If you’re concerned your child may have delayed speech development, it can be a worrying time but rest assured there are a number of strategies you can employ for helping a speech delayed toddler. While we would advise seeking help from a speech-language pathologist (SLP) to assist with primary speech delay, there are ways you can support your child alongside professional help.
Signs your child has delayed speech include:
- They are not using gestures by 12 months.
- They prefer to use gestures over vocal communication by 18 months.
- They have difficulty imitating sounds by 18 months and struggle with simple verbal requests.
- They can imitate speech or gestures but they are not initiating or speaking spontaneously by two years.
- They repeat certain sounds or words but cannot use oral language to communicate immediate needs.
- They have an inability to follow simple directions by the age of two.
- They have an unusual tone by the age of two.
- They are especially difficult to understand. For guidance – as a parent, you should be able to understand half of your child’s speech at the age of two, three-fourths by three years, and almost all your child’s speech should be intelligible by anyone by the time they are four.
If your child is showing some of these signs, they may have delayed speech. Here are some speech delay exercises you can do at home to support your child’s development:
Use a straw
Encouraging your child to drink through a straw promotes your child’s use of the tongue and pallet, which develops oral muscles. This is important as the stronger the oral muscles, the easier your child will find it to form the right shapes when speaking. Sucking different consistencies through a straw, like drinks and thicker substances like desserts, and blowing bubbles through the straw can really help with these exercises. Another helpful activity is blowing traditional bubbles which helps develop the “w” and “o” sound.
Try Sign Language
Some parents worry that learning sign language will delay their child’s speech further. However, research suggests that baby sign language can actually speed up cognition and increases verbal skills in children. Because speech delay can be so frustrating for children, signing relieves some of this angst and allows children to communicate with their parents, increasing bonding time and opportunities to learn vocally. Start with simple sign language, so as not to overwhelm your child, and consistently use the signs alongside verbal communication. You can find a library of signing tools to help with this.
Flashcards can be a great way to help your child’s speech development. You can either purchase or make your own tangible flash cards, or use a flash card app. Showing your child a picture with the word written next to it and saying the word together can help cement basic vocabulary for more visual learners.
Similarly to flashcards, sensory products can accelerate speech development. Try using microphones for voice control, sound and music to encourage listening, and imagery to stimulate discussion. Fun mini bubble mirrors are a great way to practice oral shapes together! Another way to encourage speech development is by using the Interactive LED Fanlite. The fan’s bright colors can be controlled in eight different modes – three automatic and five activated by sound, using the internal or external microphone. Another visual way to develop communication and language skills is by using the Soundboard. Each of the eight frames can display images and words and illuminate while playing a prerecorded message. Pairing pronunciation with an image or word is a visual and interactive way to help your child associate words and sounds with objects.
A sensory room can be a safe haven for purposeful communication, giving your child a calm and relaxing environment to try new words with a variety of sensory props. If your child has speech or language delays, we can help you design the perfect multisensory room to encourage development.