What You Need to Do if Your Child Needs Speech-Language Therapy

Good morning, everyone. Speech-language pathologist/momma here. If your child is having a problem, you want to “nip it in the bud” and get the problem solved as quickly as possible. If your child is participating in speech-language therapy or may participate in a speech-language evaluation, their problem is currently with their speech or language, or both.

First Things First

Get in the right mindset. First thing you need to know is DO NOT be intimidated by what may lie ahead of you and your child. No, you probably did not go to school to be a speech-language pathologist (SLP) and many of us aren’t nurses or doctors, but we still tend to our children if they get sick. If I’m not sure how to best help them, I’m going to talk to a nurse or doctor that does, and take it from there. The activities and techniques I suggest in this post are all everyday activities you are already doing; I am here to show you how you can adapt those everyday activities to improve your child’s speech and language. If you’re like most parents, including myself, you do not want to waste their years at home drilling them and making them miserable; you do, however, want to teach them things in a way that is enjoyable for them and yourself. You see your kids WAY more hours a day than we SLPs get to, so what you do at home in addition to the time they spend with their SLP is going to push them forward at a much faster rate. Part of providing therapy services is providing the child’s family with the knowledge they need to help improve their child’s speech and language skills at home. Speaking from firsthand experience, the more speech and language specific therapy exercises parents do at home with their kids, the faster they progress through therapy.

Where to Start

Determine the cause. If your child has not yet received a speech or language evaluation, start with that. Even if you do not want them to participate in therapy at this time, it is important to know the cause of their issues so you can treat the cause and not the symptoms. Very important to remember that. TREAT THE CAUSE/SOURCE of the symptoms. If you only treat the symptoms, it’s like putting a band-aid on a broken arm.

In the meantime…If it is going to be a while before your child receives a speech-language evaluation, check out what your child should be doing for their age. After looking at the developmental milestones, check out “Finding My Child’s Starting Point” below the milestones in order to figure out what your child can and can not do. Do not get overwhelmed by the developmental milestones! There’s so many because I am trying to make this article adapt to a wide range of ages. Not sure if the cause of their symptoms is their “speech” or “language?” Could be one or the other or both.

Speech is how clearly a person says each sound. Either you can say a sound the correct way or you can’t. For example, if your child is older than 4 years old and substitutes their “k” for “t” (saying “tat” instead of “cat”) their speech is impacted. Another example of a speech delay or disorder is if your child is 5 years old and you can only understand about 50% of what they say. Pretty cut and dry. Language is much broader. Language is how well a person processes information (what they hear, see, or read), and how effective they are at communicating their wants, needs, thoughts, and opinions to others. “Communication” can be speaking, writing, gesturing, or sign language. Language also deals with memory, attention span, following directions, vocabulary, basic concepts (colors, shapes, sizes, animals), the list goes on and on. If it has something to do with thinking and what you need to know in order to form thoughts and opinions and communicate those to other people, it’s language. An example of a possible language delay or disorder would be if you asked your 4 year old their name and they reply with “Daddy” or “4 years old”; they are not comprehending your question. Another example would be if your child is wanting some type of item/activity, but is unable to convey what he/she wants. Your child KNOWS what they want and may even be able to see a mental image of the desired item/activity in their mind, but can not effectively communicate that to YOU. A person can have trouble with only speech, only language, or BOTH.

Speech Developmental Milestones

This chart was taken from the following website: http://www.playingwithwords365.com/speech-articulation-development-whats-normal-what-isn’t/ 

Language Developmental Milestones

The milestones below came from http://www.ldonline.org/article/6313

By age one


  • Recognizes name
  • Says 2-3 words besides “mama” and “dada”
  • Imitates familiar words
  • Understands simple instructions
  • Recognizes words as symbols for objects: Car – points to garage, cat – meows

Between one and two


  • Understands “no”
  • Uses 10 to 20 words, including names
  • Combines two words such as “daddy bye-bye”
  • Waves good-bye and plays pat-a-cake
  • Makes the “sounds” of familiar animals
  • Gives a toy when asked
  • Uses words such as “more” to make wants known
  • Points to his or her toes, eyes, and nose
  • Brings object from another room when asked

