A question we get asked all the time by parents is
“when will my child talk?”
Unfortunately we can’t give you a magic number, age or time frame in which your child will begin to speak. All children are different and they gain skills at different times.
No matter what your child’s age, diagnosis or developmental stage in our experience they will need these 6 skills before they are ready to talk. So here are 6 areas you can focus on to give your child the best chance at finding their voice.
So here they are 6 skills your child needs to “talk”
Number 1: Receptive language skills – meaning an understanding of language. A child with receptive language skills is beginning to understand the importance and meaning behind language, for example he knows what to expect when you say “dinner/bath,” he can identify named items by pointing to them and ultimately he knows that words represent things in his world. So number one: Receptive language skills- your child can associate meaning with language.
Number 2: Imitation – meaning the ability to copy others. A child who can imitate can pay attention to others around him and copy their actions. For example he watches his mum clap her hands and is able imitate by clapping his hands. This is an example of non-verbal imitation as it involves an action. Once a child is able to copy the actions of others they can learn to copy the sounds made by others. For example a child who has verbal imitation skills can copy noises made by his dad such as “ah” “mooo” or “raspberry noises.”
Number 3: Oral motor skills – meaning your child can manipulate their mouth, tongue and lips in the ways necessary to create speech. A child with typical oral motor skills can move their tongue left and right up and down and they can move their lips into all different shapes. A speech pathologist can look at your child’s oral motor skills to ensure there is no oral motor barrier for your child. You can also use the popular story of “Mr Tongue” to increase your child’s oral motor awareness. Working on oral motor skills alone will have no effect on your child’s speech, so make sure to focus on all the other skills mentioned as well.
Number 4: Desire – meaning your child wants to communicate with others. A child who shows a desire to communicate often holds eye contact, has attention for others around him and make attempts in his own way to communicate, which might be through pointing or reaching or even crying.
Number 5: Motivation – meaning your child has a desire to communicate for a reason. He might be motivated by social interaction – getting enjoyment out the relationship OR he might be motivated by getting what he wants such as getting a biscuit after pointing to it. Many children, especially children with Autism, may need a more tangible motivator such as the item they are asking for, a hug, a hi five, a toy the list goes on and on. What motivates one child may not motivate another and motivations change over time. What motivates your child?
Number 6: Opportunity – meaning your child is given opportunities to communicate. Honestly this is one the hardest things for parents to do. As a parent of a young child you become skilled at anticipating what your child wants and needs BEFORE they ask you. A child who is given opportunity to communicate will be expected to indicate what they want, for example instead of putting a snack in front of him and waiting to see if he eats to know whether he is hungry show him the snack and wait for him to communicate before giving him the snack. He might communicate by pointing to the snack, reaching for it, using a sign or picture to ask for it. Although it seems that when a child isn’t talking they can’t ask for what they want this is mot the case. The child should still be expected to ask for what they want using non-verbal communication. This way the learn that they must do something before getting the item, which helps them learn that communication is vital and necessary. Are you providing communication opportunities for your child? How do you expect them to communicate? By pointing? By crying? By using signs? By using pictures? Or not at all?
We have just touched the surface of these 6 skills, a speech pathologist can help you work on each of these areas with your child so that they can find their voice.
Wishing you connection, love and communication with your child as you focus on these 6 areas to give your child the best chance at finding their voice.