In this article Speech and Language Therapy for Children we give clear tips on how to correct speech delay in children.
Read also our introductory article Speech Delay in Toddlers where we talk about the common causes of speech delay in children and instructions on how to perform this correction work.
Before you start performing these activities, consult an expert!
Please do the following activities in a given strict order.
Sit with your child in a cozy place, for example, on the sofa or on the floor. Create an intimate, personal atmosphere: speak softly, gently, do not give orders, and do not be distracted. Take your child’s favorite toy and play a simple game with it. Manipulate the toy uttering sounds. It is important that your participation is not intrusive, but on the other hand, you have to make sure that you both actively participate in this game. You can select any activity, better the one that is clear and interesting to your child.
For example, you have a son and you play cars with him. You are moving the cars with your son uttering their beeping sound “beep-beep“. Try to establish verbal contact with your son. In the course of the play ask the child: “How does a car hum?”
And answer this question by yourself “Broom – broom” stretching vowels with pleasure. And if your lips and tongue are tired having pronounced this “broom – broom” twenty or thirty times, and you heard the timid “broom” from your child, it means that you have achieved a small victory! Praise your child! Rejoice with him! Of course, the question may be changed a little, such as: “How does this car hum?“, “How will hum a blue car?” And so on.
If you have a daughter, you have to choose a game she likes, an activity she will be involved in for a long time. Sometimes toddlers like to watch the building blocks falling down. In this case, we recommend assembling a pyramid together or building blocks with regular destruction of constructions and commenting the last action by saying “boom!”
It is possible to perform the next task – to develop speech reflection skills (a child imitates adult speech). To do this an adult (mom, dad, grandmother, educator in a nursery school, everyone who is engaged in raising a child) should organize a special communication with a toddler in a course of a joint activity or a game. Remember, you cannot use direct instructions “Say!“, “Repeat!” etc.
Let’s consider the methods of reflected speech creation in details.
Choose 5 – 10 words with simple syllables to imitate: names of surrounding objects (clothing, toys, utensils, food), the things the child loves the most, and the names of loved people can be used as for babies so for toddlers. You speak in the parentese language when the words are simplified so as to babble (wawa – water, go dow – go down), much onomatopoeia is used (a mouse – squeak-squeak, a frog – ribbit-ribbit, a cat – meow-meow).
For example you are going for a walk with your toddler (in winter) or to eat, and use the following vocabulary: a fur coat, a hat, boots, a spoon, a cup, a fork. Let’s consider a concrete instance of your actions.
When dressing a child and during meals you should repeatedly say the names of objects in a form of a dialogue when you ask and answer. Pronounce the names slowly and clearly. First you repeat the name of one object, then of another as the actions are being changed.
For example, take a fur coat and put it on.
You: What have we got? – A fur coat
What is it? – A fur coat.
What did we put on? – A fur coat.
Then begin to put on a child’s hat.
What have we got? – A hat.
What is it? – A hat.
Now did we put on? – A hat.
And repeat every word this way for ten, fifteen, twenty times a day. The more times, the better, but always while manipulating this object. It is useless to just repeat the words. This can last for many days, even if there is a callus on your tongue.
Gradually indirectly encourage your child to a dialogue – longer and longer pauses should be made after questions (5-10 sec.).
You: Bring me a plate please. What did you bring? …
That’s right, a plate. This is a plate ….
What is this? …
This is a plate. Etc.
However, mere pronunciation cannot be enough, so you fix a child’s attention not only on learning words, but also on articulating structures. Your child should listen to a word and peer into you articulation. For example:
You: Where is my mouth? Where are my lips? Listen and look at my lips: “pleeeit”
Once again: “pleeeit”.
Come together: “pleeeit”. Well done!
Praise your child, even if he didn’t repeat, but was just closely following the movement of your lips with his eyes. NOTE: it will be extremely great if you merrily clap your hands while each time saying the words of praise. Keep an eye on your child’s reaction. Such your reaction will inspire him!
You should pronounce this as many times daily as many times you perform this action.
This stage is probably one of the most complicated.
Please note that the work is based on the real domestic or play actions.
The second important condition is that your child should not guess that you develop his speech.
Do not be afraid to praise your child too often. If the child cannot do something, never berate him. Perhaps you are doing something wrong.
Read the recommendations once again or consult a specialist.
If you are bored with these activities and our recommendations, you can either refuse to keep on, or call the child as follows: “Come here. Sit down. Now we’re going to work – to speak the words. Say “plate.” Then you can relax and watch your child’s speech develop without your any participation. But if you want to achieve results, clearly follow our guidelines.
After a while (usually at the end of the day or the next day, or sometimes, it can take longer time. This does not mean that your child is “stupid” or “crazy.” He’s just like that. But maybe you are doing something wrong?) the child will start repeating certain syllables after you. Encourage these attempts in every way (with claps!), and at the same time teach your toddler to listen to a pattern and to imitate it, although at first the child will not able to improve the quality of the speech by himself.
