Speech Development

Is Parental Involvement in Children's Speech Therapy Important?

Why Parents Should Be Involved

According to the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists, children acquire language skills through social interaction, which means parents can join with their children to improve their speech. According to the Hanen Centre, children learn to communicate through everyday activities and with the important people in their lives -- most notably, parents. While a speech therapist might be more focused on your child saying words correctly, you as a parent might be interested in your child’s participation and building his confidence. Both of these areas need to be addressed in speech therapy.

Therapy Happens Everywhere

Speech therapy is concentrated during a session, but that doesn’t mean the therapy stops when the session with a speech-language pathologist is over. A speech-language pathologist will typically teach you skills or strategies to use at home. When a child learns therapeutic tools throughout daily activities that are meaningful to him, such as playtime or bedtime, therapy tends to work better because it has a purpose.

Research

According to a 2011 study by Megan Roberts and Ann Kaiser of Vanderbilt University, parents who interacted more with their child and responded to their child’s attempts to communicate had a positive effect on their child’s vocabulary, grammar or speech understanding development compared to children who received no therapy or sessions led only by a speech-language pathologist. The study actually found that parents were more effective than speech-language pathologists at improving language and grammar. According to KidsHealth, children had the quickest and longest lasting results when their parents were involved.

You Know Your Child

When you start a regimen with a speech-language pathologist, that professional relies upon you to communicate your child’s personality and preferences, so that he can tailor the sessions for the best motivation for your child. Feedback from parents also helps a therapist formulate goals. Also at times, your speech-language pathologist might change. You, however, remain a constant in your child’s life. You can help maintain some stability and consistency in your child’s therapy.

How to Improve a Preschooler's Speech Clarity

Model the correct pronunciation for your child's vocabulary. Even if you think the way your child pronounces certain words is cute, mimicking the incorrect sounds could encourage your child to continue using baby talk or incorrect pronunciations. The Children's Speech Therapy Center suggests that you say the proper word back to your child. If he asks you for his "kiki," try saying "Oh, you'd like your blanket? Here it is!"

Read to your child, and expose her to words that she might have difficulty with. If your little one struggles with the "r" sound, read a book that has plenty so she can hear you using the sound in various words and encourage her to do the same, suggests Corella Speech Pathology in Innaloo, Washington. Books that offer repetition or rhyming sounds can be especially helpful as you encourage your child to repeat the sounds or rhyme with you.

Practice naming objects around the house while doing chores, or use imaginative play to get your child to open up and get plenty of practice. Whether you get her talking about the various ingredients as you bake cookies, you name various signs as you drive around town or you have a pretend tea party, you get your child talking and practicing even tough words.

Look at your child and give her your full attention when she's speaking to you. That way, you can easily notice when she mumbles or has trouble with a specific word or sound. It also gives her instant gratification for talking and expanding her vocabulary, teaching that you value communication which will encourage her to talk more.

Ask your pediatrician for a referral to a speech therapist if your child has issues with certain sounds and doesn't seem to be improving, or has problems such as stuttering, difficulty conversing, a vocabulary that doesn't seem to be improving or hearing difficulties, suggests KidsHealth.org. She may need speech therapy to help her improve clarity and address issues that could be affecting her speech abilities.

How to Promote Speech in Toddlers

Build on the basic words and phrases your toddler already uses. If your toddler says, "Want milk," you can expand on that rudimentary sentence by saying, "You want some milk in your cup? Let's go get some!" This helps your toddler upgrade to longer sentences and understand the proper phrasing for questions and requests.

Narrate the things you do each day to your toddler. While driving in the car, you can tell her what you see out your window or talk about the ingredients as you make lunch. Your toddler's vocabulary is limited, so the more exposure she has to various words and phrases, the more it encourages her to speak up.

Give your toddler simple choices that require more than just a "yes" or "no" answer. Chances are that your toddler already has the word "no" down pat, so instead of asking, "Do you want a snack?" try, "What would you like for a snack, bananas or peaches?" This requires your toddler to test-drive a new word, rather than relying on her old favorites.

Read books together and name the familiar objects that your toddler sees. Reading is an important part of language development, even if your toddler isn't the one doing the reading. Books -- especially those with familiar characters, rhyming or stimulation through touch, flaps and texture -- help your toddler start talking about the things that she sees. Looking at pictures, pointing out objects and hearing you say new words can promote speech and a love of books overall.

Be patient while your toddler's speech is still developing. While it can be frustrating to hear your child stumble over a word -- and tempting to interrupt and finish the sentence for her -- it robs her of a chance to gain confidence in her new speech skills. When your toddler is talking, listen carefully and be patient with her basic grasp of language. You'll be rewarded with a toddler who is confident and secure in her ability to speak.

Warning

While all toddlers develop differently, if you have concerns about speech development, talk to your pediatrician. You doctor can examine your child and decide whether or not speech therapy is appropriate.

