What can help my child if they are a late talker? Have you found yourself typing this into Google late at night wondering how to help your child’s speech progress?
I am the mom of a late talker and a Speech Language Pathologist. Even though I’ve had years of training and experience, I still found myself up late at night trying to make sure I was doing everything possible to help support language acquisition in my little one.
Here’s what to do if you suspect your child has speech and language delays:
- Know that this probably isn’t something you caused.
- Get his/her hearing screening by the pediatrician or audiologist.
- Call Early Intervention in your state and get an evaluation scheduled.
- Increase your intention modeling of language during daily routines.
- Use a sing-song voice to gain your child’s attention when you talk.
- Use gestures and facial expressions.
- Get on the floor and play with your child. Narrate their play with simple complete sentences.
- Make reading part of your daily routine.
- When your child is playing, don’t be afraid to model a single word over and over.
- Encourage sound effects, environmental noises and animal sounds.
- Track first words, sounds, signs
Let’s look at this list in more detail below.
Expressive Language Delays in Young Children
As a mother and a Speech Language Pathologist, I understand the concern and worry that surfaces when a child exhibits language delays. It’s a common scenario, and it’s crucial to know that these delays aren’t necessarily caused by something you did or didn’t do.
Despite being well-versed in speech pathology, when my own child faced communication hurdles, I definitely went through a wide range of emotions. It’s natural to feel this way. Every child progresses differently, and while some catch up on their own, others might need additional support. Trust your instincts; if you sense something isn’t right, absolutely take proactive steps. If you ask a group of mom friends you’ll probably hear plently of “oh, my Jake didn’t start talking until he was 3 but went straight to sentences” or “boys are always later than girls.” These one off stories about sudden sentence level conversation or falsehoods about gender impacting communication are meant to help, but really hurt. Many kids will catch up with their communication skills on their own, and we know that every child has their own specific developmental pattern. The critical thing to remember, is that even with all we know about communication development, we still don’t know which kids will catch up on their own without support and who will continue to show language delays over time. If we start intervention earlier, we have more time to intervene during a critical language period.
What to Do For Late-Talking Toddlers:
1. Know that this probably isn’t something you caused
When my own kids needed extra help, I felt so many emotions even though I’m an SLP myself. That’s to be expected. Kids with communication delays can make huge progress but we don’t know who will catch up on their own and who needs more help. If your gut tells you something is wrong, please take action and get your child evaluated.
2. Get hearing screening by the pediatrician or audiologist
Concerned parents should prioritize a hearing screening conducted by a pediatrician or an audiologist. Hearing issues could significantly impact speech development, and addressing these early is crucial. Kids with multiple ear infections are especially at risk, for having fluid in their ears but we recommend all children with communication delays be screened.
3. Call Early Intervention in your state and get an evaluation scheduled
Don’t hesitate to reach out to Early Intervention services in your area for an evaluation. Waiting until a certain age or for a pediatrician’s opinion isn’t necessary. Making the call early can be a huge game-changer for your child’s development. Here is a list of Early Intervention programs by state. You do NOT need a pediatricians referral for this program. Even if your pediatrician has recommended you wait and see, you can still take action for your child now because you know that waiting and watching can cause your child to fall farther behind.
4. Increase your intention modeling of language during daily routines
Utilize everyday moments to model language more intentionally. Employ short, complete sentences while narrating your actions throughout the day. For instance, during diaper changes, describe your actions, involving your child in the conversation.
5. Use a sing-song voice to gain your child’s attention
A sing-song voice may sound silly but it actually captivates a child’s attention so it makes it easier to engage them in communication. Use real words (not baby talk) but change the inflection in your voice.
6. Use gestures and facial expressions
Encourage your child to mimic your gestures and expressions. Non-verbal communication can serve as a big bridge to verbal expression. This includes pointing, waving, lifting your hands up to mean “where” and any other gestures you’d naturally use when talking.
7. Get on the floor and play with your child
Engage in interactive play with your child. Narrate their play activities using simple, complete sentences. This not only fosters language development but also enhances your bonding experience with your child.
8. Make reading part of your daily routine
Incorporate reading into your daily routine by scattering books around the house. Make a conscious effort to read more frequently, not just at bedtime. Need some book ideas for toddlers? I have tons of ideas!
Check these book ideas out:
- 30 Picture Books for Early Intervention Speech Therapy
- 10 Repetitive Picture Books to Use in Speech Therapy
- 14 Ways to Keep Reading FUN with a 2 Year Old
9. When your child is playing, don’t be afraid to model a single word over and over
Children often enjoy repetitive play, offering you opportunities to repeatedly model a single word. If they’re building blocks, consistently say “up” every time they add a block to increase their knowledge and exposure of this word.
10. Encourage sound effects, environmental noises and animal sounds
Embrace and encourage the use of sound effects, imitating environmental noises, and imitating animal sounds because these can all stimulate language development.
11. Track first words, sounds, signs
Utilize tracking sheets or tools to document your child’s progress in terms of first words, sounds, or signs such as this FREE Early Intervention First Words Tracker.
Be Proactive with Early Intervention
In the journey of nurturing a child’s speech and language development, early intervention and proactive approaches play a pivotal role. As parents and caregivers, we want what’s best for our kids, especially when it comes to their speech and language skills. Remember, you’re not alone in this.
Trust your instinct, seek help if needed and keep using these strategies consistently. Every child has their unique timeline for development and while some may catch up on their own, others might benefit from additional support. Celebrate the wins, both big and small, and keep creating a communication-friendly environment for our late talkers. Together, we can support these late talkers to reach their fullest potential.
Favorite Resources for Late Talkers
What other questions do you have about late talkers?
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