Good evening, everyone. Speech-language pathologist/momma here. With New Year’s Day just having happened, I’m seeing all these New Year Resolutions on social media. This got me to thinking about what everyone may hope will be in store for their children this year, as well as my own. If your child has communication needs, you’re most likely setting new goals for your child all throughout the year, due to goals being met or as your child’s wants and needs change as they grow older. Something I want to say before you read on is this: no matter what your child’s starting point is, I believe that all children can learn.
Where to Begin
#1) Prioritize what is most important. Your child may have many areas of speech an/or language weaknesses at this time. List your child’s areas of difficulty and determine what is the biggest BARRIER to them getting their wants and needs met and/or communicating effectively with others. Easier said than done, I know. For example, if your child has difficulty with following directions (i.e. Conner, go get your ball and bring it to me) AND has trouble conveying their wants and needs (i.e. such as not talking much, not talking at all, difficulty expressing their thoughts in an organized manner) as a speech-language pathologist, I would direct my focus on giving them the ability to make their wants and needs known. Many children master the art of pointing and grunting soon, but that is not always an effective method. Being able to convey your wants and needs is important for safety purposes, as well as quality of life.
#1 cont.) Figure out the root cause, so you will be treating the cause and NOT the symptoms. If you have not yet had your child evaluated by a speech-language pathologist, the words in bold entails the whole purpose of an evaluation in the first place. Example: “My child is not talking yet.” The symptom is that their child “is not talking yet.” What is the cause? There are many possible causes and it may just not be one cause. Perhaps their child does not have the vocabulary in place, as in, do they KNOW what words to say? Has their hearing been checked? Do they have a history of being late in meeting developmental milestones? Do they already have a certain diagnosis, which has symptoms of delayed communication? Maybe it’s something as simple as they don’t have a reason to talk. Perhaps they are getting a lot of their wants and needs met by pointing or gesturing, so hey, if it’s not broke, why fix it?
#2) Once you have completed #1, determine your child’s starting point for that skill. This part may take some time, depending on what that target skill is. If your goal for your child is to learn more words so they can UNDERSTAND and SAY more words, you’ll want to make a list of the main words they seem to understand and a list of the words they can say. If your goal for your child is to improve their ability to understand more of what other’s say to them, ask them some questions and write down how many they responded to correctly v. did not respond to correctly. For more examples of how to find your child’s starting point, click here and find the area that corresponds on what you want to work on your child with. Click here What You Need to Do if Your Child Needs Speech-Language Therapy and scroll down a tiny bit to see communication milestones.
#3) Set a realistic goal. By looking at the developmental charts in the link above, you now have a general idea of what level your child is performing at. If your child is 4 years old, but their communication skills are at a 2 year old level, set your goal(s) based on the 3 year old level. Look at this way: you wouldn’t ask your child to run if they were just learning how to stand. As your child’s development level changes, so will their goal.
#4) Decide which tools and methods you are going to use to progress towards the goal. Okay, I made that sound much more formal than it is in actuality…using everyday activities and games with your child will be enough in most cases, as long as you incorporate the goal in mind. For example, if your child is only saying 1 word at a time and their goal is to string 2 words together, make a list of ways you can help your child string those words together. Some example methods are tapping, modeling, using objects to represent each word…please see the following links if you would like methods and ways to incorporate these methods through everyday activities:
How to Improve Your Child’s Speech at Home Using Everyday Activities
Everyday Activities to do at Home to Help Your Child Start Talking
How to Expand Your Child’s Vocabulary to Improve Their Communication
How to Teach Your Nonverbal Child to Communicate Without Using Words
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
How to Improve Your Child’s Attention Span
How to Help Your Child Talk More
How To Help Your Child With Sensory Issues Cope With Holidays and Social Gatherings
How to Improve Your Child’s Ability to Answer and Ask Questions
#5) Make notes. What’s method or activity worked particularly well that day? What didn’t? Just remember to be consistent in your efforts and patient. It is normal for a child to resent change, especially if you’re asking them to do something new. It may take a few weeks or longer, but once your child learns what you expect of them, their resistance to the change will gradually decrease.
#6) Track your progress. At least once a month, do a progress check with your child. See what they can do at that point and compare it to what they could do at their starting point in #2. This is to ensure what you are doing is effective (see #7).
#7) Be patient. As in very patient!! Even as a speech-language pathologist providing speech-language therapy in a therapy room, it sometimes may take months and months before a noticeable improvement can be seen by others. It’s all depending on the severity of the delay or impairment, the number of co-existing factors, how long your child has presented with this delay or disorder prior to intervention at home and/or therapy session, child’s age, attention span….I’ll stop there…be patient!
#8) Click on the link below to see what area your child falls under (i.e. not talking yet, not talking enough, difficulty comprehending, delayed basic concept knowledge, impaired vocabulary, etc ), so you can read about specific suggestions and methods regarding how to help your child progress towards their goal.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to create a post, no names mentioned of course, that will hopefully help your child.
This article was written by a speech-language pathologist, but is not meant to replace a speech-language evaluation or speech-language therapy. If your child is already receiving speech-language therapy at this time, please continue to work on improving your child’s communication at home. Therapy is so much more effective when we all work together with the same goal in mind.