Interestingly, both our children have had a speech delay. We are intrigued to see whether Jude will follow in his older brother and sister’s footsteps or will develop ‘typically’ with regards to speech clarity.
First and foremost, if you feel your child may have a speech delay or any speech difficulty, if they seem to be talking less than their peers or the clarity of their speech is hard to distinguish then seek professional advice. We accessed speech therapy for Joseph through our Health Visitor.
However, there are plenty of things to do that will help your child at home. Make sure that whoever you live with is on board too so you can be consistent. These are all relevant to all children whether they are prolific early talkers or reluctant mumblers.
We noticed with Joseph that the clarity of his speech was very delayed from about 18 months to 2 years. I remember a little boy who was younger than him coming over. He picked up a toy and said “big red bus!” I was shocked as our son would have happily signed red bus but verbally would only have said “buh”. We then stared to notice more and more that he was not where his peers were in terms of clarity of speech.
We sort help and got a referral for speech therapy. The therapist wasn’t concerned as he had excellent communication skills (he could sign and make it known what he wanted). He was beginning to make sentences even though it wasn’t always clear what he was saying and was able to follow instructions.
Myself and my husband were tuned in most of the time to what he was trying to say. But sometimes (especially as he got older and his thoughts became more abstract and imaginative) we didn’t quite get what he was saying and this made him frustrated. In this instance we asked him to sign it if he could, point or get what he was trying to describe or say it in another way. We apologised that we didn’t quite get what he was saying. Eventually we would get there but it could be traumatic. We tried to do all these things below all the time in order to help him (and with Alice too) and lessen the frustration and focus that speech delay can bring.
Create a language rich environment
Expose your child to lots of words and talking. That doesn’t mean overwhelm though. Have music or the radio playing at some points in the day- preferably when it is quiet. Talk intentionally with your child about what you are watching on television if you allow screen time. Read to them. Lots. Fiction and non fiction. Things that really pique their interest. Talk to them using your language. Don’t simplify too much, give them the correct names for things like body parts, animals, dinosaurs etc.
One way for your child to fully know you understand them is if you repeat back to them what you heard them say. Alice relies on this hugely, often getting cross if we don’t repeat what she has said and simply answer. She needs to know you know.
This seems counterintuitive but correcting your child’s speech can do more harm than good. Correct grammar comes naturally and being immersed in a language heavy environment will see any misuse of plurals or grammatical errors ironed out. Modelling correct speech is better than saying “no that’s wrong it’s this instead”. Repeating the correct sentence back to them in a natural way rather than specifically correcting them doesn’t draw attention to the mistake but shows them the right way to say it. For example a child might say “Look at all those mouses!” And the adult would reply “Yes look at all those mice!”
Wait for the words
We’ve found that our children’s brains have developed faster than their facial muscles meaning that they have both developed a stammer where they are trying to get the words out but their mouth won’t let them. Our son went through a time of being very conscious of this. He got upset when the words wouldn’t come out. We found the best thing was to just wait till he managed it. We didn’t finish his sentences for him (as much as we wanted to) and we just reassured him we were ready when he was. Usually a deep breath would do the trick and out would come the infuriating words to finish his sentence. It was frustrating but not hurrying him or drawing attention to it helped.
Lastly we found that the ability to sign aided Joseph so much. Some people were dubious, saying the reason his speech was delayed was because he signed instead. We wholly disagreed. He would have had a speech delay anyway whether he could sign or not and actually the ability to communicate effectively even though his speech wasn’t clear made life much easier for him.
Apologies for the long post there is so much to say on speech development!
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