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Five Tips to Help your Toddler Start Talking
As discussed in a previous blog (Myths and Truths about Late Talkers), there are many misconceptions when it comes to late talkers. Now that we know what a late talker is, let’s chat about what we can do. Here are the top five tips to help facilitate language development with a late talker.
1. Get face to face
When trying to build language and communication, sitting at your child’s level while facing them is the best place to be. This allows you to see if they are making any attempts to say a word. Maybe they put their lips together to try the “p” sound but no sound came out. If you were sitting behind them, you’d never know that they attempted the sound. By sitting face to face, you can also see your child’s reaction to different games and activities. This will help you figure out what they are most interested in. Not only can you see your child when you are face to face, but they can see you. This gives them an opportunity to see how you make different sounds and words.
2. Let your child be the boss
Children are more likely to communicate if they are interested and motivated in what they are doing. Put the rule book away and let your child dictate what and how they want to play. If your child wants to tap two blocks together, rather than stack them, just go with it. If they want to play with the empty toy box, rather than the toy itself, just go with it. You’ll soon see how much more engaged your child is when you stick with their interests.
3. You want what?
Most parents come into assessments and/or therapy sessions and report that even though their child is not yet talking, they are able to understand what s/he wants most of the time. Sometimes we are able to give our kids what they want before they even realize they want it. To help build communication in late talkers, entice them to communicate. When they point to the bubbles, wait a few seconds before giving it to them. This will give them the opportunity to possibly make a sound or say a word. When you find your child waiting at the fridge, pretend like you don’t know what they want. Maybe with an extra few seconds they will make an attempt to tell you. We don’t want our kids to get frustrated, so only wait a few seconds. If your child hasn’t said the word after that time, give them the object anyways. We never want to penalize a child for not being ready to say a word.
4. Be an interpreter
When your child shows you what s/he wants (by pointing, reaching, grunting, giving, etc.), act as an interpreter and say the one word s/he could have used. It’s important to model words at your child’s level. For example, if you child is currently not using any words and s/he point to a car, while s/he may understand the sentence, “I want the car”, s/he will not be able to imitate that many words. So, if your child points to the car, you can simply say, “CAR!”. In this example, you are interpreting the point and giving them the word they could have used instead (“car”).
5. Have fun!
Talking should be fun. When modeling words, make sure to draw attention to what you are saying, by emphasizing the words with your intonation and facial expressions. Your child will be more engaged if it sounds like you are having fun too. Don’t get frustrated if your child is not ready to imitate the sounds and words you are making. Stay positive and consistent!
Remember, these strategies are for late talkers. Please consult a speech-language pathologist to determine which strategies are best suited for your child and to get specific recommendations on how to improve your child’s communication.