Speech therapy can feel daunting when life is already busy and hectic. The last thing you need on your list is an hour or two of therapies to tack on to the end of your day. In case you missed my first post on helping your child’s speech development, check it out here. If it’s become a part of your daily routine, you can add in these tips too.
Talk For Your Child
This one can feel strange in the beginning, but you’ll most likely see the benefits of it quickly. Oftentimes when someone asked a child on the spectrum a question, they don’t have the language to respond or can’t get their response out fast enough. Take this as an opportunity to model the language for them.
For instance, the next time someone innocently says, “How old are you?” if your child cannot reply, do the replying for them. Look at your child and say, “I am 7 years old.”. If a family member says, “What grade are you going into?” give your child a little space to respond, and if they can’t, look at them encouragingly and say, “I will be in grade 3.”. Something as simple as “Grade 3.” works too. This modelling may help them make sense of how to meet the expectations of daily interactions.
Talk For Your Child Part Two
When you’re little and you’ve got big emotions, it can be difficult to understand them or express them. This one was tough for me because I have a hard enough time understanding my own emotions, let alone putting someone else’s into words. Don’t overthink it, just read what you can and try to give your child the words when it feels appropriate. Help them by using the proper tone and say something like, “I am so frustrated!”. Or if they have a disagreement with a sibling or friend you can say, “I am so mad at Johnny.” or “I don’t like it when you touch my toys.” It will help your child understand what they’re feeling, and hopefully in time be able to verbalize the response themselves.
This speech therapy technique really helped the relationship between my ASD kiddo and his little sister. As soon as she was mobile, she loved to touch his toys and get into his space. After he was used to us modelling the language for him, he learned to say things like, “I don’t want you on my chair.” and “Please stop!”. Often times it was effective in getting her to stop, and he learned how rewarding using language can be.
Agitate Your Child
This is a tough one, but it was a valuable lesson that I learned from watching my daughter push her brother’s buttons. Before she came along my son only had his older brother and parents. When he would get upset or frustrated we would all gently bow down and give in to most of what he wanted. Personally I love helping my kids and doing things for them, but let’s face it… It doesn’t do them any favours. The more you can give a loving push out of their comfort zone, the more growth they’re likely to experience. It may help motivate them to get their point across.
One idea is to make things just slightly out of reach for them, and instead of handing it to them, try to get them to say “I can’t reach.” or “Too high”. You could also put their favourite toy in a clear tupperware container that they may not be able to open and give them language like, “Need help.” or “Open it?”. Once they get the shorter 1-2 words, add more language into it. You might be really surprised at what they can come up with after a few months of this subtle speech therapy practice!
Avoid Yes or No Questions
When you can avoid setting up questions for a yes or no response, you give your child the opportunity to create more language. Even if they’re not able to verbalize it, it will get them thinking about what they may like to say. Instead of asking a question like, “Would you like breakfast?” try asking, “What would you like for breakfast?”. Even if the response is just, “cereal” or “yogurt” you’re getting more robust language. Open ended questions usually start with “what”, “why”, and “how”. Phrasing questions this way encourages a full answer, rather than a simple “yes” or “no.”
Read and Sing Every Day
Not the most riveting and new speech therapy concept, but it can never be said too much. Reading and singing are such a great ways to provide your child with a language rich environment. Singing helps stretch out the words and the sounds, and often makes the language clearer and easier to understand. Simple nursery rhymes like The Wheels on the Bus, and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star can be really beneficial to an early talker’s pronunciation and articulation skills. If you’re over the repetition of the classics, check out Seeka Sings on Instagram or YouTube for new and fun songs to sing with your child.
Our children are 10, 8 and 4 at the time of this post. We still haven’t stopped reading at bedtime with any of them. It can be tedious, and honestly there are some days I wish we could skip it — but we very rarely do. When your child is autistic they may not grow into chapter books in the same way another kid their age might. Some of the picture books he still likes to read are The Pigeon books, and the Knuffle Bunny series. Jasper Rabbit books, The Koala Who Could and The Elephant and Piggie books have also become favourites. These books are all fun to read even as an adult. He’s getting quite good at reading them on his own now too!
Teach Turn Taking
This is technically tip number 6, but since 1 & 2 are similar, let’s call it number 5! Turn taking is a great way to set up the basis of conversation if your child has limited language. You can play simple back and forth games so they understand communication between two people. If they ever get to a point of being able to communicate verbally, they will have so much more success if they already understand waiting for the other person to take their turn. Turn taking can be built into just about any activity. For example taking turns at the playground; stacking blocks one at a time; throwing a ball back and forth; in the kitchen when stirring a baking mix, etc. Turning the pages during book when reading together is another good opportunity for turn taking.
Speech therapy is such an empowering thing to work on with your child. The more they can express their needs and communicate their wants, the happier everyone will be. These tips are meant to be subtle lifestyle changes that can add up to big successes over time. I am not a speech pathologist, I am only a parent who has seen great success in my own child. If you would like to seek out more professional resources, check out Raising Little Talkers and Speech Sisters.