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The One Tool That Helped Me Encourage My Toddler To Speak: At Home Speech Therapy

The One Tool That Helped Me Encourage My Toddler To Speak: At Home Speech Therapy

The one tool that helped me encourage my toddler to speak: At Home Speech Therapy

My son was two.  He wasn’t speaking.  When I say that, my son isn’t talking, I don’t mean that he didn’t have as many words as I would like.

I mean he wasn’t speaking. He would sometimes babble a few words here and there, but there was no consistent meaning behind them.  He would say mama or dada in the same way he would say lala, gaga or any other nonsensical babble.

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At two toddlers are “supposed” to have approximately 50 words, my son didn’t have any!

He clearly understood everything we were saying to him.  He would respond when we asked a question or gave instructions.  But there were no words!

It’s hard.  He would communicate with gestures or grunts, but his speech delay meant that he would be frustrated when we didn’t understand what he wanted or needed.  This would lead to tantrums.  His frustration led to our frustration.  And the cycle continued.

We all want the best for our children.  We look at the milestone charts as a way to know what to expect and to make sure our children are on track.

I realized something important.  In the first few years of your child’s life, think of the thousands of milestones, big and small that your does child meet.  Not all children will meet these milestones at the same time.

By the time my son hit his second birthday, I felt as though I was constantly getting questions and unsolicited advice from friends, family and complete strangers.

How many words does your son have?”

“Oh, my friend’s cousin’s neighbor’s daughter didn’t speak until they were four, and now she is a brain surgeon”

“You should see a naturopath.”

“My son was also a late talker, now he won’t stop talking!”

“Have you tried a speech pathologist?”

“Albert Einstein didn’t speak until he was 4.”

Related: Parenting Advice: How to Unravel Fact From Fiction 

Perhaps well intentioned, but the comments and questions were of little comfort.

If you are going through the same thing, let me start by saying something very important.  If your child is not meeting all of their milestones, it does not mean that you are a bad mother or father.  It does not mean that you are doing anything wrong.  It does not mean that your child isn’t smart.

Stop second guessing yourself!

Instead of focusing on the milestones my son hadn’t yet achieved, I started focusing on the ones that he had.

I started to use the milestone chart, not as a way to measure my child against other children, but as a way to know which milestones may require more encouragement on my part.  In this case, it was his speech delay.

We went to the pediatrician for my son’s two year check up.  As I was in the waiting room, I saw something that I hadn’t noticed before.  Likely because it wasn’t something that I needed to see.   A poster that read “One in Four Children Has Speech Delays”.

You read that right.  One in four.  That’s 25%.  I hadn’t realized just how prevalent it was.

You are not alone.

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What To Do If Your Child Has A Speech Delay

1 Recognize the Issue

You’re here.  So, step one is already completed. Go ahead and pat yourself on the back.

2 Talk to your child’s healthcare practitioner

I am not a doctor, speech pathologist or an expert in regards to speech language pathology, children or health.  But, I am a mom.  A mom who has dealt with a toddler who has a speech delay.

The first thing you and a health practitioner will have to do is determine what may be causing the speech delay.

There are many possibilities why your child may have a speech and language delay:

  1. Hearing loss
  2. Learning disabilities
  3. Apraxia of speech
  4. Intellectual disabilities
  5. Developmental delays
  6. Auditory processing disorder
  7. Autism spectrum disorder
  8. Structural problems (for example cleft palette)
  9. Neurological problems (for example cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and/or traumatic brain injury)
  10. Selective mutism

With the help of an expert, you can pinpoint what may be at the root of your child’s speech delay.  This way, you can work together to come up with a game plan to work with your child and their individual needs.

At our appointment with the pediatrician, I mentioned my son’s delay.  The pediatrician reassured me that it was common, and that the first step would be to get his hearing checked.  Then, if that came back normal, he would refer him to a speech language pathologist.

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3 Come up With A Game Plan

Many people advocate a “wait and see” approach.  The truth is most children grow out of speech delays.  However, patience is something that I have in short supply.

It’s frustrating when we live in a world of instant gratification to wait for appointments and results.  While I waited for appointments with experts, I wanted to start doing things from home…right away.

