Ways to Work With Children Who Have Speech Delays

By Sharon Secor
Casually encouraging communication throughout the day is important for children with a speech delay.
Casually encouraging communication throughout the day is important for children with a speech delay.

Five percent to 10 percent of preschool children have a speech delay, making it the most common developmental issue, according to the University of Michigan Health System. If you suspect a delay, you'll need to have your child assessed by a speech pathologist. A speech delay can have several different causes, so a good diagnosis is essential to taking the most suitable treatment approach. The sooner a speech delay is identified and treatment begun, the better it is for your child's ongoing language development.

Conversation Is Important

According to the University of Michigan Health System, one of the best steps you can take for a child with a speech delay is to talk to him frequently. As you go about your day, give your child a running narrative, using short sentences and small words. Describe what you are doing and why; point out colors and objects. Periodically make eye contact. Leave a pause for him to reply every so often. Teaching him words and the rhythm of conversation is important to his overall language development.

Encourage Your Child To Ask

When your child wants something, give him the opportunity to ask for it, rather than just giving him what he is pointing to. If you hear him try to say the word or a syllable of it, say it slowly and correctly. Then expand upon it, filling in the rest of a short sentence. For example, you can ask, "Do you want that cup?" Then continue, with a bright OK and tell him you'll get the cup, adding the color of the cup to the sentence. Get into the habit of pausing and giving him the opportunity to communicate his needs to you.

Get Down and Play Together

According to the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists, playing with your child can help. Get out the farm animals or the service station and some cars, get down on the floor, and play with a storyline, making it up together. Children can learn a lot with this type of play, pretending to be other people, trying out a new persona or two and different voices. It is an enjoyable and relaxed way for your child to try out new sounds and vocal combinations. Exaggerate some of your words and sounds, so your child can see the mechanics of producing them, such as how to position the tongue and teeth.

Singing Through The Day

The University of Michigan Health System suggests singing with your child as a means of learning new words and working with sounds. Learning songs exercises the memory and encourages listening. Music therapy as a means for helping children with delayed speech has garnered the attention of researchers. In 2010, BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine published the results of a pilot study by German researchers from the University of Witten/Herdecke and Community Hospital Herdecke. It was a small study, just 18 children from 3 1/2 to 6 years old, each with delayed speech. The results were encouraging, including improvements in cognitive functioning and communication skills.

About the Author

Sharon Secor began writing professionally in 1999, while attending Empire State University. Secor specializes primarily in personal finance and economics, and writes on a broad range of subjects. She is published in numerous online and print publications, including Freedom's Phoenix, the ObscentiyCrimes and the American Chronicle.