Insight Comprehensive Therapy – All children develop speech and language skills at their own pace, but if your child is having trouble saying a series of speech sounds, is unable to pair words together to make sentences or is having difficulty understanding directions at home or in school, it may be time to visit a speech-language pathologist. Speech-language pathologists (also known as speech therapists) specialize in evaluating, diagnosing, and treating a wide range of speech and language impairments, including motor speech disorders, cognitive communication disorders, birth defects that limit development, and social communication issues that make it difficult to detect language cues (e.g. autism spectrum disorder). When you visit a speech-language pathologist, a thorough assessment will determine if your child is meeting the necessary benchmarks for their age. If intervention is recommended, speech and language therapy at home will play a critical role in your child’s success. Just like learning to read or playing sports, speech and language development requires practice, persistence, and time to reinforce skills and see growth.
What are the Signs My Child Needs Speech Therapy at Home or Language Therapy at Home?
If your child needs speech and language therapy, it is important that they receive treatment as soon as possible to correct the problem before it impacts them later in life. However, it is often difficult for parents to identify speech and language issues or determine if a concern is simply part of the child’s normal development process. The following are some of the common signs your child should see a speech-language pathologist.
- Your child is not babbling between the ages of four to six months
- Your child is a late talker
- Your child is stuttering
- Your child has trouble engaging in social interactions with other children
- Your child has inconsistent or incoherent speech
- Your child cannot follow simple instructions
- Your child makes consistent phonological errors (e.g. saying “tar” in place of “star”)
- Your child’s speech is hard to understand
- Your child is not talking at school
- Your child has a lisp
- Your child has trouble reading and writing
Speech and language therapy is highly effective for most children, but success is dependent on a number of factors, including how early treatment begins and if speech and language therapy at home is consistent. If your child requires speech therapy at home or language therapy at home, here are six tips that can help you make your efforts a success.
Know Your Limitations and Set Realistic Goals
Before you begin speech and language therapy at home, parents should work with a speech-language pathologist to understand their child’s limitations, their objectives, and how to set realistic goals.
For example, there are many exercises parents can do at home with their children, but complex problems may require the assistance of a professional. The child’s age, temperament, and co-existing conditions also factor into what they are capable of achieving.
If you hit a roadblock or are ever uncertain, do not hesitate to reach out to your speech therapist.
Encourage Practice and Repetition
Practice and repetition are the most effective ways for children to learn speech sounds and build understanding. For example, if your child has difficulty saying a certain sound (such as “v”), model how to make the sound and encourage them to repeat it independently. Once they begin to master that sound, begin introducing other syllables (such as “va” or “vi”). You can then move on to whole words. As you work through this process, remember to be attentive and patient. If your child has anxiety or feels pressure as they are practicing, it will only make mastery worse and discourage them from continuing.
Make It Enjoyable
Speech therapy and language therapy at home may be frustrating for children. It can even feel like a chore or homework, especially if they are in school all day. If your child is struggling to stay engaged, come up with some games or challenges to make practicing more enjoyable. Playing “I spy,” picture flashcards, word searches, and apps for speech therapy are all great ways to engage with your child and make your time practicing fly by.
Positive reinforcement also goes a long way in encouraging your child to succeed. Be cheerful, give compliments, and have small rewards on hand to motivate them as they complete a task or reach a goal.
Reading is one of the most important things any parent can do with their child, but it is particularly beneficial when you are working through speech therapy together. When you ask questions about the story you are reading or discuss the illustrations, this stimulates the imagination and helps your child make connections between what they are hearing and seeing.
Children’s books can also be easily re-read, often at the request of the child. This not only helps with reinforcing the links between hearing, seeing, and saying, but it also is great for building new language skills and vocabulary.
Songs are another fun and effective way for children to stimulate everything from respiration and phonation to articulation and learning new words.
Because songs are repetitive and lyrics never change, there is more opportunity for verbal expression, pausing the music to fill in lyrics, and engaging in vocal play. Music is also enjoyable for children and can reduce the pressure of making mistakes that are more common in rote exercises.
Avoid Background Noise and Distractions
In order to get the most out of speech therapy and language therapy at home, you and your child need to be focused on the task at hand and not distracted by noise or another activity. If distractions are interfering with your work, try designating a quiet room or space at home for therapy, turn off TVs, and put aside smartphones, toys, and other stimuli. Breaking your time into small blocks with breaks can also help you both stay focused and engaged.
Therapy at home is an essential part of your child’s speech and language intervention. Not only will it reinforce the skills they learn during sessions with their speech therapist, but it will also help them achieve their goals faster, build confidence, and avoid further speech and language issues later in life. If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, contact Insight Comprehensive Therapy today to schedule an appointment with a speech-language pathologist.
Q: When should my child see a speech-language pathologist?
A: You should see a speech-language pathologist as soon as possible if you are concerned about your child’s speech or language development. A pediatrician or other healthcare professional may refer you to a speech-language pathologist for diagnosis and treatment if there is a concern with your child’s ability to talk or speak clearly, understand directions, or interact with other children.
Q: What should I expect during a speech evaluation?
A: Speech evaluations take about one or two hours to complete. A speech-language pathologist will thoroughly review the child’s medical history, conduct a physical exam, and assess speaking, interactions, and limitations through a series of tests. After the evaluation, the speech-language pathologist will make a diagnosis and discuss recommendations with parents/guardians.
Q: How long will my child need speech therapy?
A: Because every child and condition is different, it is difficult to determine how long speech and language therapy will be required. Some treatments may be as short as a few weeks and others can take years. However, research indicates that the frequency and duration of treatment will impact results. It is important for families to have realistic expectations and remember that treatment takes time, patience, and priority.