Private speech therapy for children is very big business and something that many parents struggle to find the money for with private speech therapy rates being so high. NHS speech therapy sessions in the UK may be free but there is of course a waiting list and sessions are often held in a group rather than focused just on the specific needs of your child. Here is a key fact though – a speech therapy session will probably only last an hour so you are in a much stronger position to have a positive impact on assisting your child to overcome his speech and language delay than any therapist. So, what speech therapy top up tips can you follow?
The problem most of us struggle with is knowing what to do. The following are the twelve things I feel have had the greatest impact on my own child’s struggles. These have been picked up through speech therapy ions, large numbers of books and a lot of trial and error. For any of you out there struggling in the current global economic climate, I hope that the suggestions may provide you with an alternative to expensive speech therapy sessions.
The twelve tips are designed for children experiencing a language delay – they are not designed for speech problems such as stutters or difficulties in pronouncing certain sounds. These approaches will be suitable for all two year old children, but those with speech and language delays will start to become more obvious as they approach being three years old.
Tip one: Reduce independent play
Make things harder to get to so that your child has to communicate with you to get things. Do not have toys lying around so that he can entertain himself for hours – pack them away where he cannot get to them. This may necessitate a bit of a declutter and getting rid of less popular toys… Car boot sales, eBay and freecycle can help with this and maybe put a little money in your pocket.
Tip two: Where are the snacks?
Think about how the cupboards in your kitchen are set up. If the things your child likes to snack on are within easy reach in the bottom cupboards he can simply help himself and has no need to communicate with you! Move these things into the higher cupboards.
Tip three: Choices, choices, choices
Always look to offer choices. By making choices and enjoying the fruits of these choices, your child will begin to develop a greater appreciation of the value of communication. You can be offering these choices all day long… ‘do you want water or juice?’, ‘do you want to wear the green or blue top?’, ‘do you want to walk or go in the pushchair?’. It helps if your child can see the things he is choosing between. Children with less developed speech might point to make their choice, others may express their choice using limited numbers of words, e.g. ‘want juic’.
Tip four: Observe carefully
Don’t rush in to communication – observe your child carefully first to see what has gained his attention. Talking to him about the things that have gained his attention is going to help him to associate spoken language with the things he is seeing. Keep your communication at a level suitable to your child’s stage of development – if he only knows a few words don’t use complex sentences… Keep it to a word or two more than he is able to use himself, e.g. if he sees a dog and he knows the word ‘dog’, maybe you will say ‘hello brown dog’.
Tip five: Stop being ‘super parent’
For many of us our natural instinct when we see something has gone wrong for our child is to instantly rush to fix the problem. As long as there are no dangers or potential health risks at hand… stop! For example, if a child is in a high chair and drops a toy, DON’T rush over to pick it up an put it back on the table – give him a chance to communicate the problem to you. If he does not have the vocabulary to express this he may point, shout, scream, etc. As you return the toy give the required vocabulary in simple terms… ‘dropped toy?’… ‘oh dear!’… ‘here it is’.
Tip six: Reduce the interval between necessary communications
As we are tring to increase the frequency with which your child needs to communicate with you, think carefully about how you can engineer situations that will have him coming back sooner. For example, when at home never fully fill his water bottle – if it is only one third filled he will soon need to communicate that he needs a top-up.
Tip seven: Change the way you read books together
When reading books to your child try to make sure your are somehow sitting face to face. Try to put in lots of exaggerated emotion into the book, eg covering your eyes and saying ‘oh no’ at points where things are going wrong. So much of communication is non-verbal so it is important that they develop this emotional link with the language in the story. If it is a book your child is familiar with you can stop your narration when key words are coming up and pause, looking at your child to encourage them to say the next word… words like crash, go, stop, etc are obvious words to stop at but you may be surprised at how much he has picked up and are able to communicate if you give him the opportunity. You also don’t have to stick rigidly with the written story, e.g. you could discuss what can be seen in the pictures. Also, don’t worry about if your child is keen to go forwards or backwards to a favourite page.
Tip eight: Singing songs
Children’s songs and nursery rhymes are obviously a great tool for developing and encouraging communication. Ones that have plenty of physical movements seem particularly useful. If your child does not seem keen to join in but is content to listen to you singing it, sometimes it is good to stop during the song and look expectantly at your child. He may then provide the next word in the song or may even take over and carry on with the rest of it!
Tip nine: Pause favourite activities
Pausing during favourite activities provides your child with an opportunity to express that he wants the activity to continue. A great example of this is blowing bubbles – blow one lot of bubbles and then wait. Your child may then ind a way to communicate that he wants the game to continue, e.g. ‘more’, ‘bubbles’, ‘again’, etc. As soon as this is expressed blow the next lot of bubbles but then wait again. It may be that you help him to make the communication, e.g. by saying ‘ready, steady…’ and the pausing to give him the chance to say ‘go’.
Tip ten: Decide on what your focus words are
Repetition of key words will help your child to learn and use them. Deciding on what words you would like to focus on and building these words into your play will make it easier for your child to pick them up. For example, maybe you will play a game where things are up or down, fast or low, or maybe things will be coming and going and saying ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’.
Tip eleven: Allow your child to lead play
Don’t play with your child by passing comments from the comfort of the sofa – get down onto the floor and join in. If he is playing with cars get one of your own and move it around on the floor making engine noises. Copy some of the things he is doing and at times introduce new ways of developing the game, perhaps using words you have decided to focus on, e.g ‘car going fast’, ‘car going slow’, ‘car going up the hill’, etc.
Tip twelve: Avoid the temptation to keep testing your child
We have all done it… ‘what’s that? It’s a pig. Can you say ‘pig’?’. Even as adults most of us hate being tested and too much of this kind of communication can make communicating with you seem a pressured and unpleasant thing to do for your child. It might be better to address the same topic with ‘That animal is a… ‘ and pause to give your child the opportunity to say ‘pig’.
I hope you have found these tips useful. If you have any comments or suggestions for other things you have found to help your child develop their spoken language skills, please add a comment below.