How Can I Help My Child’s Speech & Language Development Early On?

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speech therapist Los Angeles

Most of us don’t realize how early communication begins. Communication skills develop immediately after birth, whether it’s through vocalization or non-verbal expressions! Newborns cry to indicate hunger, discomfort, having the need to be changed, comfort, pleasure and so forth. We as caregivers and/or parents promote communication by looking in their eyes, cooing with them, asking questions, answering to their cries and smiles. In fact we begin communicating to “unborn” children even when they’re in the womb. Needless to say it’s very crucial to ensure our children are able to communicate their needs appropriately and understand the world around them. My personal belief is: Our words are the breath that vibrate through the body and gives life to our intentions. This vibration is the binding force among individuals.

Below are some ways you can help promote speech and language development:

Social Language is one of the first areas of communication composed of 2 parts:

1) EYE CONTACT! In some cultures it is considered impolite for a youngster to look at his/her elder in the eyes when speaking with them, however, it is crucial to not that through direct eye contact we learn a great deal about our environment and social language! When communicating with your child, look into his/her face eyes as often as possible. By doing this you’re not only teaching your child “attention” and “engagement”, but as also facial affect, correct articulation and language intonation patterns (ie. question, answer, exclamation).

2) TURN TAKING! Engage in a back and forth conversation with your child such as pausing after making statements or asking questions to give them a moment to verbalize. This skill can also be accomplished during play by using objects and toys during pretend play.

Expressive Language is the verbalization part of language:

1) GIVE YOUR CHILD SPACE! When communicating with your child, allow them time to “think” their thoughts through and formulate a sentence. Don’t rush to finish off their sentences or talk over them. Encourage them to “verbalize” their needs rather than point or make “eh” sounds to show you what they want. If your child points to an object encourage verbalization by modeling, ie. “oh you want the ball! Say ‘give me the ball please’.”

2) GIVE CHOICES! Give your child choices and then let them express their choice by pointing, vocalizing, or attempting words, ie. “do you want the apple or the banana?” By doing this your also building confidence in your child because they feel in control even though YOU are the one giving them choices!

Receptive Language is the “comprehension/understanding” of what’s being spoken:

1) FOLLOWING COMMANDS/INSTRUCTIONS! Simple instructions such as “give me a kiss” or “get the ball” and slowly build to make it 2-part requests; ie. go to your room and get the ball.  You can slowly build on these requests and make them more complicated by adding time references such as “after you go to your room get the ball, then come in the kitchen and finish your lunch” and etc.

2) READ BOOKS! I LOVE reading books to kids. Reading books works on many different elements of language such as attention span, memory, auditory processing development, vocabulary, language, and being able to make inferences amongst many other. Start by reading very simple books with one or two pictures on each page and discuss what you see, ie. what color is her dress, is this a boy or a girl, what is she/he doing, where is she standing, where do you think she/he will do next, etc. Ask simple questions that can be answered verbally or by pointing to the correct picture. Model the correct answer if your child doesn’t respond within 10-15 seconds and ask the question again.

Vocabulary Development:

1) REINFORCEMENT, DEMONSTRATION AND LABELING! Model the correct word in response to your child’s attempt of incorrect production of a word or a phrase, ie. should he/she say “nana” for “banana” respond by saying “yes you’re right, it’s a BANANA, BANANA can you try? say BANANA. Do it with a smile and in an encouraging tone. Praise them for trying pleasantly and encourage correct production by modeling, but never be pushy!

2) EXPLORE AND LABEL! As you’re driving label what you see, in the house there are many opportunities of labeling and teaching new vocabulary, ie. “you’re sitting on the couch, look mommy is sitting on the floor/chair.”

Articulation is the production of sounds:

1) BE OBSERVANT AND INVOLVED IN YOUR CHILD’S PRODUCTIONS! Be aware of how your child’s environment understands his/her speech. It’s “cute” when you’re child uses “baby language”, however, it hinders their development socially not to mention their self esteem when they’re not being understood and are constantly asked to repeat themselves. Don’t be over worried if your “TODDLER” doesn’t produce /or mispronounces all the sounds (in English) because many sounds are later developing sounds. However, be mindful of their progress and consult a speech and language pathologist if your child is NOT clear at least 30% of the times by their environment by the age of 3! For your convenience a chart of sound acquisition is posted on this blog your can refer to!

2) ARTICULATE YOUR EVERY WORD! Make sure you speak in a slow and articulate manner when speaking with your child. Don’t “speed talk”, and remember to look at them in the eyes when speaking with them to ensure they’re looking at your mouth and face to learn sound “placement”.