Speech-Language Therapy For A Toddler?
Anna Rooney, MHS, SLP-CCC/L
- Many parents ask me why their child is a late talker. Speech-language delays are common because oral communication is a complex process. Many neurological processes must occur to say just one word! A child has to get his parent's attention, know the word, find the right word in his brain, send the word from his brain to his mouth, and coordinate movements to form the word. Sometimes, the reasons for these difficulties are obvious. Other times, it is unclear why the child is having communication difficulties.
- Early intervention is vital for children with speech-language delays because most brain cell connections are made during infancy and early childhood! Connections used repeatedly during the child's early years become the foundation for the brain's organization and function throughout life. In contrast, a connection that is not used results in a lack of development or even the disappearance of these connections. For example, a child who is rarely spoken to or read to in the early years may have difficulty mastering language skills later.
- Parents often ask me: what is speech therapy for a two-three-year-old? I tell them that speech therapy is fun and supportive. Since we come to your child's home about once a week for one hour, we develop a positive relationship with the family. Play-based therapy is used for young children with language delays. Parents are an important part of the therapy sessions. Usually, the parent, child, and therapist play together.
- We work with you in your home to implement communication strategies that can be used during the child's daily routine. During the first therapy session, we discuss your concerns and identify your child's strengths and needs. We help parents and caregivers encourage communication during daily activities like mealtime, bathtime, playtime, and story time. We review strengths and challenges with you each week and work toward the goal of age-appropriate communication. Some children can "catch up" within a year, and others need more time.
- Speech therapy encourages social communication development (the basis for language development). We use play routines that help your child learn social skills like turn-taking, imitation, and shared attention. The repetition of familiar play routines allows your child to anticipate and participate in therapy. Play activities might include: movement play, puzzle play, pretend play, storytime, music, and turn-taking games.
- We help your child develop functional communication skills. Functional communication is not just about speaking; it's about being understood. Communication can be verbal through the use of word approximations ("ca"), single words ("car"), word combinations ("want a car"), or sentences ("I want a car"). Communication can also be non-verbal through the use of gestures (pointing), sign language, or picture exchange. We help to encourage a variety of communicative functions, like; requesting, gaining attention, sharing feelings/ideas, negotiating ("my turn"), and rejecting (saying "no" or shaking head).
- Speech therapy helps to increase a child's language and speech skills. Language and speech are different; language is like the "hard drive," and speech is like the "printer." Language includes vocabulary and grammar (word order). Receptive language is how the child understands/comprehends verbal messages. Expressive language is how the child can orally communicate ideas. Speech includes how the child pronounces words and sequences the movements for speech.
- Usually, small children look forward to speech therapy; it is a very positive experience. As children learn to communicate more effectively, anxiety and frustration decrease. A typical "side effect" of speech therapy is improved confidence and self-esteem!