There is nothing more frustrating than knowing your child needs help and you cannot find anyone to provide that help.
Waiting on evaluations and services is a major issue in the early intervention world today.
Parents are told over and over again to pursue services, only to pursue them and get placed on a waiting list. My son is number 10,000 and something on a waiver list right now. He has been on that list for over a year and half with little movement.
I don't want to harp on the waiting issue too much because from where I sit there isn't much I can do to change that issue right now, BUT what I can do, is provide some ideas and strategies that you can start at home during the waiting period.
This week, I will focus on strategies for encouraging speech at home while waiting on speech therapy services. MANY little ones pursue speech as their first therapy, as it is one of the most obvious areas of development that begins to show deficits early.
Let me go ahead and say this first: I am not a speech therapist.
I do not have a degree in speech therapy, but I HAVE attended approximately 800 speech therapy sessions between the 8 cumulative years of speech therapy, 2x a week that both of my boys have attended. I do not just drop them off at these sessions-I sit-I listen intently-I take notes-I ask a million questions-I ask for homework-I do my darndest to implement the strategies used during the session; therefore, I have decided to give myself an honorary speech therapy degree!
But....that doesn't count for much, and I want to honor the extra years and knowledge that speech therapists must pursue to become experts in their fields; so for the information provided in this post, I did consult a licensed, pediatric speech therapist, Jordan Cannon. She has been in the field for over ten years, and our family had the honor of working with her throughout my oldest son's early years in speech therapy.
Below are five strategies that you can start using at home NOW to help your little one progress in the area of speech development:
Modeling simple language for your child is helps them to imitate. It also helps them use the words/ phrases independently in meaningful contexts. When you give a model and name/label an object, bring the object close to your mouth. Then model the word. When you put the item by your mouth before handing it to them, your child will start assigning meaning between the item you are holding and the word you are saying. If your child imitates after you, give it to them. If not, label it once again and give it to them.
2. More Comments, Less Questions
Your child may not like it when you use a lot of questions. They feel pressured and may even get frustrated. Instead, make comments on what you can hear, see, smell and touch. If you are talking about a story of a farm house, make comments like, “Oh, I can see a big red barn”, “The dog says bow-wow” instead of asking questions like “What can you see?”, “What does the dog say?”
3. Use Parallel Talk
Providing children with a language-rich environment is essential. One easy way to do this is with a concept called parallel talk. This simply means narrating actions as you’re doing them.
For example, let’s say your child is watching you cook dinner. You could say, “I’m stirring the batter and now I’m pouring it into the pan. Oh, the oven is hot!” Or, when playing with your child, you might say, “Your car is so fast! Vroom!” After enough practice, children will start to associate this language with the corresponding actions, and hopefully begin to do their own parallel talk!
4. Set Up Routines and Use Repetitive Language
Use the same words/phrases repeatedly during routine activities. Repetitive language can be in the form of rhymes, songs, simple story books etc. Use gestures, actions and pointing when required simultaneously along with speech. Give your child sufficient time to respond i.e. approximately 10 seconds. Pause and let your child fill in the blanks. If they do not, fill in the blank for them after the wait time. For example, sing, “When you’re happy and you know it, clap your ____ (hands) or when playing with a car/track, hold the car and say, "Ready, Set, ______(GO)."
5. Expand Your Child's Utterances
If your child is using single words, add another word to it. For example if your child looks at a picture of a dog and says, “Dog”. You can add another word to it, such as, “Black dog”, “Dog running” etc. If your child uses two word phrases, you can say “Dog is black”, “Dog is barking” etc.
These are just a few strategies to get you started on your journey, especially if you are being met with a waitlist before services. I remember at the beginning of our journey, when my son was still non-verbal, I felt like I TALKED ALL THE TIME. I was honestly exhausted from it. There was never a quiet moment. I just talked, talked, talked to him even when he wasn't talking back. If I was driving-I was talking about what I saw along the road. If I was cooking- I was talking through the steps of the recipe. If I wasn't talking, I was reading or singing to him. You will feel exhausted, but hold strong-you got this! When that silence turns to words, it will be worth all the talk!
All my love and support, Anna