After our appointment with the pediatrician, although we had a game plan.   I didn’t want to leave it all in someone else’s hands.  I wanted to start doing things, from home, right away.

I went online.  I read everything I could about speech delays, and what I could do to encourage my toddler to talk, from home.

Here are some of the things we did that helped:

A. Sign Language

I bought a book to teach myself some signs, and then use them at home.

When your child hasn’t yet developed the skills for verbal communication, sign language is a gift can help them communicate with you.

We started to teach my son sign language for simple concepts that we used all the time such as “milk”, “more”, and “all done”.  They were easy gestures that we could start to implement right away to give my son some tools communicating his wants and needs.

It took a few weeks, but he got the hang of it.  It was a huge help.  It helped build his confidence and show the benefits of communicating.

B. One on One Play

I started to spend more time focusing on words when we were playing.  I followed the advice I learned online to use short descriptive phrases such as “car fast” or “block on top”.  I knew I needed more help on what to do before I saw a speech pathologist.

I needed tools in my toolbelt to know how to interact with my son in a way that would build his confidence and encourage him to communicate.  I bought It Takes Two to Talk: A Practical Guide For Parents of Children With Language Delays by Elaine Weitzman, an expert speech-language pathologist.

It changed everything!

This book taught me how to tweak the way I played with my son, how we read books, how we engaged.  It was a guide that allowed me to integrate actionable strategies into everyday routines such as bath time, meal time, play time and reading so he could better understand language, and use it when he was ready. It made the things we were already doing and enjoying, learning opportunities.

If your child has speech delays, run, don’t walk, and find this book!

There is nothing that I credit more in helping my son find his words.

I feel I should warn you.  The book is not cheap.  It was an investment.  When I consider how expensive private speech language pathologists are, and how long the wait can be for a subsidized expert, the choice was easy for me.

By the time we had our hearing test (normal) and got an appointment with a speech pathologist three and a half months had passed since our initial appointment with our pediatrician.  In those three and a half months, my son had his first word, Ball. 

Never had such a simple word sounded so sweet.

We did go to the speech pathologist, and his language has improved even more.

We just celebrated his third birthday last month and he is using full sentences.  A far cry from a year ago today, when he didn’t have any words.

I can honestly say, that the techniques I learned in It Takes Two to Talk dramatically improved my son’s speech.

Would he have eventually started to talk on his own?  Absolutely.  But once he began to talk, a whole new world opened up to him.  He was able to communicate more effectively, and the terrible two’s became a little less terrible since he was having fewer temper tantrums.

There are many steps that you can take, at home, to help your baby catch up. I truly believe that this book made it happen faster than it would have with a “wait and see” approach.

I learned that sometimes you have to take things into your hands.  You know your baby.  If you want to do the wait and see approach, you can absolutely do that.  However, you are your child’s best advocate.   If you have any concerns, take your little one to a professional.

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38 Comments

  1. Stefanie

    This was such a good and interesting read. I’m glad you were proactive in figuring out ways to help him communicate. I was so happy to see that he spoke his first word. Onward and upward!

    Reply
    • Karrie

      Thank you for the compliment. It was a relief when all the hard work finally paid off.

      Reply
  2. Vanessa

    Thank you for the great read! This will probably help me out with my LO 🙂

    Reply
    • Karrie

      Glad you liked it.

      Reply
  3. Nicole Caudle

    Wow this is amazing! One on One play and sign language really helped with my daughter when it seemed like she was where she was supposed to be. Now she’s 6 and won’t stop talking. Keep working with him!

    Reply
    • Karrie

      Thank you for your comment. It’s amazing what one on one play and sign language can do.

      Reply
  4. Ashley Solberg

    You are amazing momma for sharing this to help others that may be in the same situation. I am so glad you found things that helped bring progress.

    Reply
    • Karrie

      Thank you so much for the kind words.

      Reply
  5. Rachel Kurian

    This is a wonderful article. I am an Early Intervention Therapist and the points you made are exactly what I tell parents. I’m so happy to hear how well he’s doing.

