I’ve spoken about the severity of Macsen’s speech delay several times. He has a very difficult time forming the sounds we take for granted. I’m going to be traveling a very similar journey with Enfys over the coming years too, no doubt about it. During the last 12 months of speech therapy I have learned so much. I’ve discovered ways I didn’t realise existed to get Macsen talking and found things that work and far more that don’t work.
I’ve put together a little list of 5 ways you can help your child with a speech delay. (However, this is not medical advice, nor should it be use in place of a professional opinion. It is simply to help you make a start while waiting for official speech and language therapy sessions.)
Simplify your own language
This is the first thing our Speech & Language Therapist drilled into me.
Instead of saying:
“Macsen, come and get your shoes on.”
or instead of:
“Let’s get your coat on.”
Don’t say it in the same tone you would tell your dog to sit though… Macsen has reminded me time and time again that he is not a dog unless he wants to be.
It’s super important that the phrase you say makes sense. I made the mistake of sounding like an idiot because I couldn’t think of a way to make the phrase I was trying to say sound less flowery. The intonation is the most important thing and the only way you’ll not sound like you’re demanding something.
Ask your child a question that requires more than just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer
Keep your questions as open as possible. In the beginning, I gave Macsen a choice and making sure the most likely option was the word he heard last.
“Macsen, would you like a banana?” (To this he would simply say ‘yes’ if he wanted the banana.
Change it to:
“Macsen, would you like grapes or banana?” More often than not he would choose banana because it was the last word he heard.
Model the language back to your child
Macsen has a really good try at pronouncing many words these days. Anything I can understand I model back to him using the correct pronunciation. Not only does it create a dialogue but it provides your child with the opportunity to hear the correct way to say something.
MACSEN: “Hee all the amuls, Mammy”
MAMMY: “You want to see all the Animals, Macsen?”
MACSEN: “Yeah, Mammy, the hee, gow, horshey”.
MAMMY: “Ahhh, you want to see the sheep, cow and horsey?”
The conversation could actually work like this for some time. Although, that’s not to say you won’t occasionally get it wrong.
Make all communication about what interests your child
We all know that children’s interests can change daily. In the past 12 months we’ve had dinosaurs, cars, diggers and tractors, but right now we are on animals. Macsen is completely obsessed with animals. He also likes jigsaws. His speech and language therapist actually combined the two with great success. He was willing to repeat a modelled word in exchange for a jigsaw piece.
We have lots of animal and dinosaur books and, although we don’t read the story we make up our own simple version where I can model words for him.
Make speech and communication fun and rewarding
We initially started out with Macsen disliking any type of singing so we started off playing with toys. Toys that Macsen chose. Things that would make HIM feel good and under no pressure to talk.
We’re at the stage now, where Macsen WANTS to communicate. He knows it’s hard for him, but he still gives it his best shot. He also knows how to do just enough to satisfy me.
Recently, Macsen has become a fan of singing (I think it may have something to do with Alexa) and so we sing children’s songs. The Wheels on the Bus, Old McDonald had a Farm, The Hokey Cokey, Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. Since we’ve been able to sing, his speech has improved loads. Maybe it’s because, when we sing, he’s under no pressure to say things
Living with a speech delay is incredibly difficult. The most important thing is to give the child opportunities to talk but not to force them.
Do you have any other advice to help a child with a speech delay?