Between two and three


  • Identifies body parts
  • Carries on ‘conversation’ with self and dolls
  • Asks “what’s that?” And “where’s my?”
  • Uses 2-word negative phrases such as “no want”.
  • Forms some plurals by adding “s”; book, books
  • Has a 450 word vocabulary
  • Gives first name, holds up fingers to tell age
  • Combines nouns and verbs “mommy go”
  • Understands simple time concepts: “last night”, “tomorrow”
  • Refers to self as “me” rather than by name
  • Tries to get adult attention: “watch me”
  • Likes to hear same story repeated
  • May say “no” when means “yes”
  • Talks to other children as well as adults
  • Solves problems by talking instead of hitting or crying
  • Answers “where” questions
  • Names common pictures and things
  • Uses short sentences like “me want more” or “me want cookie”
  • Matches 3-4 colors, knows big and little

Between three and four


  • Can tell a story
  • Has a sentence length of 4-5 words
  • Has a vocabulary of nearly 1000 words
  • Names at least one color
  • Understands “yesterday,” “summer”, “lunchtime”, “tonight”, “little-big”
  • Begins to obey requests like “put the block under the chair”
  • Knows his or her last name, name of street on which he/she lives and several nursery rhymes

Between four and five


  • Has sentence length of 4-5 words
  • Uses past tense correctly
  • Has a vocabulary of nearly 1500 words
  • Points to colors red, blue, yellow and green
  • Identifies triangles, circles and squares
  • Understands “In the morning” , “next”, “noontime”
  • Can speak of imaginary conditions such as “I hope”
  • Asks many questions, asks “who?” And “why?”

Between five and six


  • Has a sentence length of 5-6 words
  • Has a vocabulary of around 2000 words
  • Defines objects by their use (you eat with a fork) and can tell what objects are made of
  • Knows spatial relations like “on top”, “behind”, “far” and “near”
  • Knows her address
  • Identifies a penny, nickel and dime
  • Knows common opposites like “big/little”
  • Understands “same” and “different”
  • Counts ten objects
  • Asks questions for information
  • Distinguished left and right hand in herself
  • Uses all types of sentences, for example “let’s go to the store after we eat”Attention Span Developmental Milestones
    The chart below came from http://www.parentingpress.com/media/is-this-a-phase_excerpt2.html

    Typical Attention Span by Age
    Age Activity How Can We Help?
    2 to 7 mo. A baby may watch someone, copy expressions, and trade sounds for as long as 2-3 minutes at 2 months. By 7 months, this typically continues for at least 5 minutes. Take turns leading and following. Be warm, interested, and interesting to look at. Let babies rest when they turn away.
    18 mo. Alone, a toddler may spend 30 seconds on a single activity or a minute or two on several activities before seeking the caregiver’s attention. Keep adult expectations realistic.
    2 yr. Alone, a 2-year-old may spend 30-60 seconds on a single activity; with an adult’s active encouragement, 2-3 minutes By playing with toddlers or talking about their activities, adults can increase children’s attention spans. Point out characteristics of whatever they are playing with: “Do you see the black dot on it?” “Will it fit in the cup?” “Can you push it over here?”
    2½ yr. Alone, the toddler may spend about 2 minutes on a single activity. The usual preference: for almost constant attention from an adult.

    With or near a small group of children, a toddler may play peacefully for 10 minutes.

    3 yr. A preschooler working alone may spend 3-8 minutes on an interesting activity and may finish it if it’s easy. Look for ways to keep preschoolers interested in the activities they start. Encourage and follow their interests. Avoid distracting them or taking over the activities.
    3½ yr. Working alone, a preschooler can stay busy for 15 minutes if there are a variety of interesting choices.
    4 yr. By 4, a child engrossed in an activity may ignore distractions such as the call to dinner.

    Alone, the 4-year-old may spend 7-8 minutes on a single activity, or as much as 15 minutes if the activity is new and especially interesting (an eye exam, for example).

    With a small group, a 4-year-old may spend 5-10 minutes playing without interruption.

    Four-year-olds understand it is harderto pay attention to uninteresting tasks, or when distracted by noise or their own thoughts. They are more likely to stay interested when they’re comfortable with the task or project and feel successful. They may need help to meet their standards. Adults can also keep children interested in projects with impromptu games and humor.
    4½ yr. Working alone, the pre-kindergartener may spend 2-3 minutes on a task chosen by an adult such as getting dressed or picking up toys.
    5 yr. By 5, most children can ignore minor distractions. Alone, they will focus on a single interesting activity for 10 or 15 minutes and on an assigned task for 4-6 minutes if it’s easy and interesting. A small group of children can work or play together without interruption for 10-25 minutes. Recognize that personal interest remains the most important motivation for 5-year-olds. It will double the length of their attention span.
    6 yr. Working alone on a single activity, a 6-year-old may stay interested for as much as 30 minutes. Continue to build on children’s interests and stay alert to difficult tasks, so that you can help.
    Compiled from multiple sources by Helen F. Neville