How to Teach Toddlers to Pronounce the Letter R

Listen for instances when your toddler mispronounces words with R in them. It’s likely you will hear her replace the R sound with a W sound, such as “wain” for “rain” or “wed” for “red,” advises the licensed speech-language pathologist Renee Friedlander Rosenberg, with the East Prairie School District in Illinois. You might also hear your little one drop an R ending from a word, such as “laddah” for “ladder” or “diggah” for “digger.”

Correct the mispronunciation gently whenever your child mispronounces an R word so your little one will hear the correct pronunciation. Emphasize the R sound clearly to teach your child by modeling the correct sound. For example, when you hear “wain,” you might say, “I see the rain, too. The rain is giving the flowers a drink!”

Practice R sounds by combining this sound with a long vowel sound, advises Chicago Speech Therapy. Try saying the word “ear” by lengthening the E sound significantly and then transitioning into the R sound. Say “oar” and “air” also by stretching out the vowel sounds and blending them into the R sound. Invite your little one to say these words, too.

Read books to your toddler to provide more exposure to the R sounds. Whenever you read R words, enunciate them clearly for the most effect.

Sing songs to your toddler so she can hear the proper pronunciation of a variety of sounds. Although your toddler might not have strong enough verbal skills to join in all the words, the repetition and melody of songs can make pronunciation stronger.

Instruct family and friends not to make an issue of the mispronunciation. Tell people that it is not unusual for children as old as 7 or 8 years of age to mispronounce R sounds, states registered speech language pathologist Shelley Hughes. No one should tease or mock toddlers about their speech.

The Importance of a Parent Reading to a Child With a Speech Delay

Age-Appropriate Books

Parents should pick books that will keep their child's interest and be at her level of understanding. At a young age, children may be intrigued by books with textures and lots of materials to touch. If the child is struggling with words, the tactile appeal of these books may heighten her interest in reading and listening to her parents read aloud.

Practicality of Picture Books

Books that have plenty of pictures in them may interest a child who struggles with using words. The visual aspect of the book will engage the child, and he can begin to match the picture to the words as his parent reads to him. Once the child becomes more familiar with the book, the parent can ask the child to identify the pictures. This is good practice for becoming more proficient at naming objects.

Repetition is Key

Hearing a book read aloud is helpful to a child with a speech delay because she gets the chance to hear words pronounced properly. To make the most of this activity, parents can do repetitive readings of the same group of books. The more the child hears particular words read aloud, the more likely she is to learn how to say them and use them appropriately in context.

Choose Rhyming Books

Rhyming books, in particular, are helpful for reading out loud to children with speech delays. They have a rhythmic appeal to children's ears, and are therefore more likely to keep their attention. Stories with a singsong tone may be easier for children to remember and repeat back to their parents. Plus, the rhyming helps children to understand word sounds, which is a key part of overcoming a speech delay.

Gifts for Speech Delayed Children

Music

Even though a child has delayed speech, hearing the rhythms and vocal rhyming of children's songs can help stimulate the link between language and pronunciation, explains the University of Michigan Health System. And, unlike books or toys, which kids can frequently drop on the floor prompting cries from the back seat in the middle of traffic, parents can play music CDs for their little ones while driving.

Books

Reading is one of the best ways to stimulate speech and language development. Give the child simple age-appropriate books, with repetitive themes, like "Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?" by Eric Carle, to help her learn a predictable pattern to the words in the story. Choose books with stiff cardboard pages that can easily fit inside the parent's bag for busy families or a large, colorful book that lets the child see the words and pictures up close and in great detail.

Outings

Stimulating environments encourage children with delayed speech to express themselves either by asking questions or by expressing excitement. Give the child a few day passes to the local children's museum, aquarium or zoo. The grocery store and park can help build everyday vocabulary and understanding, but a new adventure gives the child and parents a reason to exchange language before, during and after the trip, explains the University of Michigan Health System.

Toys

Delayed speech can occur for a number of reasons, but non-electronic toys that require the child to move her tongue and lips in a certain way can strengthen the muscles needed to speak, reports ApraxiaKids.org. Simple toys like blowing bubbles or a fun character cup with a straw instead of a sippy spout, encourage muscle control in the mouth region. For the child with noise-tolerant parents, child-friendly plastic musical instruments like the flute or kiddie saxophone are another option.

How to Communicate With a Speech-delayed Child

Speak or read to your child face to face. Your child will see how sounds are formed, and he will be better equipped to imitate you.

Name objects that you use or see regularly. This will help your child learn the word, the object the word refers to and the function of that object.

Emphasize your words with gestures. Point to your child's coat when you tell him it's time to put it on. Mime brushing your teeth when it's time for him to brush his.

Respond to your child's attempts to communicate. If you miss out on your child's use of gestures or made-up words, he may lack incentive to keep trying to be understood.

Pair words with sign language if your child seems to respond more readily to gestures than words.

Contact a speech therapist if your child is losing vocabulary or seems not to understand words that he used to know.