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Speech Development Blog by Tiffany Bartlett

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Give Them a Chance to Communicate

Speech Development Tip 6: Donʼt anticipate your
childʼs needs or wants too quickly. Allow your child the
chance to communicate needs and wants. For example,
place a favorite toy in sight, but slightly out of reach. Wait for
your child to gesture or speak before getting the toy.

As mothers we take pride in predicting our child's needs.  We can decipher our child's cries...knowing what is the hungry cry, the tired cry, or the tantrum.  Being able to anticipate the needs of our toddler is a great skill and helpful in our chaotic days, but are we helping our children by giving them what they need before they even ask?  I remember going on a home visit for speech therapy.  The toddler had three drinks lying in the living room floor - one was milk, one was juice, and one was water.  Her mother was making it easier, by giving her all her options, so she wouldn't have to ask.  Was it helpful for the mother's sanity?  Maybe for the time being.  Did it help her child's speech?  Not in the least.  The purpose of me telling you this is not to pass judgment on this person's parenting skills, but to give an example of how living in survival mode (what works for the moment) can be detrimental to the speech development of our children.

If you have a child with a speech delay, you can relate to the difficulty of figuring out what your child wants or needs, especially when your child is frustrated and upset.  It is easier to avoid the fit and give in to them pointing and grunting.  However, a child needs to know the importance of communication.  If I want something, I need to communicate in an appropriate way.  Throwing a fit or grunting will not get me what I want or need. 

An appropriate form of communicating, for a child with delayed speech, does not mean asking in full sentences.  It doesn't even mean saying "please" and "thank you."  It really depends on the speech level of your child.  It could mean your child uses sign language for "more" or "mine."  It could mean your child makes the beginning sound /b/ for the ball that (s)he wants.  If you know your child can say, "more," except her to say it...Don't settle for "uhhh." 

If your child can't communicate using words, meet him where he's at and encourage him or show him the next step.  For example, your child is reaching for a ball and crying.  You can grab the ball and give it to him to avoid a tantrum, or you can say, "ball please" or "/b/ ball."  To show him the appropriate way to communicate.  You can also go a step further and withhold the ball until your child shows some attempt to communicate appropriately.  My four year old, Emily, does not have any speech delays, but she does forget to ask when she wants something.  She usually says, "I want a drink or I'm thirsty."  My goal for her is to say, "Can I have a drink please?"  So, if she says, "I'm thirsty," I say, "Can I have a drink please?"  and then wait for her to say it correctly.  This may seem petty to some, but I am meeting Emily at the level she is at, and going a step further.

If we want our children to improve and grow, we need to give them the opportunity.  We need to challenge them one step at a time.
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