As pediatric speech-language pathologists, our duties do not end once the speech therapy session is over. Speech therapy sessions typically last 30-60 minutes a week – and it is very important that these skills are practiced during daily routines throughout the week at home. One of the most crucial aspects of our profession is coaching parents and caregivers to follow the home activities to elicit speech and language skills with their child. And to do so, parent involvement is of utmost importance. This helps children make the maximum progress towards their speech and language goals and generalize new skills in their home environment.
Here is a list of helpful speech strategies used by speech therapists to promote speech and language development. Start using these at home with your child today!
Use the same words/phrases repeatedly during routine activities. Repetitive language can be in the form of rhymes, songs, simple story books etc. Use gestures, actions and pointing when required simultaneously along with speech. Give your child sufficient time to respond i.e. approximately 10 seconds. Pause and let your child fill in the blanks. For example, “When you’re happy and you know it, clap your ____ (hands)”.
Modelling simple language for your child is helps them to imitate. It also helps them use the words/ phrases independently in meaningful contexts.
When you give a model and name/label an object, bring the object close to your mouth. Then model the word. When you put the item by your mouth before handing it to them, your child will start assigning meaning between the item you are holding and the word you are saying. If your child imitates after you, give it to them. If not, label it once again and give it to them.
This is an amazing way to work on language skills. Select toys or items that your child is interested in. It can be their favourite toy. The toy has to be kept out of reach of the child. When your child tries to reach out for it, hold the item next your face and label it. Then, give your child some time to imitate it after you. If they imitate it, give the item to them. If they do not imitate, continue to label the item and give it to them.
When you question your child, give them choices. Limit asking yes/no questions like “Do you want the red car?” or open ended questions like, “What do you want?” Instead, you can ask the question this way “Do you want the red car or the blue one?” When you give your child choices, it helps them respond better, hereby reducing communicative frustration that might be caused when using open ended questions.
We use sabotage to deliberately create a difficult or problematic situation for the child. For example, if your child is coloring an apple and requests for a crayon, give them a blue one. Your child will comprehend this error and try to correct you by asking you for a green or red one. Kids love doing that! They love correcting us. You can take the conversation further by asking the child, why not the blue one. Wait and give your child the time they need to respond.
Your child may not like it when you use a lot of questions. They feel pressured and may even get frustrated. Instead, make comments on what you can hear, see, small and touch. If you are talking about a story of a farm house, make comments like “Oh, I can see a big red barn”, “The dog says bow-wow” instead of asking questions like “What can you see?”, “What does the dog say?”
Always give your child a good amount of time before they imitate or respond to you. Your child needs this time to process the information that they have been given. It may feel like a long time, but giving your child a 10-15 seconds after you have asked them a question can be helpful.
If your child is using single words, add another word to it. For example if your child looks at a picture of a dog and says “Dog”. You can add another word to it such as “Black dog”, “Dog running” etc. If your child uses two word phrases, you can say “Dog is black”, “Dog is barking” etc.
Choose stories based on your child’s interests and based on their level of comprehension. Use a lot of actions and appropriate voices and intonation patterns when reading to them. Point toward the words that you are reading. Look at pictures and talk about them. This facilities speech and language development as well as early literacy skills. It also helps build a special bond between you and your child.
Some children comprehend better when you present information visually. Use visual routines with your children. Think of this as something like your diary. You will have all your appointments/ activities scheduled and planned way ahead of time. Children require this same structure but in the form of visuals. This will help your child understand what their typical day looks like. And they will be prepared for it. You can also use visuals to plan different activities within their routines.
Use these speech and language therapy tips with your child at home. Always remember to consult your Speech Language Pathologist to guide you with your home activities.
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