Language, speech and communication skills are of key importance in a child’s formative education and success. Humans use a variety of ways to communicate, but arguably none are as important to a child’s academic success as language and speech skills – their ability to express themselves through spoken and written language. A child’s brain is a flexible, curious and bottomless object, and as a parent it is your job to help them wrap that brain around speech and language conventions, exposing them to new and different ways to communicate. Whether your child is a language whiz or having difficulties with expression, here are four ways you can help their speech development.
See A Speech Therapist
If you have any concerns about your child’s speech development, it’s a good idea to start looking for a childrens therapist that specializes in speech therapy – they’re often known as speech-language pathologists, or SLPs for short. SLPs focus first on assessing and evaluating the speech issues, and then on creating a treatment plan, which can help children express themselves better and, in turn, see greater academic and social success. This is the first and best line of defense if you are concerned about your child’s speech development – language acquisition and usage is a vast and complex subject, so it’s best to get help from the experts.
Hearing you read to them, seeing the words go by on the page, and then taking a turn themselves trying to read – these three steps, as part of an evening family ritual, can be extraordinarily effective in helping speech development. Don’t be afraid to start your kids early. Even if they just sit there and absorb themselves in the narrative of the story, they are learning valuable things about language and speech operate. Choose books that are appropriate for their age group, but don’t be afraid to give them something complex – children listen on a higher language level than they are able to read, so this is a great way to expose them to complicated ideas.
Chat About Everything
Chat about the book you just read together. Chat about the things you see out the car window. Chat about their day at school, their friends, their teacher, their lunch, their hobbies, their hair… anything! The more you engage with your child, the better their speech development will be. And don’t be passive in the conversation – get in there and talk about yourself, your day and your interests, because receiving information is just as important a language skill as being able to dispense with it. Try to vary up your vocabulary as well; whereas yesterday you asked them about their favourite “sports”, today ask them about “athletic activities”.
Be Supportive, Not Critical
Finally, it’s important to always be supportive of your child’s attempts, and refrain from being critical if they make mistakes. The last thing you want is to stifle your child’s desire to express themselves, but the fear of failure can be a strong deterrent to a child. Helpful, happy corrections are welcome, of course.
Language and speech skills are the foundation upon which much of your child’s academic, social and (later) work life will be built, so it’s important to help their development any way you can. Visit a Speech-Language Pathologist if you are concerned about your child’s speech development, and remember to read and talk with them often.