If you have a child that is diagnosed with ASD, speech therapy will most likely become a big part of your life. When we had our first meeting with our son’s speech & language pathologist, he was really far behind his peers. I had no idea how to help him develop those skills, so I was eager to call in some help. The SLP we were connected to was incredibly knowledgable and direct. She was intimidating at first because she could care less about our comfort zones, she was going to get us out of our own way and teach our kid to talk!
Slowly but surely, our son has made remarkable progress. He is still nowhere near what is expected from a typical child his age, but he has come so far. I want to share with you some day to day speech therapy tips I’ve learned that you can implement with your own child. This will work for anyone who is just learning to communicate with language. I used the same skills with my daughter who was just a baby at the time, and her speech development far exceeded that of my other two children.
Narrate Your Day
Start talking about everything all the time. Even if it feels like the kids aren’t listening, say things like, “We are making breakfast. I’m getting the bread out of the cupboard and opening the bag. I’m getting a piece of bread of out and putting it in the toaster. I push this button down to turn it on. Be careful, it can get hot!” So on, and so on, and so on. It may feel difficult at first, but it will start building those connections for your child and give them more ideas of how to use language in their daily lives. You can start doing this right away and soon it will become a habit.
Slow Down Your Speech
Start listening to yourself when you talk to your children, or anyone! Maybe you never realized it before, but you’re such a proficient talker that your words can slide together and combine into one. For someone learning language and communication, this can be really confusing. Take the time to evaluate the speed at which you speak. No need to slow down into a condescending tone, but enough that your words are annunciated clearly and properly.
Keep it Simple
The next step is to get concise with what you’re saying. Do you use a lot of extra words and run on sentences? (Guilty!) This can also create more confusion for someone who is still working with the basics of language. If you can cut down what you’re saying to the simplest terms, you’ll build a strong foundation to build on.
This might feel like it’s out of your comfort zone, but I urge you to consider it. When you record yourself playing with or talking to your children, you’ll likely notice opportunities you may have otherwise missed to help further language development. You might see times when your child is attempting to communicate, or moments when you could have slipped in more of that narrating piece. It’ll give you a clearer frame of mind for the future and you can make your every day interactions more purposeful.
Allow Space for a Response
It’s a general rule that we don’t like silence and we want to fill the space during conversation. For lots of people on the spectrum, deciphering language does not come naturally. So when we don’t allow for pause and a response, we may be missing the chance to build on conversational skills. Focus on becoming more aware of your child’s response to your questions or observations. Avoid jumping in and filling the silence or following up with another question. They may surprise you!
It can often feel like you are not seeing changes in the right direction. Every child develops differently and results will vary widely. Try to stay positive and make notes of even the most incremental successes — they may add up to something big over time! This is our personal experience with speech therapy and may not work for everyone. If you’d like professional advice, check out Raising Little Talkers and Speech Sisters — follow them on Instagram for lots of daily tips.
Got these basics down? Check out this post for 5 more tips on how to develop language.