Toddler Intellectual Development: "My Child Is Speech-Delayed"

Jan Faull, MEd, answers a parent's question about activities that encourage verbalization.

Helping a Speech-Delayed Child

Q. What are some activities I should be doing with my 2-year-old son who is speech-delayed? He loves to talk, sing, and dance, he just does not like to talk or sing in English.

A. Before embarking on a program to tackle your son's speech delay, call your school district and request screening. Your son may qualify for a special preschool, where skilled professionals can address language concerns. It's much better to find the help your son needs now rather than waiting until kindergarten. If your home is bilingual, it may take him a while to be as fluent in English as he is the other language that he speaks.

That said, there is much you can to do at home:

Read to your son. Don't read the book straight through. Instead, make the reading an interactive triangle between you, the book, and your son. Keep the reading lively; use your imagination to bring the story and characters to life. Give your son time to talk about the pictures he sees on the pages.

Recite nursery rhymes. These rhymes with their repetition and rhythm provide verbal gymnastics that will help your son improve his language skills. "Hey Diddle the Cat and the Fiddle," "Hickory Dickory Dock," and "Humpty Dumpty" are great starters.

Describe your actions. Whether working on your computer, washing the dishes, changing your son's diaper, or giving him a bath, describe to him what you're doing. Use short sentences but don't shorten your vocabulary. The more words your child hears and sees in action, the better.

Describe your son's actions, too. As your son plays with cars and trucks, put language to his activities: "You're moving your truck along the floor. It's going fast." You provide a play-by-play commentary similar to a sports announcer describing a baseball and or basketball game.

Reiterate what your son says. For example, if he points to the family's kitty and says, "Kiy, Kiy," your response could be, "Yes, that's the kitty. Do you think he's hungry?" With this approach he hears the word "kitty" pronounced correctly and is taught that people need to care for their animals.

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