There is no greater joy for most parents than discussing the milestones that their children have made. But, what happens when your child experiences some delay in a particular milestone such as speech? Well, most parents feel it is a disappointing phase.
They may have misinformation and fears on the delayed milestones. Perhaps, the only unifying factor for these parents is that they want the best outcomes for their children. That is why most will visit a speech therapist. But, what happens when amid therapy, an unexpected occurrence happens, and you can no longer take your child to the therapist? As the parent, you do not have to worry about letting all the effort with the therapist over the months go down the drain.
Again, for the late talkers without autism, how can parents encourage them to talk? You can do speech therapy at home. But how?
The Home Setup
First things, first! The learning environment and schedule determines the speech outcomes. Ensure that there is a specific scheduled time for the speech therapy sessions. These sessions should not be extraordinarily long, especially for autistic kids who may lose concentration quite fast. The home’s training location should also be child friendly in terms of décor and ambiance to avoid losing their attention. There should also be ample space for engaging in fun activities and running around.
I will classify speech therapy as having three elements that should all be fun- Conversation (Talk), listening, and reading.
You want to get the child to speak, which can only happen if you, as the parent, create an environment that encourages conversation. Parents can use strategies such as allowing the child to give lengthy details of specific experiences. This is irrespective of whether the parent can make out the words or not. For the less talkative children who will not give accounts without questions, the parent can focus on open-ended questions. This gives them an allowance to say what they think in length. Speech therapists highly discourage using ‘Yes or No’ questions since they can also create a fear of expression. See, an open-ended question will grant the child an opportunity of having an answer without the fear of what is right or wrong.
We all want to be heard, and the autistic or late development child is the same. As a parent, when you ask the child questions, listen attentively to the reply, and avoid any interruptions. See, when you interrupt the child even if it is by correcting them, they may feel anxious and pressurized to get it right. After listening, note the parts of speech that the child had a problem with and practice them one by one.
Look for exciting books and engage the child in reading them. The child may not make out the words clearly, especially if they are young. However, do not dismiss reading because of this. Let the child identify the pictures in the book and make a conversation from that. Ask them questions about what they think of the pictorial. Ask them to narrate instances they have had encounters with these pictures. If they can’t remember, remind them, which promotes the ability to connect experiences with what the child hears. Remember, don’t bombard your child with a myriad of books! Even if they want to read the same book over again, allow them. This acts as a confidence-building mechanism as they become familiar with the words.
Let it be fun!
The art of inspiring conversation, listening, and reading needs to be fun. For that parent with an autistic child, especially, they know that they lose concentration fast. Therefore, there has to be some fun element in speech therapy to keep them involved for the longest time. Ask questions that would make them laugh. For instance, if asking a question about a cow, use funny vivid descriptions for the child to see the fun in it and stay interested in answering in a lengthy form. Still, on making it fun, ensure that you play games. Sometimes, have the child ask you questions, get them wrong, and allow them to correct you. It is also vital to give the child rewards even in the face of the slightest milestone. The award may range from small words of praise to big presents. This encourages the child to continue with the sessions, which builds their language skills. After all, all work with no play makes a dull child.
Now that I mentioned fun, what are some of the toys that a parent would consider for speech therapy?
The toobaloo is a phone like a toy device where the child can speak and listen to what they are saying. This ensures that they hear themselves and improve on their speech and comprehension abilities. It is also fun as it is a kind of telephone for the child. However, the manufacturer recommends that the device is used for children above four years.
These language cards come in different forms- photo actions, go-togethers, nouns, rhymes, manners, and opposites. They are fun in that the whole family can identify the photos and describe what is happening. This ensures that the child understands these essential elements and parts of speech by engaging in fun image identification activities.
Please note that this toy is appropriate for children of ages seven and above. An electronic device repeats over 200 commonly misspelled words. It also has different levels for the child to determine, meaning that they will get into a competitive but fun mood while trying to reach the next level. They will do so while still improving their language skills.
This isn’t exactly the toy that everyone has in mind. However, since I mentioned reading, I thought that this was an excellent book that parents can get for speech therapy. It is fun-filled with pictures of animals and actions to help the child develop a simple sentence structure. The only drawback that I would mention is that it doesn’t come in hardcover, making it easy to wear and tear.