Mouthy Milestones: Encouraging Healthy Speech Development in Your Child

Mouthy Milestones: Encouraging Healthy Speech Development in Your Child

A healthy birth is just the first worry of parenthood successfully hurdled. From that moment the worrying can really begin, as children grow and develop towards the people they will eventually become. The bad news is that the worrying never ends—no matter how old your children, you will always find something to worry about. The good news is that very rarely do things turn out as bad as we fear. One rich source for worry is whether our children are developing normal speech and language skills.

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When is a Good Time to Worry About Speech?

Children develop at their own pace, and there are no hard and fast indicators of a speech problem. It is no good comparing your child with those of the other parents at the toddler club. There will always be children more advanced than yours, and others less advanced.

On the other hand experts agree that, if there is a problem, early intervention is for the best, so it should be identified as soon as possible. Parents therefore have two roles: to provide an environment which encourages good language development; and to be aware that there are things that indicate a need for expert help.

Encouraging Good Speech and Language

Parents set their children on the road to good language skills by their example and involvement.

Communicate from birth (and indeed before) in every way that you can think of. Sing, talk, recite poems. Associate your talking with a lot of eye contact. Encourage children to imitate your sounds and express your pleasure with every sound they make.

Share a love of books from an early stage. Talk about the pictures, and encourage your children to interact with the page by touching and making noises. If you enjoy reciting nursery rhymes, use books with the pictures to accompany them.

Talk about everything you do together. Shopping, cooking, cleaning, driving—all are opportunities to talk about what you are seeing and doing, and to ask and answer questions.

Spotting the Signs

Intuition can be a good indicator of a problem developing. A parent’s sense that something is not right should be taken seriously. Your peace of mind is important for you and for your child, and it may well be that you can get reassurance that there is nothing to worry about, so don’t hang back if you are uneasy—ask a child health professional.

You can find online, or from your doctor or clinic, lists of indicators of the progress that is expected at different ages. These inevitably cover a range of skills, and if your child is missing one or two markers that is not necessarily an immediate matter for concern. But if you think that all or most of the markers are being missed, or some are missed by a large margin, then it would be wise to get expert advice.

Who Can Help?

The professional person who is qualified in child speech development is called a Speech-Language Pathologist. This expert deals in all aspects of speech and language. Speech is the process of making the sounds of words accurately, and language is the wider skill of communicating through spoken and written words and gestures.

The SLP will assess your child for any possible causes of late speech or language development, for instance hearing impairment, physical problems relating to the formation of the mouth, or a developmental issue. They will then work closely with the child, constructing exercises which will address the specific problems that she has with making sounds and expressing herself effectively.

You can contact a SLP yourself, or get a referral from your doctor. If you are expecting the treatment to be covered by your insurance, you will need to contact your insurers in order to find out what conditions they impose before you begin.

Some professionals practice online speech pathology, which they find effective as an alternative, or a supplement, to face-to-face work. It has the advantage of not being limited to specialists who are available locally, and being more flexible in timetabling the treatment.

A Parent’s Gift

All parents have dreams for their children, and most of those dreams depend to some degree on good language and communication skills. Social happiness and professional success are both influenced by such skills. So it is both natural and important that parents do their best to develop speech and language as well as they can, by their example and encouragement, and that they recognize when expert help is needed to overcome hurdles which may lie in the way.

 

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