A key component of speech-language intervention is learning and implementing strategies at home to ensure carry-over and communicative success for your child across multiple environments. A part of our job as speech-language pathologists is to provide caregivers with the knowledge and strategies they need to best support their children.
At Ocean Beach Speech, we believe that YOU, as the caregiver, play the most impactful role in helping your child reach his/her communication goals. While we may be lucky enough to spend 30 to 60 minutes per week with your child, nothing rivals the quality time that many caregivers have at home with their children.
We have provided some examples of five common misunderstandings in speech and language education, and what you can do instead!
#1: Over-emphasizing academic language
Shapes, colors, numbers – these are all important concepts within the lives of early learners. However, many caregivers focus a little too heavily on these academic-related words and neglect more important functional language. For example, a child may be able to name a circle and tell you the color of your shirt, but what if they want to ask for help? We want to first equip our toddlers with vocabulary that will be most helpful in getting their needs met. These are words like “mama”, “dada”, “help”, “go”, “more”, “no”, etc.
#2: Asking too many questions
Some kids can handle being asked question after question. However, when talking is difficult for a little one, asking too many questions can make them feel like they are being “quizzed”, resulting in feelings of anxiety or overwhelm. Sometimes children may even “shut down” or avoid talking altogether if too many demands are placed on them. We recommended asking ONE question for every 3-4 statements you make. For example, “Look at the cow! Cow says moo. Cow is eating. Hungry cow! What does the cow say?”
#3: Telling young children, “say ______”
Sometimes caregivers tell their children to say words when it isn’t yet developmentally appropriate or expected based on the child’s current skill level. Sometimes a young child may be speaking and already using some words, but if we constantly tell them to “say” this, or “say” that, it can make them feel tested or overwhelmed. Toddlers are way more intuitive than we give them credit for! If they sense we are placing pressure on them, odds are they will retreat. So what can you do instead? Try modeling the word yourself multiple times and pairing it with a gesture (e.g., “bye bye! Bye!” while waving), or using carrier phrases while pausing to give the child the chance to fill in the blank (e.g., “ready, set, go! Go, car, go! Ready, set.…...go!”). Remember, decreased pressure = increased communication!
#4: Modeling speech sound errors
Many times caregivers accidentally model the INCORRECT way to say a word, without even knowing it! It can be a gut reaction to correct a child by saying something like, “it’s not a TAR, it’s a CAR!”. When caregivers do this, it reinforces to the child the incorrect way to say the word. Instead of this, we recommend simply recasting your child’s speech errors by saying the word correctly multiple times. For example, if a child says “tar!”, you might say, “Yes, that’s a car! Car, car, car. I see the car! Car says beep beep!” In some cases, your SLP may use a therapy approach that includes modeling the speech error (for example, when helping your child build awareness that /t/ and /k/ are two different sounds and “tea” and “key” are two different words). In these situations, the SLP will teach you how to work with your child at home. Unless your SLP explicitly teaches you how to use speech sound errors as part of your home practice program, it is best to stick with recasting as much as possible.
#5: Taking the “wait & see” approach
Did you know that the brain triples in size during the first two years of life? Because of this, sooner is ALWAYS better when it comes to helping children who are struggling to meet their developmental milestones. Research tells us that the sooner we start services, the better the child's prognosis becomes and the LESS time it will take to remediate any delays or disorders. Early intervention is key.
If you recognize yourself in some of these descriptions, don’t sweat it. Many caregivers have been in your shoes! Knowledge is power when it comes to helping your child’s communication grow.
Still have questions about how best to help your child learn to communicate? Call us today or book a free consultation in our office.