When a child has delayed language development, parenting is different than it was for other children. Trying to understand your child creates stress and makes it difficult to connect to them positively. However, you can still develop communication skills in children with speech impediments. Below are suggestions to help strengthen your parent-child relationship.
Improving Your Communication with a Speech-Impaired Child
While delays in speech and language are common indicators of other conditions such as autism or hearing loss, there may be a different cause for it. Your child may be cognitive to language, but have difficulty expressing it. Your child's speech impediment may remedy itself over time. Until then, try these five ways to establish effective communication between you and your child:
1. Recognize Nonverbal Signals
The first step in good communication is to recognize your child's nonverbal attempts to communicate with you. Body language reveals a lot of emotion. Do your child's shoulders tense when frustrated or droop when sad? As you see these nonverbal signals, respond to them. Your response can be verbal or nonverbal, just as long as your child knows you understand their needs.
2. Establish Communication Cues
Toddlers and young children with delayed speech often struggle to formulate sound into words. You can establish cues, similar to sign language, to communicate. If it helps, consider taking a sign language class with your child. You can also get a basic signs book, which teaches needs such as having to eat or use the restroom. Make learning these cues a fun game and get your other children involved in it as well. Close relationships will develop between each family member as you work together to communicate.
3. Use Pictures
If you don't feel progress is being made, you might consider external sources of therapy. One form of therapy is known as art therapy. It uses pictures – usually drawn by your child – to help your child express their emotions. These pictures don't have to be concrete; they are meant to relieve stress and make it easier for your child to open up to you. It is also a way to build confidence, which will prepare your child to start school.
4. Elementary School Programs
When your child starts school, you will probably be presented with some different options for learning. If your child has been diagnosed with a hearing impairment or autism, you might consider placing them in a separate class where the teacher works more explicitly with each student. However, if you feel the language delay will correct itself in time, keeping your child in a regular class setting promotes social learning in addition to academic studies. The school might arrange for a speech therapist to come work with your child each week, if you feel that would be beneficial. The decision is between you and your child; it is not up to the school.
5. Continue Therapy
As your child continues to grow and develop, you might consider continuing therapy. In addition to art therapy, there are parent-child interaction classes you can take together. This will benefit you both – classes address common frustrations you both experience and help you cope with them. An added benefit for your child is their social skills are developed enough that, when speech does come, your child is confident interacting with children their age.
Establishing good communication between you and your children is a difficult task. If your child struggles with delayed speech, it becomes even more trying. However, there are many ways to improve communication and promote confidence in your child. You might choose to address the issue strictly at home, but therapy is another option as your child approaches elementary-school age.
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