As parents, we are always excessively concerned whether our toddler is hitting all his/her speech milestones or not. Here is a short guide that will hopefully have answers to your questions. Keep reading to find out tips, tricks, and techniques speech therapists use for optimal results.
It is recommended to get familiar with the speech milestones to keep a track of your toddler’s progress. In spite of that, we have to keep in mind that the speech milestones that go by the book are not strict or hard-and-fast rules. But, if you see your child lacking in any areas of speech development, it is best to get him or her evaluated by a professional speech therapist.
What is Early Intervention?
Early intervention in speech therapy is an approach that consists of a variety of strategies used to support the speech and language development of children with any communication delay. Although therapy intervention at any age can be effective, the critical age that early childhood offers is a very crucial period.
This is because throughout this period children’s ability to learn and grow is at maximum than in any other time of their life. A child’s brain develops rapidly and they are very susceptible to new information and intervention. If this window of rapid brain development is missed, the same intervention would not be as effective as it would have been during the early childhood years.
So what is the right time for early intervention?
The age from birth to 3 years is the critical age to start any intervention. By the age of 6 years, the child’s brain has already reached 90% of its complete development.
The most efficient course of action is to get familiar with a typical child’s motor and speech milestones. If you notice anything not close to the milestones, immediately seek help from a professional. Always remember, it is never too early to seek help!
A speech therapist evaluates a child’s speech to detect if he or she has a potential developmental or communication delay. Based on the assessment they use appropriate intervention to closely monitor and boost his development.
Therapy techniques for speech and language stimulation
There are several speech therapy techniques parents can use at home to stimulate and amp up their child’s speech and language. These simple but very efficient techniques are sworn by speech therapists. You definitely see results using these techniques. You should also remember that every child’s capability is different therefore a child may show quicker or slower results than another child and, this is also very normal!
Playing is the single most important speech and language stimulating technique that certainly shows results and, of course, children love playing! Children begin by solitary play and gradually prefer playing with others as they grow and develop their social skills. Play teaches children many important and essential skills like turn-taking, learning new vocabulary, making friends, etc.
Sit down with your toddler and let them pick out a toy. For example, if your toddler picks up a ball then, take turns throwing the ball. Count up to 3 before you throw the ball. Set target words like "give", "go", "kick" or "throw" and use them multiple times during the play session. Teach them the color of the ball. Let them also play ball with other children.
Verbal imitation is a very effective activity that is used to help toddlers acquire new words, learn sentence formation, and understand the meaning of new words and their uses. Using this technique we can incorporate new words into their repertoire and can also correct their sentences. Start with easy and small words and gradually build up the difficulty level because a child will not be able to imitate words and sentences beyond their linguistic competence.
Mimic the child’s sounds or words then introduce new sounds and words for your child to imitate once your child is comfortable. Interacting with adults and their friends also enables children to refine their speech sounds through listening to others.
Children usually develop skills like sharing or turn-taking when they are slightly older. So it is recommended to teach them to share as soon as they turn 2. Small activities like teaching them to share a toy with their sibling or friend are a good start.
You can demonstrate the activity by first letting him play with the toy till his friend counts up to 5. Then his friend gets to play with the toy till he counts up to 5. This activity will teach them sharing, turn-taking as well as simple counting.
Speech therapists cannot stress enough how important it is to get down to your child’s level! Sit down with your toddler, pay close attention, maintain eye contact, give reinforcements and most importantly encourage your toddler for all the small achievements. These little things help your toddler in so many aspects like developing a good attention span, learning facial expressions, being more expressive in general. Your toddler will also feel very special and loved.