You: Here’s a fork. This is a fork … (Pause)
You: Well done! The fork. Watch me say (the child’s eyes are fixed on your lips.) Fooork. (Pause) Great!
At first do not force your child, do not make him repeat the word clearly because he is just not capable of this. But encourage him in every way for his any verbal response.
Requirements become tougher gradually but so that the baby did not notice that. At the same time the child is given a series of exercises to develop articulation in daily life or in a course of routine activities (washing, eating).
For example, while the child is washing, teach him to rinse his mouth with water with closed lips, to gargle, to squirt through tightly closed lips, to check the cleanness of teeth with his tongue, etc.
While eating, ask the child to lick the spoon, gradually increasing the distance between him and the spoon (within a reasonable distance of course), to lick the saucer or a bowl is even better; show him how a cat laps milk, and so on.
Once your toddler is in front of a mirror, it’s a great chance to do articulation exercises: “Now we are clowns and we are going to make funny and scary faces“. Play horses – click your tongues, play an elephant – draw your lips in a trunk shape, play a tiger – show all your teeth grinning. We are sure that your imagination will tell you lots of other options.
If you see that your toddler successfully repeats offered words after you, choose series of 5-10 words to work with. Educational process is the same. Thus, an active object vocabulary is gradually being built up. For your child to use these words masterfully in his speech, you should create situations that stimulate the child to communicate verbally with adults around him.
What are these situations?
- Firstly, ask alternative questions, like, “What toy do you want: the bunny or the doll?” To answer the child must use speech. Such a situation can be created artificially. For example, while laying the table for dinner you don’t put a spoon for the child. You ask, “What should I give you – a cup or a spoon?” In such a question a verbal situation is created with elements of imitation. The child should hear a hint in a question and repeat the word he needs. A required condition for successful work is that you should use only the object vocabulary in such situations your toddler has already mastered in a course of preliminary work.
- Secondly, the verbal communication between you and your child must be in everyday situations. Therefore, communication while performing a task is the next type of a communicative situation. Ask your child to bring a particular toy or a utensil that was moved by you from a familiar place to the one where the child cannot take an object from, for example, the top shelf of the cupboard. It is important that the child be not able get an item himself and will have to ask you for help. And you stimulate his request for help: “What do you want to take? The car? How should you ask for it? – Give me please the car …“, and the child receives the required thing as a reward. As we see there are elements of speech reflection in this situation.
- The third type of communicative situations is communication with a toy or with animals. During the game, such as “Mother and Daughter”, “Visiting Teddy Bear” etc. you encourage the child to say simple sentences: “Ask Teddy Bear’s cup. Teddy Bear, give me the cup“,”Put Dolly to sleep. Sing a song to her. Sleep, Dolly, sleep“, “Talk to the parrot. Good little bird, good bird.” Thus children say not only single words but also phrases, imitating adult intonation.
While the vocabulary and simple phrases are being increased, your toddler needs verbal communication. It is important that you encourage the child’s desire to speak at this stage. You should listen to him carefully, praise him, and do not try to correct his errors immediately. Praise, as a positive reinforcement of child’s achievements, is one of the forms to stimulate need to communicate verbally. So do not skimp on the good words and merry exclamations. It is very useful to tell other members of your family about the child’s achievements in his presence. If the child talks with pleasure, and there is splash of his speech activity, you can try to demonstrate his achievements, encouraging him to say: “Daddy, listen to the song Johnny sang to the Teddy Bear. Sleep, Teddy, sleep“. The words “say” and “repeat” are still prohibited. If your child is shy, you need to praise him in public, but postpone the demonstration of his achievements by a later period of your work with him, when he becomes active in communication.
Along with stimulation of speech reflection, a targeted auditory perception is being formed in the child and his language comprehension skills are being improved.
This work is in two directions:
1. expansion of passive vocabulary;
2. development of regulatory function of speech.
Both directions are closely related.
While doing the exercises to develop language reflection skills teach your child about the names and qualities of the objects and simple manipulations with them. In particular, verbal vocabulary includes names of basic everyday activities (eat, drink, walk, draw, watch, listen, bring, carry, deliver, lay, sit, stand, lie down, etc.). In addition, passive and active vocabulary are enriched with adjectives denoting such properties of objects as size (big, small), color (white, black, red, yellow, blue, green), shape (round, square). During the everyday communication teach your child to listen to the speech, to do actions in accordance with the instructions using the vocabulary that is expanding and becoming more complex. For example, tasks are complicated due to the increased amount of words and addition of various properties of objects: “Bring me a cup“, “Take the cup away“, “Bring me a red cup“, “Take the largest ring (of the pyramid)”, “Give me a big red cube“, “Take a little green cube.” While saying, don’t help the child with gestures at all.
