Many babies can excitedly babble “mama” and “dada” well before their first birthday. Most toddlers can say around 20 words by the time they’re 18 months old. But at what age should your kid start to formulate comprehensible sentences? And when do you consider there to be a delay in speech and language development? A child with a speech disorder is unable to say all of the speech sounds in words. Keep reading to find out when and what you need to look out for, and how to help.
As with other skills or milestones throughout your child’s life, the age at which they learn to talk can vary. However, as a general rule, from the ages of 2-3, parents should typically see considerable gains in their child’s speech. If by then, your kid can barely combine two words, is developing a stutter, or if their speech is entirely incomprehensible to strangers, then there might be cause for concern. Luckily, most speech disorders can drastically improve if you work on them. The key is to diagnose and treat them early on.
If you’re not sure where to start, the steps below can help you help your child with their speech impediment.
How Can You Help Your Child with a Speech Disorder?
Seek A Speech-Language Pathologist
To offer your kid the best care possible, you need to understand what kind of speech problems they may have. Early intervention is crucial for children with speech disorders. If you have concerns about your child’s communication skills, discuss them with your pediatrician. This way you can be looking into seeing if an oral-motor or a healing problem might cause them.
Your pediatrician will likely refer you to a speech-language pathologist for evaluation and treatment. However, if they don’t, arrange for a speech assessment yourself. The dedicated parents at Speech Therapy Assist strongly recommend looking for a professional speech therapist in your area ASAP. This is because, in many states, the demand for speech therapy is higher than the supply. Having a long waiting list isn’t uncommon.
Remember, this is a critical age for your child’s speech and language development. So, don’t rely on your child’s school to solve the speech problem so quickly.
Speech and Language Development
More often than not, schools aren’t equipped to diagnose and address speech disorders. If they do have special programs in place, these programs will likely only solve speech problems such as enunciation. A professional speech-language pathologist, on the other hand, will perform standardized tests to evaluate your child’s speech and language skills. They will be able to do this within the context of their total development and determine if your child has a speech disorder.
To accurately diagnose your child’s speech impediment, the pathologist will assess their receptive language (the words and sentences they understand), their expressive language (the words and sentences they can say), their oral-motor skills (how their mouth and tongue work together for clear speech), their sound development, and whether they resolve to communicate in other ways such as pointing and gesturing.
Based on the results, the speech therapist will provide an accurate diagnosis of your child’s speech impediment. From there, they will accordingly suggest the best course of action. As part of the assessment, ask the pathologist to walk you through concrete tasks and games that can help you stimulate your child’s speech and language at home.
Read to Your Child with a Speech Disorder Every Day
Reading is fundamental for your child’s speech and language development. Children learn to speak by listening to others talk. Reading provides an excellent opportunity for your child to listen to intently.
So, look for age-appropriate picture books that encourage your kid to look while you name and describe the pictures. Read interactively and keep your child engaged by asking them questions about what you’re reading. For instance, you can point to a photo and ask your kid to name the character, animal, or object. You can also discuss the story with them and ask them to describe what their favorite part was.
Talk About Everyday Situations
To reinforce your child’s speech, talk to them throughout the day. Ask them to describe signs on the road, name foods at the grocery store, and point out objects around the house. You can also engage them in conversation by asking them questions at random and acknowledging their responses, even when they’re hard to understand. When talking to your child with a speech disorder, keep your words simple. By all means, do try to avoid “baby talk.”
Additionally, you can increase your child’s vocabulary by setting up opportunities for them to talk. You can do that by asking them to recap the events of the day at bedtime. Also, talk about the plans you have for them the next day. Doing this helps them understand how event sequencing works. This will also provide them with several opportunities to practice appropriate vocabulary and grammar.
Incorporate Speech in Their Favorite Activities
Besides talking to your child during your daily routines together, you can also incorporate speech in fun, engaging activities that they like, such as listening to music, singing songs, and playing games like “I spy.” When you have a child with a speech disorder, therapy happens at home with you as well as in an office.
While your child may not have a wide range of vocabulary just yet, they certainly have a big, bright imagination. Have your child name a topic, an animal, or a character and make up a story for them. Then, engage them in the creative process by asking them questions about the characters and events in the story. Not only will this help them channel their creativity and use their words, but it will also help them learn how to create a sequence of events.
Watching age-appropriate movies and cartoons with them and asking them to repeat words that the characters say or describe an action that the character does is another excellent way to help them model their grammar and expand their vocabulary. To help your child overcome their speech impediment while teaching them about the family history, you can bring out the family photo albums and discuss who is in the pictures, when the pictures were taken, where they were taken, etc.
How to Help a Child with a Speech Disorder
Helping a child through their speech therapy journey is a learning process for both the parents and the child alike. Recognizing and treating speech and language disorders early on is the first step. There are several resources that you can use at home such as the Forbrain or Speech Therapy apps.
With proper therapy, persistence, and time, your child will be better able to communicate with you and the rest of the world. As their speech develops, your child’s confidence will grow, and they’ll start to believe that their voices deserve to be heard, regardless of whether or not they sound a bit different from someone else’s.