Each a part of a child's communication, and each influenced by their interactions with you - the ones who love them most - every day.
So, how do you positively impact each area? Today, we're going to talk about the incredible process of SPEECH.
Speech is the verbal way we communicate. It includes how we say specific sounds, called articulation. For example, a child must know how to produce the "r" sound to say "robot." Speech also includes how we use our vocal folds and breathing to produce sound - referred to as voice. If you've ever had a wicked cold and "lost your voice," you know how your communication with others is affected. The rhythm of sounds and words that flow out of our mouth is called fluency. Fluency can be affected by a child who hesitates or stutters. Quickly say a tough tongue twister 3x to understand how all of us experience bumps in fluency.
Try something. Close your eyes and slowly say, "watermelon." Think about what is happening in your mouth with each sound - what are your tongue, lips and cheek muscles doing? Now try a few of your favorite words, again analyzing each sound.
Kids develop speech skills through hearing and seeing us (the adults and older siblings) speak. We provide models of speech to our kids without realizing it. And they imitate what they see and hear. Think about your attempts to initiate laughter from your 10-month old. Or the phrase you hear your 3-yr old say to the neighbor's kid that you recognize as a common phrase you use almost every day. You model and your child imitates.
Babies coo and gurgle and then babble. Next comes their first word - sounds strung together in a meaningful way - and our hearts melt. Eventually, we hear phrases followed by sentences, followed by a childhood of conversation. And all along the way, we can make a positive impact.
Here's what you can do:
- Exaggerate sounds - elongate vowels and emphasize consonants as you interact with your baby and toddler. Focus on meaningful or important words in specific situations (e.g., introducing a new toy, during bath time, reading/looking at a book together).
- Exaggerate missing sounds - it's normal for your 15-month old to say "dawh" for "dog." Simply provide the missing "g" by saying "Yes, it's a dog" and exaggerate the "g" sound. The same strategy applies to your 2-year old who says "nana" for "banana." Provide the correct model, but don't correct your child. It's ok for them to make mistakes and keep talking.
- Become aware of how your child uses their voice. Is speaking loudly or shouting common outside the house (or even inside)? Frequent yelling/speaking loudly causes strain to the vocal folds which can result in voice disorders.
- Set an example and expectation of what appropriate vocal volume looks like. And keep up the reminders until the new, healthy habit sticks.
- Many kids (especially 3-5 years) go through a period of normal non-fluent speech. They may repeat a sound, pause or hold onto sounds as they are trying to communicate. You can help by being a good listener, focus on what they're saying (the meaning) and reduce interruptions.
- Keep your own speech easy, relaxed and calm. Use pause time, so your child can insert his/her own ideas.
- Keep communication fun. Don't call attention to times of non-fluent speech, and don't allow siblings/friends to tease.
As it's helpful to know the general timeline for skill development in speech, please click HERE for more information on developmental speech milestones.
Have fun communicating with your kids and observing the incredible process of learning to speak!
Be sure to check back this month each Thursday for strategies and tips on fine and gross motor skill development. And join me next month for the Part 2 of "Making an Impact on Your Child's Communication."