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Guide to Early Intervention for Children’s Speech Therapy

Effective communication is essential for everyone. Speech plays a vital role in every child’s formative years, allowing them to express themselves. Speech-related issues can prohibit children from effective communication, often creating frustrating experiences that can be stressful or painful.

Speech intervention can address these concerns and make a significant difference for your child. Identifying and addressing speech-related issues as early as possible can ensure your family can access the tools and resources you need to support your child.

Identifying and Addressing Speech-Related Challenges

During the first few years of your child’s life, it can be challenging to determine when a speech-related issue exists. For example, proud parents often enjoy the baby talk of their toddler, but if the child still mispronounces the same words a few years later, there may be a speech-related issue under the surface. Some warning signs you can look for in your child include:

  • Number of words: Around the 18-month point and beyond, your child should be using more than 20 words. At age 2, your child should be using more than 50 words. If your kid only uses the same words, you may want to consider speech therapy.
  • Understanding: Many children understand a few hundred words at age 2. Pay attention to determine if your child comprehends simple phrases and sentences.
  • Number of sounds: Some children with speech-related issues will use the same sounds to say each word. Although this can sometimes come across as endearing baby talk, it’s important to recognize when your child may be struggling.
  • Social interactions: If your child doesn’t talk much around other people, it may be because they lack the ability to communicate effectively.
  • Immature speech patterns: By the second year, your child should be able to combine different words and speak clearly. Monitor immature patterns to determine whether your child needs additional support.

There are many types of speech-related issues and several common speech disorders that could affect your child. Consider monitoring symptoms for these conditions:

  • Preschool language disorders: Your child may struggle to follow directions, interpret questions or understand gestures like shrugging or nodding.
  • Apraxia of Speech (AOS): AOS disrupts brain and speech functions, preventing children from physically speaking the thoughts they have.
  • Lisps: Children can have a dental, palatal, interdental or lateral lisp. Each can affect the child differently, making it important to look for the right signs.
  • Selective mutism: If your child only speaks in certain situations, they may have anxiety, sensory integration dysfunction or a speech-language disorder. Often, children with this condition are overcome with stillness, avoid eye contact, present as sulky or awkward, and appear uncoordinated or stiff.
  • Stuttering: Although many people experience times when they stutter over a word or phrase, this condition can be a significant challenge if your child experiences it frequently or in particular situations. You may also notice your child blinking excessively or showing tics if they stutter.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and your child could experience other issues or struggle with a combination of challenges. It’s essential to provide the support and help they need as soon as possible so they can communicate their feelings, improve relationships and boost their self-esteem.

Importance of Early Speech Intervention

Children grow at their own rate, but it’s essential to act quickly if you’re concerned about a development issue. Effective communication skills in kids are necessary for forming healthy relationships with others and themselves. Early intervention can:

  • Help your child learn through play: Children are more likely to let their guard down when they feel they’re playing rather than working or studying. Early intervention can happen in various settings, including the home, where your child can feel comfortable and happy.
  • Reduce the need for specialized instruction: Early intervention can empower your child to achieve age-appropriate milestones, which can increase academic readiness and reduce the need for specialized instruction.
  • Empower children: Children are full of potential, and parents and guardians want to see them succeed in the best ways possible. Early intervention can provide the resources and tools your child needs to overcome challenges and prepare them for the road ahead.
  • Promote brain development: People are the most receptive to learning during the first few years of life. Early intervention can enhance your child’s ability to interact with the environment and promote healthy brain development.

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Tips for Early Childhood Language Support

Parental involvement in speech therapy can work wonders for children. There are several speech therapy techniques you can practice at home to support your child. From fun games to dedicated learning time, you can help your child improve their language and better express themselves. Check out these speech therapy strategies that can encourage your child to express themselves while refining their skills:

1. Establish Routines

Repetition can be a great tool for promoting children’s speech development. Work with your child to establish a routine they enjoy. You can integrate simple storybooks, songs, rhymes and more into the routine to reinforce repetition.

After establishing these routines, provide opportunities for your child to fill in the blanks wherever possible. For instance, you could start singing the lines of your child’s favorite song but pause at the end of each line. You could say “head, shoulder, knees and __,” allowing your child to fill in the word “toes.”

While working through routines, use pointing, actions and gestures alongside words when possible. For example, shaking your head while saying “no” or using your hand to motion “stop” when you speak the word are excellent examples.

2. Present Choices

Parents and guardians know their children better than anyone else. You can often anticipate what they want or need before they tell you. Although this can save time, it can limit your child’s opportunities for practicing language skills. Choices can feel empowering for children. Encouraging your child to pick between two activities or objects motivates them to respond with language and learn to communicate their desires. This strategy can also prevent frustration if you choose the wrong activity or object.

3. Model Simple Language

Model language your child can imitate. Children often learn by watching other people, especially close family members who they interact with daily. As your child absorbs language, they can start learning how to use independent words and phrases.

You can also use tricks when introducing a new object. Children often focus more on toys and objects than the person holding them. During these times, bring the object to your mouth and repeat the name of it. This can encourage your child to make a stronger connection between what the thing is and how you pronounce its name.

