Top 10 Tips to Boost Speech and Language in your toddler
My daughter G is delayed in her speech as she is Globally Developmentally Delayed, she started walking a month before she turned 3 years old and that took a massive amount of intense physiotherapy to get her to that point.
When she began walking it was like a dream had come true. It was never certain she would walk. The endless tears we had just to achieve rolling on to her front made the dream seem very distant.
But she made it.
Now a year on – although still unstable and needing further physiotherapy to build strength and learn new skills – like climbing the stairs- I can relax in the knowledge she can walk and just hope she is able to achieve enough strength to be able to walk unaided in the future – so the next the area we are tackling with ferocity is her speech and language.
From 6 months old G babbled and though it was indicated with her condition Chromosome 18q that speech is often delayed- I remained in my bubble of denial that she was not falling into that category and would speak just fine.
When she babbled and made sounds it was the confirmation I needed – she was going to speak just fine.
However by a year old she was still babbling, a year and a half the same.
I became despondent. I read to her, sang to her, spoke constantly to her (even whilst walking the street pushing her in the pram) to make sure her brain consumed enough language.
So I sought help from the SALT (speech and language therapy team) in my area and was told there was nothing to worry about – they don’t intervene until they are 2!
At that time she was heavily into physiotherapy and I could not consider another therapy as the expense was immense. So I continued doing all I could to promote her language.
Her babble started to develop and I could hear more identifiable letter sounds like “da” “ba” for example.
At 2 and a half she started getting speech and language therapy from the SALT- which if I am honest was
a load of crap not working for her.
Age 3 she was saying “Daddy” “bubbles” and “oh no!” Not a lot but progress.
So I got a private Speech and Language therapist.
That was a MASSIVE turning point.
- I recommend you read these tips and save the page or pin it so you can come back and refresh when you need it*
Here are my top 10 Tips:
- Play with your child – This is so basic and I know we all do, but taking the time to switch off all distractions and give your child your undivided attention is an unimaginable boost for them. Playing 1:1 gives you the chance to really engage together, there is opportunity for your child to hear you more clearly, look at your mouth and imitate.
- Let them lead – I did not realise how much I lead my daughters play, picking the toys, modelling activities and a lot of the time she showed no interest and so I would loose interest in playing! But choosing maybe 3 toys and then letting them pick one and letting them initiate how the ‘game’ went opened up a world of possibilities. Often they will make sounds during play and that is your chance to promote ‘language’ – so as they bang their truck against the table – you say “Bang, Bang, Bang!” (Instead of stop banging!)
- Be silent – So you’ve said “Bang, Bang, Bang” what now? Go silent.
Resist the urge to say “Say Bang” . Go quiet (for a few seconds not the rest of the game!). Quite often they will try and imitate or make a sound to show they understand. If not – just repeat the sequence. And go quiet again.Silence gives them time to respond.Whatever they respond with -congratulate them “Well done – yes Bang Bang Bang”
- Congratulate them – Positive affirmation is a great motivator – who doesn’t love hearing “Well done” “Good job” – This way they will be motivated to try again.
- Stop asking questions – “What do you want to play?” “This one?” “No?” “What do you want to do?” – sound familiar? yes we question them all the time.Questions add pressure – especially to a child who is not ‘speaking’ in a way we understand. Try and limit questions – instead re phrase to statements – “Lets go and play!” “Lets pick the truck, doll and ball” “Okay we are finishing the game now” – This models the context. The language and symbols get more familiar and there is less pressure to answer a question. What I found when I did this is G started to initiate play more – and verbalised with gestures i.e. “Ball” and pointing.
- Use their interests – G loves music and dancing, this was a great motivator, I would play You Tube music videos and pause it and shout “Stop” and then press play and shout “Go” she loved it and started to mimic. This explains why Justin Bieber has 1Billion Youtube Views for “Baby”!
- Sit in front of her/sit Close – Be close by when you speak to ensure they know you are talking to them – no more than a meter I was told (she has glue ear so another reason to stay close as hearing fluctuates) Being able to see our mouths when we speak again promotes an awareness about where and how sounds are made. They will begin to mimic more and more.
- Turn off the TV – The TV is great, even for language – Mr Tumble is a great example of a show that helps language and sign. However, having some time each day without the TV where you can read or play provides more opportunity to be around language and copy it.
- Be enthusiastic – I have to say myself, mum, dad and brother are all a little flamboyant when it comes to playing, we play with energy, laughter, bundles of enthusiasm and it just excites G. She screams, laughs and wants to join in – this is replicated within some (I cant be enthusiastic all the time!!) of our play especially when Speech and Language is the focus. Keeping their interest is half of the battle won.
- Have Fun – I found this very tiring when I first began, I didn’t know how to play with my daughter as weird as that sounds. I was a therapist mummy always mentally ticking off Physio/Occupational Therapy goals within every activity. It was draining and calculated. This was totally different – you had to let go and let them be them and help ease the language into the play.
After the first one or two sessions I saw a MASSIVE improvement in her speech. She started saying “Come on” when she wanted to play. Her play skills suddenly developed and her attention span extended. Towards the end of 2015 she started saying “Mummy” which was emotional (Still is!) and she is getting stronger each week with her language.
We still have a long way to go – we are at 2-3 word sentences but she is getting a lot clearer and enjoying using her language more.
What have you found helpful in propelling your child’s speech and language? I would love to hear your tips… x