I am a speech therapist, of course I know what I am doing to help my daughter grow her language!
I am the expert. It is my job to teach you how to interact with your preschooler to increase their language, fix up their speech sounds and get their behaviours under control. I coached my husband on how to talk to children. It’s easy, just repeat what they say like a question or with equal excitement. Like this:
Child: Look! Rock!
Adult: A rock! or Rock?
Kids will naturally just say more to you, probably about the rock or another rock, but still, the conversation keeps going. Try it, I dare you. Just get your hands and pockets ready for rock holding.
In a previous post Encouraging Toddler Language Growth, I mentioned how my oldest daughter was naturally verbose. This child just spoke, long sentences at an early age. THIS HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH ME. People said, you’re a speech therapist, that’s why… not true. Introduce #2. (seems many of my posts follow this pattern…) She was talking, using lots of single words, but wasn’t putting any together. What a head scratcher… surely, I was doing everything right, I mean, come on, I do this for a living!
When we played, I would highlight words and imitate what she was saying. These are two strategies for early language facilitation.
Highlighting – emphasizing words (saying it slowly, stretching them out, pausing before saying, add extra umph)
Imitating – saying back what a child has said, sometimes with more correct sounds or grammar, just copy their words
We would go back and forth having a grand old time, talking, but stagnant. Language milestones indicate that once a child has about 50 words (gestures count too), they should start to combine. Why wasn’t my daughter combining?
We went to visit my speechie friends and we’re playing in front of one of my esteemed, expert, early language colleagues. This woman leads the workshops for parents like me, whose children need to get their language growing. Kindly, she pointed out, I was missing an IMPORTANT step!
Add on – imitate and then add on, this means when a child says block, we add action or describing words, like this “block up” “big block”
How could I have forgotten!? How can she learn to make longer sentences when she wasn’t hearing any? I had to be a better language model. Use all 3 strategies! Highlight, imitate and add! No special equipment required, just adjust my language and keep going. SUCCESS! This is how we get to combining words!
These strategies are further explained in a guidebook from the Hanen Centre, called It Takes Two to Talk. This is not a sponsored post. I am sharing the link to Hanen because of the valuable strategies they offer parents. They have many workshops for parents and therapists.
A second post I would like to share is from Reading Rockets. This page has information on how oral language influences reading and what you can do to help. I know its a leap from a 15 month old starting to combine words to reading books, but raising a reader starts early. Since reading and writing are two of my passions, they are important for me to share with my kids and with you.