Language Delays During Childhood
Your child is acquiring language skills more slowly than “normal”. What can you do to help your child acquire these necessary skills?
*Speak with your pediatrician. Is a referral to a speech therapist appropriate? Should your child’s hearing be tested? Is there a medical cause for the language delay?
*Speak to your child often and using adult language. Your child needs to hear the spoken word to help him acquire language skills, so speak often to him and to others in his presence. Use adult language rather than baby-talk to help him learn how to communicate effectively. Use good eye contact when you speak and listen. Share (in an age-appropriate manner) your thoughts and feelings; seek the same from your child. For example you may say, “I am hungry and would like a peanut butter sandwich. Are you hungry? What would you like?” Or you may say, “What do you think about our family vacation?”, validate whatever position he may take, and then offer your own position as well.
*Read to your child for at least 15 minutes each night at bedtime. This not only helps prepare your child for sleep, but it also helps him acquire language skills (both reading and speaking).
*Sing to and with your child. Lessons set to music are often very well received by children. You can establish and sing theme songs for particular activities (i.e., “Splish, Splash, I Was Takin’ a Bath” at every bath time) or sing whatever song seems appropriate in the moment. You can also create new songs with lyrics you write specific to an activity or interest (i.e., to the tune of “Old McDonald” sing “Little Johnny had a bear. Its fur was brown and gold. He took this bear just everywhere; this bear he had to hold . . .)
*Play word games with your child. If you see a car, say, “What IS that?” If your child says “car”, praise your child generously. Then, ask your child for a word that rhymes with car. You can prompt with “star” or “far”. For every rhyming word your child offers, praise him again. You may also ask for words for other kinds of transportation. You can prompt with “airplane”. There are many follow-up questions you can ask. For example, “What colors are the cars that you see from here?” Your child may struggle to answer your questions at first, but do not despair or pressure him for answers. If he cannot answer your questions after you have prompted with sample answers, smile and move on to another topic of discussion. Over time, as you consistently ask him questions such as these, he will eventually become adept at answering your questions.
*Use brightly colored flash cards to help your child learn to identify pictures, shapes, colors, etc.
*Find language skills lessons on the Internet and work on those lessons with your child.
By proceeding as indicated above, you can help your child deal effectively with language delays.