Wondering what you can do to help your little one expand his or her language? Here are some tips and tricks to help get your toddler talking.
Narrating daily routines: Some days there simply isn’t time to play. Narrating daily routines is a simple way to add language to the things you’re already doing with your child. Activities like brushing teeth, changing diapers, getting dressed, eating meals, and getting out the door are all great opportunities for language. For example, while getting dressed: “First, let’s find pants! Pants, up! Hm, blue shirt, or red shirt? Let’s do red! Red shirt, on. Now we need socks! etc. Since these are activities that occur daily, there is ample opportunity to practice and build upon the language in these routines as your child’s language grows.
Withholding: This can sound cruel, but it’s not, and it works! Parents and caregivers know their child best and often anticipate what the child wants before he or she even asks. Additionally, many little ones are savvy at using creative means to get what they want. However, every want and request a child has is an opportunity to practice and build language. If your child points to get milk, you can say, “Want MILK? MILK!” Try modeling the word 2-3 times (for them to imitate) before handing it over. Sometimes this strategy involves making small modifications around the home, such as keeping toys away or out of reach, keeping juice higher up in the fridge, etc. Another way to incorporate this strategy is to maintain control of toys, for example blocks, instead of just dumping the whole bag out. You can dump a few, then wait until the child wants more, and model a request if needed (“Want blocks? “More blocks!”) This strategy helps the child learn the power of using language to get what he or she wants, so it’s a motivating way to practice language.
Offering choices: This strategy goes along with withholding. Rather than assuming what your child wants, and rather than asking yes or no questions until you figure it out, offering choices is a great way to build language in a functional way. Even if you know your child wants apple juice, you can say “Want apple juice or milk?” This forces the child to use language to make a choice. Additionally, offering choices gives the child a sense of power to make their own decision while still making a selection that is approved by the adult- a win, win!
Shared book-reading: To get the most out of reading with your child, go beyond just reading the words on the page. Take turns labeling what you see on each page. Think about labeling objects and actions, and using size words, colors, etc. For more advanced little ones, ask questions about what is happening, and encourage your child to make guesses about what will happen next. Use all kinds of questions (keeping in mind that “who”, “what”, and “where” questions are usually the easiest, while “why and how” are more challenging). Changing it up keeps the child engaged and offers so much more opportunity for learning.
Play: Making time to get on the floor and play with your child is so important for language growth. Depending on where your child is developmentally, play can look vastly different, from filling up a bucket and dumping out, to acting out scenes with characters. Taking the child’s lead is an important first step. Labeling what the child is doing and what is happening is a simple way to engage in play with your child.
These are five easy ways to encourage language growth in little ones. When using these strategies, be sure to model language clearly and use short phrases. A good rule of thumb is to use utterances that are just one or two words above the child’s level. For example, if the child is speaking in single words, use 2-3 word utterances when interacting (e.g. instead of saying “Do you want your stuffed animal?” you can say “Want bear?” or instead of “The red car is going fast” you can say “red car fast!”).
Children grow and develop language at different rates, but if you are concerned about your child’s language development, contact National Therapy Center for more information. National Therapy Center can help determine whether a speech and language evaluation is warranted, and offer specific recommendations for your family.
Jessica Safer, M.S. CCC-SLP - National Therapy Center
You feel that your daughter should be speaking in longer sentences. Your son’s teacher sent home a note telling you that she’s concerned about his listening skills. Your sister can’t understand your daughter talking on the phone. Should you get your child evaluated??
Here are some actions to consider when you find yourself contemplating a speech-language evaluation.
INSPECT YOUR CHILD’S DEVELOPMENT:
Children go through many developmental stages during the first years of their life, during which errors are a normal part of speech and language development. It can be helpful to refer to charts that outline what typical children are able to do at various ages.
Listening and Speaking Skills Expectations by Age (birth to 5 years): http://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/chart/
Communication Skills by Grade Level (Kindergarten through 5th Grade):
Speech Sound Development Chart:
SEE YOUR PEDIATRICIAN:
Your pediatrician should be able to provide you with some information about where your child’s speech-language skills should be. They can also conduct or refer for a hearing test and provide a referral and/or prescription for a full speech-language evaluation if necessary.