At first, to facilitate the understanding of tasks for your child, you can use intonation. The word “small” is pronounced in a high voice, and the word “big” – in a low one. But gradually you need to give up helping this way as well. In order to perform a task correctly your child must understand the meaning of what he heard. Proper task execution is encouraged mentally or materially, for example, you can praise your toddler, tap his head, pour him some tasty juice, give him a candy, etc. But if the task isn’t performed correctly, you must show the way you perform it, and do not move to more complex sentences, until your child masters comprehension of simple ones. Each task must be repeated 2-3 times before the child starts performing it. If your child’s attention is distracted, you need to attract is saying: “Listen to what I’m going to ask you about; do the way I say.” Preliminary attraction of attention is more efficient than endless repetition of tasks when the child’s attention is distracted and he ignores you, not because the mischievousness is in his nature, but because he is attracted by something else more interesting.
Do not think that the child is doing everything out of spite! Maybe you do not everything right. Maybe you should raise him another way.
In this period it is useful to start forming spatial awareness with prepositions “in”, “on”, “below”. Teach your child through a play or in a course of a game, after the child’s vocabulary has been sufficiently formed, and he actively communicates with adults. Make sure that your toddler enjoys the game and communication with you!
The child is given tasks: “Put the pyramid in the table“, “Put the pyramid on the table“, “Put the ball in the box“, “Put the ball on the box“, “Put your car on a chair“, “Put the car under the chair.” You emphasize prepositions with your voice by saying them louder and at slightly slower pace, thereby fixing the child’s attention on them. If the child does not understand what you are requiring from him, do this action yourself, commenting it and repeating the preposition several times. After that, ask your child to do this action once again.
For this game to be interesting to your child, involve a variety of toys and faity-tale characters, for example, the favorite Teddy Bear or the doll. You give orders to a toy: “Teddy, put the ball into the box“, “Dolly, hide the book in a box.” The child performs these tasks by Teddy’s paws acting on his behalf. This technique is good for at least two reasons: first if all, if the task was not done correctly, so the bear made a mistake but not the child; secondly, the child acts like a teacher, and this position is far more comfortable than of a student one.
Another method involves more active participation of the child. This is hide and seek game. The game is played with the same favorite toy, but your role as of an adult is changed – it becomes not a leading one. The child hides an object by himself (except jewelry and money), then you take the bear. Now it’s your child’s turn to manage the toy and you are looking for the hidden object as follows: “Teddy, look under the table. – It is not under the table. Teddy, look on the shelf. – It is not on the shelf,” and so on. Of course, if your toddler does not speak yet, you say instead of him, but let him understand that he is managing the situation. Having played this game several times, your toddler will take initiative on his own and will hide objects for you and Teddy to search them.
Such games bring children lots of fun. They allow them to feel superior to the adults.
To check the understanding of prepositions you can ask your child to do the actions that are contrary to the child’s daily experience: “Put the cup under the chair“, “Put the plate in the box“, etc.
Gradually instructions become more complex: number of actions to perform is increased. For instance: “Take Dolly and put her on a chair“, “Give me a big red cube and take a little red cube for yourself“, “Take the Teddy Bear, put him on the sofa, and bring me Bunny“, etc.
As bubbling speech is being developed, you ask the child while he is performing tasks: “What did you bring?“, “What have you got?“, “What have you just done?“, “Which … did you bring?” etc. Thus, previously studied vocabulary is being activated and the usage of such language tools as facial expressions, tone of voice, intonation, and voice volume is being encouraged.
Within this stage of speech development, mistakes in sound pronunciation and syllable structure are not being corrected. Your major task as a parent and a teacher is to teach the child to listen to speech and relate his speech with your pattern. Therefore, while doing communicative exercises, any child’s language reaction is permitted and encouraged. You must positively avoid any assessments and guidance such as: “It is wrong“, “Say it again …“, “Repeat“, “Say correctly …“, etc. You must correct your child not authoritatively but gently and focusing on the positive emotions of your child.
Here is an instance of a situation
Your child came to the cupboard or shelves with toys and asks you with gestures or voice to give him a stuffed monkey.
You: What do you want? The monkey?
Child: Ooh ooh.
You: Listen and repeat as I say. Mon-key. (The child is looking closely at your mouth) Mon-key.
You: Bravo! Well done! Watch me say again: mon-key. Close your lips tightly and say: mmmmm.
You: Very good! (Move a toy close to the child, but do not give it to him.) Mm-mon-key, mm-mon-key.
You: Hooray! Well done! Here you are, take the monkey. (Give the toy to your little one.) This is Mon-key. Etc.
