When we raise a child (particularly our first go-around), we’re quick to overreact about small concerns. Nevertheless, that parental instinct certainly has its important moments, like when your child seems to be struggling with language or speech. This may start as early as 12 months when you realize your little one isn‘t gesturing like others their age.
You might notice your two-year-old does little more than imitate the sounds others make or that your three- to four-year-old is difficult for even you to understand. If you suspect your child is struggling with a speech impediment, there are steps you can take to ease their discomfort early and even help them cope from home.
Consult a professional.
When you first suspect your child is dealing with a speech delay or impediment, reach out to their physician. The doctor may refer you to a speech-language pathologist (SLP) or another expert. At your appointment, your SLP will test your child’s speech development, milestones, and related concerns. Then, the speech-language pathologist will diagnose the issue, if applicable, and recommend the best course of treatment. Modern parents can even take advantage of services offering speech therapy online, ensuring your kiddo can get the speech therapy they need from the comfort of home.
Understand the root cause.
When your SLP, speech therapist, or other professional studies your child and their symptoms, their years of experience will help them to make an accurate assessment. Whatever concerns they have regarding your child’s speech and language development, they’ll likely notice a cause or list of suspected causes that led to this problem in the first place.
For instance, they might believe your child is facing a psychogenic speech impediment or one that’s based on psychological processes. In this case, your little one might benefit more from child or teen counseling instead of or in addition to speech therapy than from in-person or online speech therapy sessions alone.
What can you do at home?
Of course, your exact course of action will depend in part on your child’s diagnosis and the lifestyle you lead. However, a few particular tools or methods are critical for nearly any child’s speech, language, communication skills. For instance, speaking to and with your little one can help set an example for typical communication. Aim to speak simply, so they can understand you, but without an excess of “baby talk.” Talk through the chores you’re working through at home or describe your day. So long as it’s age-appropriate, the content isn’t as crucial as your discussion itself.
Additionally, reading to and with your child can benefit those with communication disorders or speech impediments. And, of course, it offers a great opportunity to instill a lifelong love of reading! Young people of all ages can benefit from time spent with books—even babies. Choose an assortment of picture or board books to read with your little one, letting them take in the illustrations and rhythm of the words as you read the story aloud. As your child grows, encourage them to read books themselves. You can even arrange for them to read to local seniors or shelter pets, offering a passion for community service and volunteerism alongside the communication benefits of reading aloud.
From licensed therapists and speech-language pathology experts, there are plenty of professionals with the knowledge and clinical experience necessary to help your child cope with a speech impediment or other speech or language disorders. However, the ways you work to help them at home are equally critical, if not more so. For parents and other caregivers, looking after the smallest family members is a full-time responsibility. From reading to simply chatting, their speech and language skills will be one less thing for you to worry about as they grow.