This post was written in partnership with betterspeech.com, the #1 Online Speech Therapy for Children and Adults.
Every child discovers new skills like walking and talking, at a different pace. For instance, some kids may be chattering away by the time they are three years old. Others may not begin expressing themselves until after they are in kindergarten. However, parents need to keep an eye on any unusual delays that may indicate that help is needed.
Getting speech therapy for children at a younger age can help them overcome the challenges they’re facing. Like the speech-language pathologist will explain, not all kids outgrow their language development problems, and early intervention steers them in the right direction. Here are some of the main indications that tell you to start therapy sessions.
1. Falling Behind Normal Milestones
By four to seven month of age, your baby should be practicing sounds and using the “baby babble.” During the next size months, you can expect gestures such as waving, pointing, moving arms up and down, and mimicking gestures as they play with you. By age 2 years, the child should comprehend simple, one-word requests like, “Come!” or “Sit!” Stringing two or more words into sentences is another skills that kids begin to acquire.
Until three years, many kids struggle to pronounce certain sounds like k, g, f, t, d and n. Most of them learn the correct way to shape consonants as they grow and practice. If you child hasn’t reached these milestones, have them evaluated by an expert speech therapist. You’ll receive guidance on whether the delays are within the realm of expected variation and will resolve on their own.
Stuttering or stammering is a condition where a person repeats words, syllables, and sounds multiple times. Breaking off mid-sentence and prolonging sounds are other indicators. Most kids with this difficulty know what they want to say but find it hard to express themselves in a flowing sentence. Nervousness, lack of confidence, and the inability to find the right words to relay a message are common reasons. But, if the problem stems from a developmental disorder or neurological condition, speech therapy can help.
Mispronouncing certain sounds like “s” and “z” are common signs of lisping. Many children outgrow this condition as their dental structure develops and grows, which typically happens around age six or seven. An oral care specialist will help determine if the child’s lisp is dentalized or interdental and give you the right guidance. But if it is palatal or lateral, professional intervention might be necessary to help the child speak clearly.
4. Replacing Sounds
Incorrect articulation is another indication that your child might benefit from speech therapy. Here are some examples:
- Adding syllables to words like saying “dogga” instead of “dog”
- Rearranging the syllables of the words like “pashgetti” instead of “spaghetti”
- Substituting letters and sounds like “thoup” instead of “soup” and “afee” instead of “AC”
- Inability to pronounce sounds like “r” and “s”, so the child may say “wabbit” instead of “rabbit”
- Missing the last syllables of the word like saying “chee” instead of “cheese”
5. Inability to String Words Together into Sentences
By the time your child is a year and a half to two years, parents expect them to start stringing multiple words together to spear complete sentences. Of course, you can’t expect that the sentences will be grammatically correct or even organized in the right order. But, at this age, many children can express a thought or make a request for something they need. The ability to communicate an idea is a good starting point and parents can help by repeating the sentence with the correct syntax and gibing the child time to digest the information. But, if your child is unable to pick up the lessons, you might want to think about getting expert evaluation.
Supplemental Professional Speech Therapy with Lessons at Home
Signing your child up for online speech therapy is a great option, especially in these times of social distancing during Covid-19 and staying at home. With the guidance of an expert, you can work with your little one at home. Reading books together, signing songs, reciting rhymes, and positive reinforcement all support the lessons conveyed. Add lots of encouragement and applause when the child attempts to pick up the right words. And remember to create a warm, loving and supportive atmosphere for learning proper speech. Here are some of the most effective approaches you can try:
- Practice Sounds – Try practicing the sounds that your child finds hard to pick up.Remember to train for short, 10 to 15-minute sessions or your child could get bored and wander off. Respect the two-year-old attention span. A child this small simply doesn’t have the mental capacity for long-term focus. Begin with the sound like, “f.” After a few repetitions, move on to “fee” “fi” “fo” and “fa.” Then, move onto words starting with “f.” These practice sessions work best if they’re in the form of stories, songs or games. You could pick out stories that specifically have f sounds like, for example, Jack and the Beanstalk. Sing the giant’s song with actions and sound effects. Kids love it when you make learning fun and will eagerly join in.
- Eliminate Distractions – The most important facet of learning any new skill is concentration. When you’re teaching the child, choose a quiet room without distractions like the television or other family members talking and doing other activities. Make eye contact to ensure that your child’s attention is focused on the words you’re teaching.
- Positively Reinforce Efforts – Children need encouragement to build their confidence in any new skill they are learning. Motivate and reward their efforts with praise and a visual reinforcement like a sticker chart. Having speech therapy sessions as part of a chore chart task can empower your child to practice and look forward to achieving their sticker. My Starry Chart makes it fun with sparkly reusable star stickers and a calendar they can visually learn with.
- Be Very Patient – When your child is making the effort to pick up correct words and pronunciations, they need you to hear them out patiently. You’ll build confidence by giving them time to speak each word. And, when they get a word or sentence correct, smile, clap and tell them how great they did. Make a big deal of every little achievement. And, that goes for every skill they pick up. Encouraging proper speech is good, but laying emphasis totally on speech skills may not be the way to go. Remember to find balance and celebrate who your child is as a complete individual.