Parents are often eager to help their child develop speech and language skills. When a child is delayed in speech and language acquisition parents have a tendency to become even more anxious to help them. Whether your child is developing skills consistent with developmental expectations or is experiencing delays knowing how to best help your child can be a challenge.
If you notice your child is having trouble producing certain sounds take the opportunity to provide your child with a model. Modeling refers to the repetition of a word or sentence correctly after the child has said it in error. An example if this might be the child saying “I see a tow.” The parent then repeats it back correctly saying “You’re right, I see a cow too.” The parent is then able to provide a model of the sounds without directly correcting the child. It is important to remember that while we may want a child to say all their sounds correctly, they may not developmentally be able to produce the sounds correctly.
If you notice your child is having trouble expressing themselves through oral language be sure you always provide a good model of language. You can also take the opportunity to expand what your child says. Expanding refers to repeating what your child says but then adding more information. When a child says “cow” you can expand this and provide the child with more information: “Yes, there is a big cow”; “Cows say moo”; “Cows live on a farm”. These types of comments will provide a model for expanded comments while building concepts and vocabulary at the same time.
Parents can be a great support in a child’s speech and language development, but it is always important to identify what is normal development and when to seek help. By 2 years of age you should be able to understand 70% of what your child says to you, and by 3 years of age you should be able to understand 85% of your child’s speech. When thinking about a child’s language development, children should be starting to use true words by 12 months, using 2-word phrases by 2 years of age and at a minimum using 3-word sentences by 3-years of age.
While parents can do much to support the speech and language skills of their child it is not a substitute for speech and langue therapy when a problem exists. Parents are typically a good judge of their child’s speech and language development and or difficulties. If you are unsure if your child’s speech and language development is consistent with age expectation contact a speech language pathologist for an evaluation. There is no harm in getting an evaluation. Early intervention is a key to a child’s success if they are experiencing difficulties.