May 22, 2013

Reading repetitive books aloud to your children is a great way to strengthen their speech development.

Nothing compares to the sweet sound of a child’s voice. The cooing, babbling and talking all reveal what the child is thinking as well as how he or she is developing.

But when it comes to speech development, what should children be able to say and when?

Though each child is different – and boys generally develop speech patterns more slowly than girls – most children should be able to say at least eight or 10 words by the time they reach 18 months. While delayed speech can be a sign of other developmental delays or learning disorders, it usually isn’t a major concern. However, it’s always best to address all concerns with the child’s health care provider.

The good news is that many children with delayed speech can learn to catch up with their more talkative peers through a little parental encouragement. To get started, check out the following five tips to help your child improve his or her speech habits.

  • Have her hearing checked — A late talker should have her hearing checked to rule out auditory problems – even if she got a clean bill of health on her newborn hearing test.
  • Talk to him — For a child in the early stages of speech development, hearing his parents talk to one another is not the same as hearing a parent talk directly to him. Simple activities include naming your actions and his actions, as well as naming colors, shapes, activities and items. Singing repetitive songs and reading repetitive books will also help.
  • Watch her gestures, eye contact and play style — Does your child interact nonverbally at an age-appropriate level? Does she seem to understand verbal cues even if she doesn’t speak? If so, she is more likely to catch up when she begins to speak and less likely to experience long-term effects of delayed speech.
  • Consider baby sign language — Many parents fear that a child who signs will become dependent on sign language instead of learning how to talk. But the Mayo Clinic reports that both typically developing children and those with developmental delays can benefit from using baby sign language.
  • Consider an early intervention program — If you want some help and encouragement, or if you are concerned that your child may be lagging significantly behind in normal speech development, your local early intervention program can help level the playing field between your child and his peers.

If your child is showing signs of delayed speech, therapy may help. To learn more about Epic’s speech-language therapy for children, contact the office nearest you.