    Reply
    • Karrie

      Aww Rachel, thank you so much. It was cathartic to write it all down.

      Reply
  6. lex

    You are so amazing and strong! This are really good tips!

    Reply
    • Karrie

      Thank you Lex!

      Reply
  7. Shanika

    This is such a great post! I struggled with the same issues with my 2 yr old and since using a Speech Pathologist, he has improved greatly. I definitely agree with your points and I’m wishing you the best on your son’s speech journey! You’re right—all kids don’t reach their milestones at the same time. Trust that your child will be right where he needs to be when he gets there!

    Reply
    • Karrie

      Thank you for the compliment Shanika! It’s difficult to see your child struggle, and to accept that sometimes time can sort everything out.

      Reply
  8. Echo

    This is such a great post! I’ve had many kids in my class through the years who didn’t speak until later on. Your tips are great and super proactive! Great job!

    Reply
    • Karrie

      Thank you Echo!

      Reply
  9. jhilmil

    What a wonderful article, though my son didn’t have speech delay, I saw one of my friend’s daughter have tha delay. Seems a great book to be recommended.

    Reply
    • Karrie

      Thank you for the compliment. It is a great book for anyone whose child has a speech delay.

      Reply
  10. Sapna Krishnan

    Such a detailed and informative post. I can understand how questions and comments can some times ruin your peace, however well meaning they are. I always suggest to see a therapist, if you feel the child is slightly behind on speech. It is amazing if it’s just a delay but it is also great that the kid gets timely help.

    Reply
    • Karrie

      Hi Sapna. You’re correct, I still think a speech therapist is an invaluable resource if you can afford one, or you live in a place where they are provided.

      Reply
  11. Tierney

    Thank you for sharing your story. This entails such important information for parents, for those who have children with speech delays and for those who are speaking to others.

    Reply
    • Karrie

      Thank you for the kind words Tierney. I hope that it does show another parent who is going through something similar that they are not alone.

      Reply
  12. Torche' Nash

    This is awesome advice! It can be frustrating all the way around, so it’s best to take a step back, breathe, and brainstorm solutions. I’m glad you all found some peace!

    Reply
    • Karrie

      Thank you!

      Reply
  13. Nayantara Hegde

    This has been a constant source of concern for many moms on a mom networking group I am a part of. I shared your post there. Hoping it would help many of us.

    Reply
    • Karrie

      Yes! Please do. I’d love for this to reach any moms or dads who are having similar concerns.

      Reply
  14. Cait

    these are great tips! i cant wait to use some of them!

    Reply
  15. Amanda

    We too have struggled with speech delays in my youngest. Thank you SO much for writing this post, filled with your encouraging words and compassion towards families struggling with this issue. I was scrutinizing and criticizing myself like crazy…and blaming myself as well! I cannot believe that I have no heard of this book, and will be checking it out immediately!

    Reply
    • Karrie

      Mom guilt is real. It’s so easy to blame yourself. I had to learn to be in the moment and just work with it.
      Thank you for the kind words.

      Reply
  16. sofi

    beautiful post. yes! great idea about using play to engage your child. will definitely be sharing this with people.

    Reply
    • Karrie

      Thank you Sofi.

      Reply
  17. Kody @ The OptiMom Blog

    Such an important topic! I’m going through this with one of my twins right now, and it is so important to focus on all the milestones they DO meet.

    Reply
    • Karrie

      Absolutely. It can be easy to focus on the milestones that they are still working on. I now try to focus on the ones that he has met and praise him for those. Every child has their own pace.

      Reply
  18. Estefania

    Very interesting read. You worked so hard to get to where you are today. Good work!

    Reply
    • Karrie

      Thank you Estefania.

      Reply
  19. KaRI

    This is definitely a great read for all parents.. I think it’s an important reminder that not all kids hit milestones at the same time and sometimes the unsoliciayed advice can be unintentionally hurtful.. you did a great job at advocating for your little one!

    Reply
    • Karrie

      Thank you so much Kari for the hand words.

      Reply
  20. Kim

    Great information here. I always find myself comparing my boys with others. Every child is different.

    Reply

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