Like many first time mom, if my child is ahead of a milestone, I think he must be gifted. If my child is behind on a milestone, I panic.
So when my child turned 18 months and did not meet the amount of words he was supposed to be saying, I freaked out. I hit up all my medical friends who are pediatricians and speech therapists.
There are 2 types of language delay: expressive language (words and gestures) and receptive language (understanding). This article will mainly focus on expressive language delay, or late talker. Know what is normal. Use a reliable source, I like this Guideline.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT
Development of language skill is a very important task of early childhood. It is the foundation to social skills and future learning.
Language delay is very common. Often times, late talkers will catch up with their peers. Risk factors include:
- Parents did not finish school.
- Low birth weight or prematurity.
- Family history of language delays.
- Maternal depression.
HOW TO HELP LATE TALKERS
First step is to talk to your pediatrician. Your pediatrician will likely offer hearing test and screen for developmental delay such as the autism spectrum. If indicated, early intervention program has tremendous benefit and is usually free.
These are things you can do at home to help:
- Be a narrator. Describe what your child is doing, seeing, feeling, tasting, hearing. Describe what you are doing. “Mama is wiping poop off your butt, how can a sweet little person produce such pungent poop?!”
- Be super dramatic and gesture wildly, like you are a Broadway performer. You won’t be able to be this weird for that much longer.
- Flashcards with pictures. We had HUGE success with “My First Touch and Feel Picture Cards”. There are multiple series for first words, animals, colors, shapes etc. We use it to wind down before bath time.
- Read every.single.day. Life gets busy. I got busy and I slacked off for awhile. But I noticed significant improvement once I was deligent again.
- Get down on your knees and play. Follow their lead. There are plenty of opportunities to talk and teach when you play. Young children learn through play. They do not have the attention span to sit through a lesson.
- Talk slowly and deliberately.
- Do not use baby language. Name things like they are supposed to be said. Eg. Put on your socks, not sockies.
- When he/she says a word with lousy (but so cute) pronunciation, just repeat it back with the right pronunciation. You do not have to correct them. Eg. Mama, butzzz! “Oh I see you spotted a BUS!”
- Expand their sentences. Eg. Mama, booo ka. “Yes! We are going inside the BLUE CAR. So I can wrestle you into the car seat and hopefully not accidentally buckle in your fingers.”
- Have a conversation. Ask a question and wait for an answer. If you do not get one, answer your own question. It is like talking to a wall, but one day, the wall will suddenly say something, whoa!
- Give your child choices and make him/her choose, either by pointing or making noises.
- Play date with older kids.
- Limit screen time and electronic toys.
- Teach them sign language. It reduces their frustration from not being understood. And it gets them excited about communication when you understand them.
- Most importantly, stay engaged and be as excited as they are when they say something. And do not force your child to speak. Be patient. No one likes pressure.
One thing I have learnt throughout my journey through motherhood, is that guidelines are just that – guidelines. That being said, I just checked my son’s milestone. He is ahead by 20 words. He might be gifted….