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For Parents

Learning to talk is one of the hardest things to do. Some children find it difficult to develop speech & language which can lead to them not making the progress we expect. They may find it hard to:

  • Speak clearly.
  • Use words & sentences.
  • Understand conversation.
  • Communicate with others.

It is sometimes thought that if children are not speaking, they are being lazy. However, children are rarely lazy about talking - if they can do it, they will!

Some children also find it difficult to develop their eating and drinking skills such as:

  • Weaning.
  • Getting used to different textures and tastes.
  • Difficulty with sucking, biting and chewing.
  • Difficulty with swallowing.

Speech & Language Therapists who are specialists in this area can provide advice and support to children & their families.

The following link takes you to four films to help parents encourage their children's communication development. Narrated by comedian Kathy Burke, the films are full of useful advice on how parents can encourage their child to talk and interact with them. There are four films, divided into age group, for parents who have children up to the age of 3.

http://www.thecommunicationtrust.org.uk/parents/films-for-parents/

Learning to talk doesn't just happen, you need to help!

Please select from the following for brief advice.

My child doesn't listen & pay attention

My child doesn't listen & pay attention

Young children do have short attention spans, it is common that they flit from one thing to another. However, as your child gets older, they may need to learn to listen and develop their ability to concentrate & pay attention.

Your child may have difficulty with listening & paying attention due to a number of reasons. This may be because:

  • They have difficulties with hearing.
  • They have not understood what you have said.
  • Their listening & attention skills are not yet developed enough.

You can help your child to listen by:

  • Switching off the television when playing with your child - show them how to use toys.
  • Say your child's name before speaking to them.
  • Use a lot of repetition when explaining new words or tasks to your child.
  • Use simple sentences, emphasising important words.

Useful listening skill games

 

 

My child doesn't talk...

When learning to talk, some children will be a little quicker to use their first words while others will be slower. But all children should have reached certain stages at certain times, see below for a quick guide:

6 Months Making Noises e.g. "ma, ba, da."
1 Year Making talking noises & often saying their first words
18 Months Saying words like "daddy", "juice", "car"
2 Years Putting words together like "bye bye mummy" and "ball gone"
3 Years Putting 4 or 5 words together such as "my daddy play football"
4 Years Asking lots of questions e.g. "why...?"
5 Years Talking in more adult like sentences

Adapted from Small Talk: How children learn to talk from birth to age 5 - The Communication Trust 2011

You can help your child to talk by:

  • Repeat what you say as children need to hear a word many times before they are able to say it themselves.
  • Use simple language & keep your sentences short
  • Comment on what your child is doing and what they can see.
  • Don't ask too many questions e.g. instead of asking "whats that?" say "look, a flower". 
  • Give them time to think - children need more time than adults to think about what they've heard and what to say back.

Talk Together - Online Booklet - Activities & ideas to help babies & young children to learn skills for talking.

My child doesn't understand...

Children can develop understanding of language at different rates. But all children should have reached certain stages at certain times, see below for a quick guide:

12 - 18 Months Understands a few simple words such as "drink, show".
Follows simple instructions e.g. "show me your nose" or "kick ball?".
18 - 24 Months Understands between 200 - 500 words.
Understands more simple instructions.
2 - 3 Years Understands simple "who? what? where?" questions.
Understands longer instructions such as "where's mummy's car" and "make teddy sleep".
3 - 4 Years Understands colours, numbers and time related words e.g. "later, yesterday".
Understands simple "Why?" questions.
4 - 5 Years Understands longer instructions.
Understands harder words such as "first, next, above".

You can help your child to understand by:

  • Make it easier for them to listen by turning off the TV, radio or iPad.
  • Use simple language & keeping your sentences short.
  • Show your child what you mean by demonstrating, using gestures and pointing
  • Giving them time to think.

My child can't speak clearly...

When children are learning to talk, they also learn to use speech sounds. All children will go through stages where there speech is unclear. By 3 years of age, most of what a child says is understood by their parents. However, some children get stuck at a certain stage of their speech development (delayed speech). Other children don't follow a typical pattern of development (disordered speech). Your child may make mistakes with their speech such as:

  • using the wrong sound e.g. saying "to" instead of shoe or "tat" for cat.
  • missing out sounds e.g. saying "poon" for spoon and "she" for sheep.
  • making longer words shorter (reducing number of syllables) e.g. "nana" for banana.

These errors can make a child's speech difficult to understand for both parents, carers and less familiar people.

You can help your child to develop their speech by:

  • Repeating what they've said using the right words and sounds, rather than asking them to say it again.
  • Providing clear models of speech sounds - so when they say the wrong sound e.g. "tat" for cat, it is important for you to say the correct sound back i.e. by saying "that's right it's a cat."
  • Encourage your child to listen to and sing rhymes & songs - this helps them to become familiar with rhythms and sounds in language.

 

 

 

My child stammers...

Stammering (also called stuttering or dysfluency) is difficulty with speaking fluently. A child may have a lot of hesitations in their speech, repeat sounds e.g. b, b, b, b, ball, or words or sentences. They may also make sounds longer or struggle to get words out altogether. A stammer may also be accompanied by eye blinks, head nods and other body movements.

Difficulties with speaking fluently between 2 - 4 years affects about one child in 20, and can come and go while a child is learning to talk. While the underlying causes are not fully understood, we know that parents do NOT cause stammering. Evidence shows that most children outgrow this phase over a few weeks or months (British Stammering Association: October 2013 - www.stammering.org.uk). But for some it can take 3-5 years before their speech is completely fluent. Two thirds of children will fully recover from this early stammering.

For any child who has a stammer / non-fluent speech it is advised to refer to Speech & Language Therapy. How Do I Refer?

You can help your child by:

  • Not asking too many direct questions such as "what's that?", "what colour is it?"
  • Slowing down your rate of speech, but don't tell your child to slow down or take a deep breath.
  • Not finishing off your child's sentences. Let them finish what they have to say.
  • Keeping 5 minutes a day, especially for your child, when you will play whatever they want to play and talk, just with them.
  • Letting them have special time when they lead the way with an activity of their choice.
  • Using short, simple sentences & give them plenty of time to answer.
  • Keep natural eye contact.
  • Make sure everyone gets a turn to speak.

For further advice please visit the British Stammering Association website: www.stammering.org.uk

 

 

My child is learning two languages...

Learning more than one language is a good thing for children and speaking more than one language can have many positives benefits. When your child is learning more than one language it is important to talk to them in the language you feel most confident in. Children learn to talk through listening and talking to people - it is the same for their first language and English.

There is no evidence to suggest that learning an additional language causes speech & language difficulties.

Children should only be referred to Speech & Language Therapy if they have difficulties in their first language.