Often we look for a quick fix anytime we have a problem. I know I do! Who doesn’t want a solution RIGHT THIS MINUTE when there’s something not going as planned.
It’s the same with parents (and therapists!) who work with late talkers.
We want to know what we can do TODAY to get language rolling.
Unfortunately, there’s not a magic speech therapy wand we can wave and poof – a toddler begins talking in full sentences with perfect articulation. Oh I wish!
There are definitely things that work better than others and that speed things along when there’s a language delay. Some of them may seem counter intuitive, especially to parents who think that speech therapy only includes TALKING.
As I say to parents, actually, talking comes last when we’re building the foundation for communication skills in toddlers. That news can be shocking.
So, if talking comes last, what can we look at first?
HOW A CHILD RESPONDS TO PEOPLE
The first thing we should always consider is how a late talker interacts with and responds to others. Communicating always involves two people. Getting that back and forth piece, or reciprocity, firmly established is essential before we can begin to teach a child to talk.
In my experience as a pediatric speech-language pathologist, addressing this area, a toddler’s social interaction skills, is the one that promotes change more quickly than working on any other milestone.
Unless a child is already extremely engaged with a variety of people, strongly consider making this a cornerstone of your initial work with every late talker. Even when children are already interacting, using these little games will strengthen your connection instantaneously. I use social games with every child I see and I am never disappointed. Each time I receive confirmation of the enormous value in this approach.
When toddlers don’t respond to others, they self-isolate. They seem to be in their own little worlds and don’t know how to include others. It’s crucial that you address this area immediately. Interacting with others is the foundation for all communication skills!
Questions to help you decide if a toddler responds to others:
- Does your child smile and enjoy himself when someone plays with him?
- Will he look for you when he hears you coming?
- Does she notice when you’re not there and fuss or try to find you?
- Does he seem to ignore language?
- Does your toddler consistently respond to his or her own name?
- Does she regularly tune out or appear to be uninterested in other people?
- Does he seem to prefer objects or things like TV or apps on a tablet or phone over people?
- Is she unresponsive when someone talks to her?
- Does she interact fine with you but avoids, ignores, or “blows off” other people?
Sometimes parents characterize children who don’t respond to others with descriptions of personality traits such as shyness, being a loner, or keeping to oneself. They may say, “She really likes to do her thing.” Or they may say, “He has always been such a good baby. He barely made a peep and never wanted to bother anyone.”
Those kinds of statements always leave me with knots in my stomach. Typically developing toddlers are social and even demanding. They want adults to notice them and to cater to their every whim. When we don’t hear that a child wants to be his mother or another primary caretaker almost constantly, it’s a big red flag.
Responding to other people is essential for language development. Communicating always involves at least two people. If a child doesn’t routinely respond and interact when you try to talk with him, play with him, or teach him something, it’s highly unlikely he’s learning.
Read more! Get your copy of Let’s Talk About Talking…11 Skills Toddlers Master Before Words Emerge today!