It may help to speak with a speech therapist to share your concerns, and get her/his opinion on what actions to take next. Even if an evaluation isn’t recommended, they may be able to offer you some ideas for things to do at home to help support and develop speech and language skills.
Some schools, counties, and clinics offer free screenings that are geared toward identifying children who would benefit from receiving a full speech-language evaluation.
There are many benefits of a full speech-language evaluation. In most cases, they provide standardized norms that let you know where your child’s skills are compared to national norms. That is, they tell you if their speech-language skills are within the average range or not. They also provide a big picture of a child’s current speech-language profile, including strengths and weakness, which can provide useful insight to help inform what sorts of strategies may work best for them at home and school. Evaluations also provide baseline information, and re-evaluations can be used to track progress.
Trust your instinct. If you are concerned about your child’s speech-language development, it is recommended that you pursue one or more of the actions above. Early detection leads to early treatment, which can be significant in a child’s response to therapy. At our clinic, we have an Early Detection Program, through which we provide free speech-language screenings, results, and recommendations.
Hope this helps provide some ideas or direction for someone who is in deliberation mode. What sorts of questions do you have about the evaluation process?
Sarah Michael, SLP - National Speech/Language Therapy Center
When I mention my career in conversation, the next question that often comes up is something along the lines of “What do speech therapists do?” I must admit that I often have a hard time expressing the gist of my job in just a few words. Some people guess that I work on articulation of speech sounds, with people for whom English is their second language, or with individuals who are nonverbal. They are right, and then there’s so much more!
The scope of practice for a speech-language pathologist may surprise you. In fact, areas of practice are continually evolving. Here is an overview of service delivery areas in the practice of speech therapists:
When speech therapists say “speech” (as opposed to language), we are often talking about speech sound production. Articulation, phonological, and motor planning/execution disorders fall under this category.
The area of language includes spoken (listening and speaking) and written (reading, writing, spelling) language. Skill areas include grammar, semantics (vocabulary and meaning of words/sentences), pragmatics (social language), and paralinguistics (nonverbal communication). Early intervention speech therapists work on prelinguistic skills, which includes joint attention, intentionality, and other foundational pre-verbal skills.
The area of fluency includes stuttering and cluttering. Stuttering is defined as a fluency disorder characterized by the disruption of forward flowing speech. Stuttering typically presents as sound syllable repetitions, speech sound prolongations, and/or blocks (no sound) and may be accompanied by physical struggle and tension. Cluttering is a fluency disorder which is characterized by a rate of speech that is perceived to be abnormally rapid, irregular, or both.
Cognitive skills include attention, memory, problem-solving, and executive functioning skills. Some disorders that are associated with needs in these areas include attention deficit disorders, learning disabilities, developmental disorders, and dementia.
VOICE & RESONANCE:
Speech therapists also address issues related to voice and use of the vocal folds. This includes phonation quality, pitch and loudness, and alternative phonation methods. Resonance disorders occur when there is an opening, obstruction, or inconsistent movement that affects the way air flows through the speech system.
FEEDING & SWALLOWING:
This area includes all phases of feeding at various ages, including sucking, chewing, and swallowing. Feeding therapists also address negative mealtime behaviors and atypical eating patterns (e.g., food refusal, food selectivity, negative physiologic response). Some feeding therapists also assist with use of feeding tubes and individuals with complex medical disorders.
When speech therapy addresses speech, language, communication and/or listening skills impacted by hearing loss and/or deafness, it is considered aural habilitation or rehabilitation. Habilitation refers to improving the communication of an individual who has not yet developed these skills, typically in very young children. Alternatively, rehabilitation refers to restoring skills that are lost. Communication methods may include listening and spoken language, cued speech/language, and/or sign language.
There are also those areas in which speech therapists treat which are considered advantageous, but not medically urgent. Some examples include business communication, preventive vocal hygiene, professional voice use, and accent/dialect modification.
Phew! There is quite a range of skills, disabilities, and disorders that fall under the umbrella of speech therapy. Of course, not every speech therapist is an expert in every area.
Hope this was interesting and/or helpful! Did this spark your curiosity in any specific areas? Do tell!
Sarah Michael, SLP - National Speech/Language Therapy Center
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2016). Scope of practice in speech-language pathology [Scope of Practice]. Available from www.asha.org/policy/.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2011). Child Aural/Audiologic Habilitation. Available from www.asha.org/public/.
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