From Naturally Speaking by Annick Tumolo
Worried about your late-talker? Here 10 tips to help facilitate verbal communication.
- Get his hearing checked. Some parents assume that if their child passes the newborn hearing test in the hospital, they no longer have to worry about hearing. This isn’t true– your child can pass the newborn hearing test and still have a hearing loss. If your child is a late-talker, talk to your pediatrician about having a formal audiological evaluation.
- Take a peek at his use of gestures, his play, his eye contact, and his understanding of language. Find out more about what he should be doing in each of these areas here and here. If you notice that he is lagging behind his peers in any of these areas, talk to your pediatrician about a referral to your early intervention program. Late-talkers are more likely to need intervention if they have delays in gestures, play, eye contact, and/or receptive language.
- Read repetitive books and sing repetitive songs with him. Hearing the same pattern over and over will help him anticipate what is coming next. Soon, you’ll find that he starts filling words into those books and songs when you pause just a bit before the important words.
- Help him learn the power of words by saying, “Ready, Set, Go!” before doing something fun. Do this over and over and watch as he starts to fill the word “go” into the phrase.
- Talk, talk, talk to him. Use parallel talk, description, and self talk to describe what he is doing and seeing in short phrases.
- Pair your words with actions. Children are more likely to imitate a word when the word goes along with a familiar, repeated action.
- Think about using Baby Signs as a bridge to verbal communication. Parents sometimes worry that children will become dependent on signs, but research suggests the opposite: using signs and gestures with children can increase their language skills.
- Use communication temptations–change your late-talker’s environment to give him more opportunities to communicate. For example, put his favorite toys in a see-through box. Or put his snacks up in a cupboard so he has to ask for them. When he wants something, wait a bit to see what he does. He might say the word! If he doesn’t, say the word for him and wait just a bit. If he doesn’t imitate you, give him what he wants and repeat the whole process the next time. Over time, he’ll start using the word before you do.
- If he’s not making progress, or if you just want some additional help, don’t hesitate to talk to your pediatrician about a referral to an early intervention program. We don’t bite. I promise.
- Love him. More than anything else, children need to be in loving, responsive relationships with their parents. All of the above tips are important, but this is the most important one of all.
I will add to this list by saying, have your child evaluated for speech therapy to begin ASAP. The earlier speech therapy is started, the quicker the child will make progress and the less likely their language delay will continue to affect them in kindergarten.