth-3) might come into play. Getting your child intervention early on may help with what they are struggling with. If it is something more complex like speech apraxia, the Speech Therapist will be able to identify if this is an area of need for your child as they get closer to three years old.
Receptive communication is what your child understands. Does your child understand what you are saying when you say, “go throw your diaper away, bring mommy your tippy, pick up your ball?” These can be one-step directions (go get your ball), or two-step directions (go get your shoes and throw your diaper away). The number of steps given will depend on your child’s age.
What Do I Do if I Suspect My Child has a Delay?
If you suspect that your child has a delay in one or more of these areas, it would be a great idea to bring it up to a Pediatrician. Especially if your child is under three. If they are in pre-school the teacher will normally voice concern if your child does have some sort of delay. However, if this is not the case; you need to advocate for your child. If you have that gut mommy feeling that something isn’t right, talk to your Pediatrician or find the Early Intervention Program in your community and make a referral. You as a parent can make a referral. It doesn’t need to come from a doctor. But please keep in mind, Early Intervention is a birth-3 program. If your child is under three go to this link and find the number in your state that you need to call.
How Can I Use Speech Therapy Techniques to Help at Home?
There are many things you can do at home if you suspect your child has a delay. Remember, it starts at home. Even with speech therapy, a lot of it is still dealt with and solved within the home. If your child is already in speech therapy, your child’s therapist should be giving you different things to try throughout the week. In Early Intervention we call this, “Home Programming.” Here are some things you can do at home.
1. Introduce Sign Language– studies show that there is a correlation between sign language and speech. Start with simple signs such as, “all done, more, please, eat and milk.” These are some of the basics and will get your child off to a good start.
2. Make picture cards– picture cards are great at helping your child identify what it is they want. You can take actual pictures that are familiar for your child (sippy cup, clothes, diaper, your car, favorite snacks, etc), create a small book to put them in or put them on the fridge.
3. Use simple phrases– when playing with your child, hold up their car and say, “red car.” Simple phrases work best when children are developing language skills. Instead of saying, “What is this? This is a red car.” Simply say, “red car.” And little ones love exclamatory words such as, “vroom vroom, uh-oh, oh-no!”
4. Put things out of reach– Put your child’s favorite toy, cup, book or blanket out of reach for your child. They will have to ask for your help in retrieving the item. I know what some of you are thinking, my child is just going to come to me and scream because they want what they cannot reach. This is where training comes in. You don’t want your child to have to beg and plead to get the item. However, you do want to try and get them to communicate in some way without throwing a fit. You could try and get them to sign the word, “help,” or say the word, “book.” Even if your child attempts what you are asking them, make sure you give them the item. If you say, “book” and they say, “b” or “boo” that is an AMAZING effort!
5. Praise your child’s efforts– Praise and reward goes a long way. Even as adults we like the praise we get for our efforts. Praising your children has a profound effect on their self-esteem. In return, this makes them want to do better and be successful at what they are trying to accomplish.
Do you have a child that went through Early Intervention? Do you have a child with a speech delay? If so, please comment below and tell us your story.
Did you like this article? You might also like, 5 Effective Steps to Get Your Toddler Talking.
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