Speech therapy refers to the assessment of communication problems, speech disorders, and includes treatment for the same. Often referred to as speech therapists, experts in the field known as speech-language pathologists (SLPs) use a variety of techniques to improve communication, such as articulation therapy, language intervention activities, and others depending on the type of speech or language disorder, such as stuttering, apraxia, dysarthria. You might have experienced growing up around a classmate or a family member with a speech disorder, as it is not very uncommon, perhaps a lisp or a stutterer.
If you have watched the movie King’s Speech, a must watch if you haven’t, it shows us “the story of King George VI, his impromptu ascension to the throne of the British Empire in 1936, and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch overcome his stammer”.
If you are a new parent, you would have umpteen doubts about your child’s growth, including speech and language development. You might be wondering if your child is reaching those speech milestones on time, whether they are developing enough vocabulary, whether they understand the language, and so on.
Milestones in your child’s speech development
Until the age of one, the child begins to respond to familiar voices, recognise their name, babble at others, try to imitate sounds. A child between 12 to 24 months of age, follows simple questions and commands, speaks first words, identifies pictures from names. During the 24 to 36 month window, the child knows about 300-400 words, understands sentences, follows commands, repeats short sentences, understands names and identifies pictures of common objects. These are the average timelines. If you suspect your child has a speech or language challenge, it is advisable to have your child evaluated. Do not delay this intervention. The sooner the doubt is eliminated or necessary action is taken, the better.
Dr. Sanjay Kumar, an Alumni of AIIMS, New Delhi, is an SLP. He explains, “Imagine entering a classroom for the first time only to understand just a fraction of what your teacher says. Or, knowing every answer to every question but being too afraid of your own speech to answer. Speech Language and Hearing problems can be significant roadblocks to a student's education. Which is why early identification and support for communication disorders are essential before your child enters school. With this early help, many children can go on to develop good learning and literacy skills. So be sure your child has the speech language and hearing abilities to succeed in school.”
Opting for speech therapy
After the child’s special needs are identified, it is very important to choose the right facility and therapist that will be best suited for your child. Check out the website, reviews, talk to parents who have had their children treated there. Once the therapy commences, you need to give time for the child to build a level of comfort and relationship of trust with the therapist. Six months is a reasonable time to judge that. If for some reason you see no improvement this time, you might want to consider another alternative.
Techniques to try at home
While your child undergoes professional speech therapy, there are some techniques you can try at home too:
Decision making - Give your child the choice to choose between two games to play. This helps them in decision making and encourages language building.
Selftalk and parallel talk - Children are like a sponge. They absorb everything you say. Narrate to your child what they are doing or feeling in real time. You can use all the senses of touch, smell, sight, hearing, taste. For eg., “You are playing with your toys.” “You are eating your veggies.” You can also teach your child the process of things. For eg., during bath time, you can say, “Pour water. Soap on. Lather it up. Rinse it off. All done!”
Simplifysentences - Keep your sentences short and simple to understand. Your child may find it difficult to absorb too many words at once. This can help your child anticipate upcoming words in a sentence. It can also help them make a sentence on their own.
Ask open-ended questions - Asking non-definitive questions opens up your child’s mind to imagination. Instead of asking whether the sky is blue, ask them what colour the sky is.
Visual learning - While it is good to ask your child questions and have them give answers, they would learn better with visual aid. Show them a picture and watch them absorb things better and quicker.
Sing along - Songs have a rhythm and tune which children find catchy. It is easier for a child to pick up lines from a song than a random sentence without a beat to it. You can incorporate rhymes and help them enhance their vocabulary.
Pick traditional toys - In the age of video games and mobile phones, go back to basics. There are a whole lot of options of toys to choose from including wooden blocks, board games, Legos, kitchen set, doll house, clay, toy trucks & cars (without batteries). These options are open ended in nature and aid your child in exploring multiple possibilities of playing with them. What better than books to keep your child engaged, and the icing on the cake is when the book is personalised! Merlinwand offers a wide array of story books wherein the main character can be personalised and your child can be the hero in their own story! Also, do not forget the outdoors. Playing in the sand or in the neighbourhood park is a great option. They make new friends and get a breath of fresh air.