    Finding My Child’s Starting Point For Speech

    If you’re not sure about which sounds your child is saying correctly, please click  here to give your child a screener. A screener is where you show your child pictures and write down EXACTLY the way they say it. For example, if they say “gog” instead of “dog,” write down “gog.” (A screener is not a replacement for a speech sound production evaluation that is administered by a speech-language pathologist, but it gives you a good idea of your child’s speech performance and allows you to know what sounds to work on with your child).

Finding My Child’s Starting Point for Language Skills

As you can see from above, language is much broader and can be a number of things. Language is also very interrelated. If your child is having trouble in one area of language, that often shows up in another area. For example, if they are having trouble following directions, it could also be either because they have difficulty with memory, attention span, or comprehension; or it could be all of those things.
Make a list of areas from the development chart in your child’s age range they have difficulty with. If you’re not sure, start at the top of your child’s age group on the chart and work your way down. You may either have to ask your child directly or simply observe them in order to determine what they can and can not do.
Test your child’s ability in those areas. For example, are they three years old and not stringing many words together? For example, if they say, “water” or “eat” or “play” instead of, “I want water” or “want eat,” write down that they are only saying 1 word at a time. Are they having trouble getting simple things when asked? Such as, “Sue, bring me the book.” Do they bring the book? This could be comprehension and vocabulary. Does Sue understand what you want her to do or that you are asking her to do something (comprehension)? Even if she doesn’t get the book, does she look around as if she’s searching for something, which gives you a clue that SHE knows she has been asked to do something. Does Sue know that square thing is called a “book” (vocabulary)?
To test their comprehension, ask them to perform simple tasks involving items or activities you ARE CERTAIN they know the names for. For example, don’t ask them to go get a dictionary, if they haven’t been exposed to it on a daily basis. That wouldn’t be fair!

laurie metcalf jackie GIF by Roseanne

An example of testing their vocabulary: make a list of words you think they should KNOW. Familiar, everyday items they are exposed to. Ask them to point to the words from that list or see if they look in the direction of that person or object. Examples of things to test are familiar people (sissy, mommy, daddy) and familiar things, such as the “dog, cat, ball, block, etc.” Books are great for this part. Flip through a book and ask them to point to certain things.

How to Improve My Child’s Speech and Language

Scroll down the list and click on the areas that are relevant to your child to find specific ways you can help your child’s speech and language with everyday activities.

Is Your Child’s Speech Difficult to Understand? How to Improve Your Child’s Speech At Home

How to Improve Your Child’s Speech at Home Using Everyday Activities
If you want a very structured plan, please see How To Improve Your Child’s Speech at Home Using A Structured Approach

How To Teach Your Child to Communicate if They are Still Not Talking

Everyday Activities to do at Home to Help Your Child Start Talking

How to Teach Your Nonverbal Child to Communicate Without Using Words

How to Teach Your Child to String More Words Together

How to Help Your Child Talk More

How to Teach Your Child Their Colors, Body Parts, Describing Things…

Part 1 of The Basic Language Concepts Your Child Needs and How to Teach Them at Home

Part 2 of the Basic Language Concepts Your Child Needs and How to Teach Them at Home

Child Have Trouble Understanding What Others Are Saying to Them?

How to Improve Your Child’s Ability to Answer and Ask Questions

Does Your Child Having Difficulty Completing Tasks Because of Attention Span?

How to Improve Your Child’s Attention Span

How to Teach Your Child to Talk Without Using “Empty” Words

How to Expand Your Child’s Vocabulary to Improve Their Communication

Social Skills

Why I Stopped Calling My Child Shy and the Steps I’ve Been Taking to Reverse the Effects

Sensory Sensitivity

How To Help Your Child With Sensory Issues Cope With Holidays and Social Gatherings

I hope everyone finds something in here that is helpful. If you do not see something that relates to your child, please leave a comment below or email me at reachthroughspeech@outlook.com and I will do my best to create a post, no names mentioned of course, that will hopefully help your child. The links above can also be found from the pull down menu on top titled “Blog Posts by Category” and is updated every couple of weeks to include new information related to speech or language. Have a merry Christmas, ya’ll.



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