One of the most common questions SLPs receive from parents is, “How can I help my child improve?” While the answer often depends on the individual child, there are some easy ways that parents can become active participants in the language development process.
The simplest answer is often the best – and one of the most enjoyable. Reading with a child on his level and about his interests is a crucial step in both social and skill development. Choose books that are colorful and engaging for young children, and offer language-based challenges. One of my favorite books is Many Luscious Lollipops by Ruth Heller. The text is simple, but challenging, the pictures are huge, glossy, and brightly colored, and it’s giggly fun for the little ones as they try to pronounce alliterative adjectives.
Help kids correct syntax
Language is complex, and too often children say something like, “Me want cookie.” Adults often respond with “Aww, now isn’t that cute,” especially if the child has difficulty with language or is very shy…until it carries over to school and becomes a real issue. When a child of any age gets sentence order mixed up or forgets syntax, advise parents to resist the urge to respond with praise, babytalk, or a corrective tone. Instead, they might try repeating the phrase with a follow-up sentence. “Would you like a cookie? I would like a cookie.”
For kids working on specific sounds, find objects, books, and even street signs for the child to name or read. For example, for a child working on the letter “B,” a parent might assemble a basket that includes jumping beans, a fake beard, a toy trombone, a book about busy bees, etc. They could bake brownies together, play Bingo, and take Bumby Blvd to the store for butter and bananas. The key is to find every opportunity to use the sound and talk about it with the child.
Inspire the Art of Conversation
The art of conversation is a learned skill that parents can encourage and build upon. This includes active listening – paying attention to the child’s stories and asking relevant questions, but also being an engaging conversation starter. Advise parents to ask specific questions, like “What games did you play during recess?” and “Did anything funny happen at school?” instead of generic questions that often end the conversations with a shrug for an answer, like “How was your day?”
How do you answer this question? Are there specific techniques you advise parents to try that have been successful? Let us know – share your knowledge.