Parenting, Special Needs Parenting

Talking with Tots: Tips for Language and Speech Development

A few months back I went to visit my dear friend Sara, who is a Speech-Language Pathologist with the local school board in Northern Ontario. I decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to pick her brain for some tips to share with you about how to best support your child with early language development and ended up convincing her to write a blog for us – here it is!

Written by, Sara Amato, Speech Language Pathologist at the KWPDSB.

As a Speech and Language Pathologist for the Keewatin Patricia District School Board, I spend my time supporting children with speech and language development and success. One of the questions I often get asked by parents is “What are some things I can do at home to support my child’s speech/language development?”  There are a number of things that you, as a parent or caregiver, can do to help your child, even throughout your busy day! No matter what type of communicator your child is, you can use these strategies to further his/her speech and language development.

Here are a few strategies I’d like to share:

  • The Importance of Modelling: Modelling the correct pronunciation of words for your child is critical for their speech development. In fact, overemphasizing the correct pronunciation, slowing down, and having your child watch you as you speak can be very helpful!
Image Caption: Reading with Grandma, CC Image Courtesy of Devon D'Ewart

Image Caption: Reading with Grandma, CC Image Courtesy of Devon D’Ewart

  • Observe, Wait, Listen (OWL): Follow your child’s lead and OBSERVE to see what he/she is interested in. Your child might be trying to communicate a message to you without you even knowing it! See what their body language and facial expressions are trying to tell you. WAIT means three things: stop talking, lean forward, and look at your child. This will let your child know you are ready for him/her to respond. LISTEN to what your child is trying to communicate to you. Be careful not to interrupt your child. If you are having trouble understanding their message, imitate their sounds and actions to show what your child is trying to communicate to you is important.
  • Say Less, Stress, Go Slow, Show: Use short, simple sentences with FEWER words when communicating with your child, it is easier for your child to understand and to imitate a word you are saying. Make important words stand out. For example, if you are saying “This tea is very hot,” the most important words are tea and hot. STRESS these words to help your child understand and use them. This will help stories come to life by using a more animated voice. SLOW DOWN. Talk to your child and tell him/her stories at a slower pace, this will encourage understanding and give the child more time to take a turn. SHOW your child what the words mean by pointing to pictures as you talk about them and by using actions and objects to Image Caption: Building Mr. Potato Head CC Image Courtesy of All Children's Hospital bring stories to life. REPEAT. REPEAT. REPEAT. The more chances your child has to talk to you about something, and the more they hear you repeat it, and the more their vocabulary will grow!
  • Build talk time right into your daily routines! Bath time, play time, meal time and story time are perfect opportunities for you to talk to your child and use some of the strategies listed above, all while building your child’s communication. Engage your child in back and forth interactions, add language to these interactions to help your child use new words, and use books and music to help increase your child’s vocabulary.

Think you might need some extra support? There are tons of great speech and language resources in the community to help you and your child get the services you need!

Early Learning Centres in Toronto are places where parents and caregivers can:

  • take part with their children in a range of programs and activities
  • get information about programs and services that are available for young children and their families
  • talk to early years professionals, as well as other parents and caregivers in the community to get your questions answered.

Toronto Preschool Speech and Language Services is a network of community partners providing three community-based programs including preschool speech and language services

If your child is in school, your first point of contact is the school board. Both the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board offer a wide range of speech and language supports for students.

So, follow your child’s lead, keep calm and get talking!

Emma Helfand-Green

Emma is in her second year of the Master of Public Policy program. She recently completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph, studying psychology and political science. When she is not blogging for the Family Care Office, you might find Emma volunteering at the Hart House theatre, working hard (or hardly working) at the Robarts Library, or spending quality time with her cat, Goose.

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