Facing the fact that your child needs speech therapy can be a worrying experience for parents. Consulting an expert therapist doesn’t need to be stressful, though. They’ll direct you toward the best strategies to help your child resolve the physiological and psychological issues that might be causing the problems with communication. It might interest you to know that speech therapy needs family involvement where parents and siblings pitch in to help the child progress. Here are some of the steps you can take at home.
Encourage the Child to Speak Slowly and Clearly
When your child is trying to communicate, focus your entire attention on them. Encourage them to speak slowly and clearly pronounce each word–don’t rush them, even if a faster response would be convenient. Correct errors gently by asking them to repeat the words that seem challenging. Teach your kid that using gestures or synonyms to get their message across also helps. The most important thing parents must do is be patient. Give your child time and attention to put their thoughts into words. Pressuring them to hurry up can result in a loss of confidence.
If the child tends to stutter, lisp, or search for words, hear them out patiently. It’s not unusual for kids to lose their train of thought when starting to speak. Ask questions to help them recall what they wanted to talk about. In case your child is attending online classes, ask them to type in the words, or put forward their questions in the chat box. Let the teacher know that your child is undergoing therapy and how they can help.
Give Your Child Time to Understand When You Speak
Children facing language issues typically find it difficult to comprehend when something is said to them. On your part, speak in short sentences with wait times to give the child time to understand. Be patient and tell the child to speak up if they did not follow a sentence. Set up a go-to response that the child can use. Like, for instance, “I did not get that. Please say it again.” This strategy lets the child know that it is okay to struggle with words and ask for assistance.
Teach Your Child to Ignore Distractions
One of the key reasons why kids find it hard to pick up words and languages is that they are easily distracted. Any activities happening around make it hard to focus on training sessions. Other family members, the television, video games, toys, passing cars, or perhaps, the neighbor’s dog visible through a window – all are far more interesting than having to repeat words over and over again. Experts advise you to create a distraction-free environment for speech training. Get the child’s attention by insisting on eye contact when you’re speaking or teaching them.
Of course, children’s attention spans are shorter than yours. Don’t expect a kid to focus as well and an adult and take lots of active breaks. If attention keeps wandering, releasing energy for a set time with a workout app can give everybody a break, making it much easier to accomplish goals in the long run.
Understand that Digital Classes or Therapy Also Has Distractions
Concentrating on the teacher during online classes is especially challenging for a child. Watching other kids also attending classes, icons, and images usually has the child missing words and not understanding what is being said. Parents would want to sit in with their kids and perhaps, block out distractions with sticky notes.
If you’ve also signed up for online therapy, remember that spending too much time online can tire out a small child. Make sure they take frequent breaks like say, for a snack, or just to lie down. You could also schedule online sessions with a speech pathologist after nap times when the child is fresh and alert. Restricting the session to 15 to 20 minutes to match attention spans is advisable.
Monitor TV Time
Studies have shown that spending long hours watching television can delay speech development. An essential part of language skills is responsive interactions. Kids learn to speak when they study facial expressions and respond to spoken stimuli. Watching television is like having a one-sided interaction and being spoken to instead of eliciting responses. Kids need social connections to learn to speak. Here’s another fact. Television displays a series of images and scenes that change rapidly. The result is short attention spans and difficulty in learning to concentrate.
Parents must carefully monitor how much time their kids are spending on television. Make the switch to reading a book, reciting nursery rhymes, or playing with toys. Imaginary scenarios where kids act out scenes from stories and repeat conversations also aids in speech development.
Keep Them Talking
Have conversations with your kids where they talk about the things around them. Bathtime, bedtime, or just picking up toys and doing chores – any excuse is good enough. For instance, suggestions like, “Would you like to put away the blue block and then the red train?” or statements like “Teddy has a yellow shoe.” These are simple sentences that teach kids to identify objects, colors, and sequences.
A set daily routine provides security because kids know exactly what to expect. Tick off the events for the day as a good conversation starter. Try, “Brush your teeth. Now, put on your purple shirt,” or, “We’re having breakfast. Eat your yellow eggs.” Do keep in mind that repeating and singing each activity is great for remembering pronunciation.
Encourage Interaction with Peers
Spending time with kids their own age is critical for developing speech skills. Imitating other kids by watching them form words and make sounds is a great way to learn to speak. Schedule play dates or video chats if you’re currently following social distancing norms. Group classes where kids sit around in a circle, sing, recite nursery rhymes, and perform actions together is a great way to get them to speak properly.
Exercise the Mouth and Throat Muscles
Get your child to do some light exercises that help strengthen the muscles of the mouth and throat. For instance, provide a straw for drinking or blow through a tube. Blowing on balloons to move them also helps in toning muscles. Identify the sounds your child struggles with and try making them repeat variations of the letters. For instance, if “k” is a problem, reciting “kay,” “key,” “kai,” “koo,” and “ko” in quick succession helps. To turn exercises into games, use playful songs and rhymes that repeat words like Miss Mary Mack.
Teaching your child to speak clearly and comprehend words need not be an overwhelming challenge for parents. Follow the instructions of the speech therapist and help your child to improve their skills at home.