Parents instinctively understand that language development is important for their children. It’s natural to start talking to your baby as soon as it’s born. Some parents don’t even wait that long, and they start talking to their babies while they’re still expecting. Like your baby’s first steps, hearing mama or dada for the first time is a thrilling experience. Sometimes that thrill is postponed a bit.
One of the most common manifestations of Autism Spectrum Disorder is delayed speech. Play therapy and other language development techniques can help. If you’re a new parent, you’d probably like to make sure you’re doing everything you can to encourage your child’s language development. Here are 10 can’t-miss techniques you can try to get the speech ball rolling from birth to 2 years old.
One Syllable, Please
Your baby’s first attempt at speech won’t sound like a Shakespeare monologue. Language development happens in bits and pieces, and the pieces are very small. The easiest thing for a developing child to say is a combination of a consonant and a vowel sound. That’s why saying little words like ma, da, ba, and similar sounds will encourage your baby to respond in turn.
Do An Imitation
It’s easy to forget that language development is a two-way street. Until your child is talking, it’s natural to keep talking to them to encourage them to speak. However, learning to speak is a complicated series of physical and mental hurdles. Parents need to do more than just talk to their child for speech development.
Humans express themselves in many ways besides talking, and babies are no exception. It’s useful to imitate your child’s expressions while you’re playing with them. Mimic their facial expressions, and join in their laughter. It’s especially useful to say something to your non-verbal child, and then copy their gestures or expressions afterward.
Say Colors Aloud
Until meaningful words start to come, you’re going to have to cover all the bases yourself. That means verbalizing things that adult talkers take for granted. To encourage speech, get your adjective machine in gear. Add descriptive words to other words to make sure you’re hitting on the most prominent attribute of objects in your child’s world.
For instance, point out your child’s favorite toy, and name it. Then add a descriptive word. Don’t pile word on word. Change the descriptive term each time, but keep the primary word in place. If the toy is a car, say: Car. Red car. Big car. Loud car. Race car. Even non-verbal will quickly pick up on the fact that one word doesn’t change. Because color is such an important part of describing an object, always try that first.
Everything Is a Countdown
Numbers are more than words or numerals. Numbers represent a concept. It’s important for children to grasp the difference between groups of things, and without numbers it’s hard to do. You can help by counting aloud at every opportunity. When you pick up toys to return them to the toy box, count them off. When the kitchen timer is nearing its finish, count it down for your child. They’ll quickly catch on to the meaning of the words, even if they can’t say them right away.
Tie Gestures to Words
Linguists have studied populations who move their hands when they speak. They suspect that this habit develops when people who speak different dialects need to make themselves understood, especially nuanced concepts. You can use the power of gesture in the same way.
Don’t just say things to your toddler. Use sweeping gestures at the same time to increase understanding. If you wave your hand while you say bye-bye, it makes it easier to understand, for instance.
Onomatopoeia is hard to spell but easy to understand. It’s when a word sounds like the thing it’s meant to describe. Don’t just point to the dog and say dog. Say woof woof while you point, and your baby will get it. Ding dong says the bell is a similar example.
To encourage language development, you need to become a scat singer. Don’t say things in a single way. Expand on every word by including it in consecutive sentences in different ways. Saying things like: Where is baby? You are baby. Here is baby. Where is mama? Here is mama. Mama feeds baby.
Talk Like A Valley Girl
Adding a little lilt to the end of your sentences became famous via the Valley Girl movie. Some adults find it annoying, but your baby will love it. Techniques like raising the pitch of your voice at the end of a sentence gives listeners of all ages the idea that a question is being asked. There are many other ways to use the timbre and volume of your voice to reinforce meaning: BANG goes the drum!
Don’t Give Up
It can be hard to continue vocalizing to your child when language development is delayed. Adults are accustomed to receiving instant feedback from speech. If your child doesn’t say anything right away, it can be tempting to stop trying. While understandable, it’s not helpful. Many late talkers catch up to their peers really quickly when they do start talking, because they picked up the same concepts that more precocious talkers did at the right time. It’s important to keep on trying while speech is delayed. The payoff will be even more gratifying when it finally arrives.