4. Offer Comments Rather Than Questions

Children can become frustrated with an abundance of questions. They may feel pressured to answer or get upset if they can’t communicate the answer they want to convey. Rather than asking many questions, be sure to make comments on what you touch, smell, see and hear. For example, rather than asking, “What is that?” try saying, “Look at the big red truck.”

You can also pair this strategy with parallel talk. When your child observes your actions, go out of your way to comment about what you’re doing. If your child sees you cooking dinner, you can talk about stirring the ingredients, turning on the oven or getting out the plates and utensils.

5. Be Patient

Patience is essential when teaching any new skill. You will need to slow down and practice waiting when you’re interacting with your child. Your little one may need time to process the information you give them, so give them 10 to 15 seconds before continuing the conversation or making a decision.

6. Tell Stories

Stories are an excellent time to expand vocabulary and learn new ideas. Choosing books and stories that reflect your child’s interest can prompt them to engage in dialogue and express their desires. Appropriate actions and voices can immerse them in the story and highlight patterns. Point to the images on the page you’re talking about and encourage your child to lead the way, such as turning the page or focusing on a particular image.

7. Use Visuals

Visuals are an excellent tool for little ones. You can use images to illustrate routines. For example, using a bulletin board, you can depict a morning routine with pictures of a toothbrush, a child making their bed and a delicious breakfast. This helps your child visualize what to do next and can reduce frustration around not understanding a routine. As your child becomes comfortable using images, you can introduce choices, such as choosing what snack they want to eat after lunch, to empower them to make stronger connections and better understand how their day will flow.

Images can also be helpful for learning about family members, friends, pets, and siblings. Photo books and framed pictures can give your child a frame of reference for important individuals, allowing them to become more comfortable with interacting with them.

8. Give Positive Reinforcement

Understanding when to do something is just as important as learning when not to do something. Parents often use negative language to prevent their children from harming themselves, such as touching hot surfaces or putting something small in their mouths. Using positive reinforcement to express when your child does something good can boost their self-esteem and encourage your child to use more language.

9. Let Them Correct Mistakes

Sabotaging your sentences can motivate your child to communicate by letting them correct your mistakes. Purposely giving your child the wrong item or choice encourages them to express their needs or wants by correcting you. For example, if your child asks for a red crayon, you can purposely give them a green one. This prompts your child to communicate that they need something different and navigate how to do so. Keep in mind that you should help your child if they ask for it or express frustration.

10. Repeat Your Strategies

As we mentioned above, repetition is key for children. Along with establishing routines, repetition reinforces speech therapy techniques. Finding the strategies that most benefit your child and encouraging them to strengthen their skills is essential. Avoid trying to make multiple strategies at once to prevent your child from getting confused or overwhelmed.

11. Use Sign Language

Sign language is an excellent way to transition children to verbal language. Many children find it easier to gesture their thoughts, such as “all done,” than it is to speak the words. Teaching the signs for basic words like “more,” “done,” “help,” “stop” and “go” can reduce their frustration and show the ease of communicating their needs.

12. Eliminate Distractions

Any time you want your child to learn, it’s essential to eliminate distractions. Reducing the presence of sounds, people, and objects that can capture your child’s attention can strengthen the quality of the learning session and prompt more thoughtful interactions.

13. Read Often

You can read with your child before they start using words or reading themselves. Reading broadens the imagination and expands vocabulary while developing comprehension skills. Little kids can turn the book pages and point to colors, animals and objects that draw their attention. Whether you read bedtime stories or dedicate time each day to opening a new book, this simple practice can go a long way to encourage your child to express themselves.

What Is a Speech-Language Pathologist and How Can They Help?

A Speech-Language Pathologist (SPL) can work with children to provide treatment plans to address a variety of speech-related issues. These professionals can diagnose conditions by looking for specific indicators. An SPL assists with nonverbal and verbal language skills, empowering children to communicate more effectively. SPLs focus on repetitive language, speech and expressive language to help children develop new abilities.

During early intervention, an SPL can incorporate play and games as therapies to address issues. Some activities could include sound echoing games, physical therapies to strengthen mouth muscles, or verbalization with pictures, books, and other materials. These therapies can address speech concerns while improving articulation, social skills, and auditory processing.

At Kids SPOT, our SPLs can assess, diagnose, and treat concerns. Our team can help prevent cognitive, language, voice, communication, fluency, speech, and swallowing disorders. Our speech therapy services offer a variety of benefits for children, including improving communication and vocal quality, increasing dependence, boosting self-esteem, and empowering children to keep up with their peers.

Access Speech Therapy Services for Your Child

At Kids SPOT, we understand it can be challenging to find the best services for your child. Kids SPOT offers expert speech, occupational, physical, and occupational therapy to children from birth to age 21. Our team focuses on every child’s overall well-being and creates an atmosphere to promote growth, learning, and exploration. Our personalized and comprehensive approach boosts self-esteem and ensures you can feel confident that your child receives the services they need to reach their full potential.

We have more than 15 years of experience in the industry and continue to pursue our vision of changing children’s lives. Our team provides the tools they need to enhance behavior, health, performance, and confidence to thrive at every stage of development. Our pediatric services evaluate your child’s needs based on their current condition, getting to know their strengths and what they need to work on.

We want to be your partner throughout this journey. You can easily request an appointment for your child or contact us with any questions you have about our services.

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