Let us discuss the situation in details. What was happening? You created a situation in which you child’s desire to get a toy was fulfilled only due to the communication. In the course of such a situation you purposefully fixed your child’s attention on the sound form of the word and attracting words (“listen”, “look”). Multiple exaggerated pronunciation of the word at a slow pace allowed the child to capture the essential features of the word – number of syllables (a-ki). While encouraging him not only with words (“good boy/girl”, “well done”, etc.) but also moving the toy close to him, you continued forming the child’s ability to relate his speech to your pattern. So, you emphasized the first consonant, fixing your child’s attention on articulation.
Reading fairy tales and viewing illustrations for them are very useful at this stage. Irrespective of age, fairy tales with a cyclical story are selected for bubbling children – fairy tales, in which similar situations are repeated several times with slight variations: “Grandfather Planted a Turnip”, “Gingerbread Man “, “Speckled Hen”, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, etc. Separate parts of each fairy tale are being read several times, and pictures are being viewed. In fact, according to the techniques of pre-school education, a fairy tale should be told close to the text if told for the first time. But if you are not a gifted storyteller, so read a fairy tale at a slow pace, helping the child to relate the text with illustrations. If a child is suddenly “stuck” on any picture, do not hurry him, examine the picture in details together, comment it.
Here is an example of talk while reading the fairy tale “Grandfather Planted a Turnip“.
Sit in a place where you will not be distracted by anybody. Create a confidential atmosphere. You are reading or telling the fairy tale, your child is viewing the pictures in the book.
You: Granddad planted a turnip. Look who is this? (you point to the grandfather.) This is a granddaddy. Granddady. Who is this?
You: Yes, right, this is a granddaddy. Show me where are granddaddy’s eyes?
The child shows.
You: What are these?
You: All right. Look and watch me tell you: eyes [eeeiiiz] (prolonged pronunciation).
You: What a smart boy/girl! Eyes. And where is granddaddy’s nose? Etc.
Having viewed one picture, proceed to the next one.
Activities of this type should last no longer than 7-10 minutes so, while viewing illustration, do not get stuck on details. As the tale is being read several times, you can view and discuss different details each time.
Once the fairy tale has been read several times, and the child has learned to confidently name the characters, you can proceed to a joint storytelling.
While telling the fairy tale, you replace naming some of the characters with showing corresponding pictures.
You: Now will you help me to tell the tale? I’ll start, and you’ll continue the narration. Look carefully at the picture. … planted (point to the grandfather.)
You: That’s right! (Point to the turnip.)
You: Great! Granddaddy planted a turnip. (View the next picture.) The turnip grew up … (point to the picture and make the gesture with your hands, showing the size of the turnip.)
You: Great!Very big. Etc.
After a while children begin to repeat entire phrases from these tales, but so far these phrases are not grammatically correct and are just memorized.
Appearance of phrases in the reflected speech is a sign that your child has moved to a new quality level of language development. You can start mastering some elementary everyday syntactic constructions: “Give me something“, “Take something“, “I want to do something“, etc. As well as the words to express greeting, forgiveness, praise, gratitude: “Hi “,” Bye-bye “,” Thank you “, accompanied by appropriate gestures.
You can also master such structures in a communicative or a game situation where there are still no any direct constructions like “Say”, “Repeat”, and the child’s needs are met only after he responds verbally. For example, the child asks for a toy with gestures and vocal responses. You figure out what he wants and ask: “How should you ask? – Give me the doll please! Give me the doll!” and move the toy close the child but do not let him take it in his hands. Only once he has attempted to say the phrase, the child received the toy, and you praised him.
Gradually, as your child masters speech imitation, you need to create his necessity to speak. For this purpose you create such a situation, when the child has no other choice but to speak. For example you pretend you are busy and not able to understand toddler’s needs. While dusting, you are standing your back to the child, or you are helping another child to get dressed and you cannot interrupt this activity. It is important in such situations that your refusal should not be defiant. You need to find an external reason to justify your behavior.
Do not conflict with the child! You will be raising your child for a long time and will solve many problems together! Keep kind and confidential relations!
Do not forget to praise your child when he uses speech. Emphasize that you like to talk to him. All these simple rules help to stimulate speech activity of your child.
If our help has been effective, you will notice positive changes in 2 – 3 months. If there are no any improvements, consult a neurologist or a speech therapist immediately.
If you are ready to test our proposed methods, go back to the top of this article Speech and Language Therapy for Children and follow the described algorithm. Don’t skip separate stages. It is possible that your child is talented and will easily cope with some material. In such a case, you can reduce some time of work with separate stages.
If there are positive changes in your child, but they require considerable time, be patient, do not rush things. Your child needs more time and your attention.
In any case before you start performing these activities, consult an expert.
Remember! The number and sequence of steps cannot be broken!
Good luck to you and to your child!