Teaching Language Skills at Home

Although each child develops at his or her own pace, there are milestones at each age that speech-language pathologists look for.

When your child is playing with his peers and you notice that he is not able to communicate as well as others, it can be difficult to witness.  When your child needs help and you do not know what to do or where to start, it is easy to feel helpless.  Watching your child struggle to communicate can leave you feeling alone and overwhelmed.   Studies show that children make progress faster when their parents are involved in the therapy process.  Empowered parents make a difference.

Why do some children talk later?

A child’s ability to communicate can be delayed for a myriad of reasons.  Some children have diagnoses that put them at risk for delayed speech and language development, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Hearing Impairments, Developmental Delays etc.

Children can also have standalone speech and language delays meaning, they are typically developing in all other areas (play, thinking, motor and interaction), but are struggling to communicate.  The breakdown in communication can be found in the understanding of the language that the child is hearing (receptive language), in the formulation of thoughts and feelings into words (expressive language) or in the formation of sounds to make those words understood by others (articulation).

When should I be concerned?

Although each child develops at his or her own pace, there are milestones at each age that speech-language pathologists look for.

If your child is NOT:

  • Waving, playing interactive games, vocalizing during play, understanding simple commands by 9-12 months.
  • Imitating words, following simple directions, pointing to objects, pointing to 1-3 body parts, answering simple questions, saying at least 5 words by 12-18 months
  • Saying at least 50 words, combining 2 words at a time, speaking clearly enough to understand 65% of his words, understanding 300 words by 18-24 months
  • Saying 200 words, engaging in short conversations, understanding at least 500 words, speaking clearly enough to understand 70% of his words, using 2-4 words at a time, following 2 related commands by 24-30 months.

Any child not reaching these milestones should be evaluated by a licensed speech-language pathologist to determine if speech therapy is necessary.  The “wait and see” approach can delay necessary intervention that can make an immediate impact in the life of a child and his family.   Early intervention is key.

How can speech therapy help?

With young children, a speech-language pathologist uses age-appropriate activities, including play, to create opportunities for communication and builds the child’s independence as a communicator.  The techniques used with each child are different depending on his or her own strengths and struggles.  Over time, these activities build new pathways in the brain in order to process and produce communication more efficiently.  The most important part of the process is to take the strategies that work with an individual child and share them with the family.

How can a speech pathologist train parents?

Parents have the most access to their own children, therefore they are the best resource that a speech-language pathologist has to improve a child’s communication skills.  The Hanen Centre, which is a not for profit charity dedicated to early language intervention, trains professionals to empower parents and teaches them how they can improve their own child’s language skills.  At Speak Well Solutions, using Hanen Centre techniques and resources, our certified speech-language pathologists are able to:

  • Teach parents how to use daily routines and activities in home to facilitate language.
  • Teach parents how to create communication opportunities throughout the day.
  • Help parents to set goals for themselves and their children each week based on current progress and needs.
  • Work through specific concerns and communication breakdowns that the child is having in the home, school and daycare.
  • Suggest appropriate books, toys and materials to promote the specific communication skills being addressed in therapy.
  • How to have fun and bond with their children while teaching them how to become effective communicators.

For more information or to schedule an appointment at Speak Well Solutions visit www.speakwellsolutions.com

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Elizabeth Peeler
Elizabeth Peeler M.S. CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist with over 10 years of experience working with children with various communication delays and disorders. She has extensive experience treating children through high school with diagnoses including expressive/receptive language disorders, autism, articulation and phonological disorders, AD/HD, learning and intellectual disabilities. After completing her undergraduate work at the State University of New York at Cortland, she moved to Southern Maryland in 2006 to complete her masters at Loyola College. After working in the schools for several years, she joined the Speak Well Solutions team in 2014. She is a member of the Hanen Centre with a certification in “It Takes Two to Talk”, a program designed to empower parents to support their children as communicators. She has a passion for providing family support and giving voices to the littlest residents of Southern Maryland.


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