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.”
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.
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:
- Hearing loss
- Learning disabilities
- Apraxia of speech
- Intellectual disabilities
- Developmental delays
- Auditory processing disorder
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Structural problems (for example cleft palette)
- Neurological problems (for example cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and/or traumatic brain injury)
- 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.
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.