Top Tips for Early Language Development

Smart Speech Therapy | Resources

As a parent, you play a crucial role in your child’s language development journey. Early language skills lay the foundation for communication, learning, and social interaction. There are some key things we can do to ensure a strong foundation in these areas for our children. Here are some practical strategies to support your child’s language development, focusing on engaging with your child in meaningful ways:

  • Be face-to-face: When interacting with your child, make sure to position yourself at their eye level. This allows them to see your face clearly, which is important for visual communication and language learning.
  • Turn-taking games: Engage your child in simple turn-taking games, such as pushing a ball back and forth or taking turns stacking blocks. These activities help your child learn the basics of conversation and interaction.
  • Modelling: Provide clear and simple models of words for your child. When playing with toys or engaging in activities, label objects and actions clearly, and demonstrate the corresponding actions.
  • Pretend play: Encourage imaginative play by showing your child how to use toys in pretend scenarios. Whether it’s putting a doll to sleep, building a tower, or playing with toy animals on a farm, pretend play is a fun and effective way to expand vocabulary and encourage language development.
  • Repeating: Repeat what your child says to reinforce their words in the right context. This helps them understand the meaning of words and encourages them to use language to communicate.
  • Commenting: Narrate everyday activities and your child’s play. Describe actions as they happen, such as “brushing teeth” or “driving a truck,” and comment on your child’s play to encourage language development and engagement.
  • Reduce questions: Minimise the number of questions you ask your child and instead focus on providing them with the words they need for their actions. This reduces pressure and allows them to focus on learning new vocabulary.
  • Get their attention: Before speaking to your child, make sure to get their attention by calling their name and waiting for a response. This ensures that they are ready to listen and engage with you.
  • Expand language: When your child uses a single word, add another word to expand their language skills. For example, if they say “car,” you can say “drive car” or “little car” to provide additional context.
  • Offer choices: Give your child choices to encourage decision-making and language development. For example, ask them “milk or juice?” or “doll or bubbles?” to prompt them to use words to express their preferences.

By incorporating these strategies into your daily interactions with your child, you can create a supportive environment that fosters language development and communication skills. Remember to be patient, encouraging, and consistent, and celebrate your child’s progress along the way. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns about your child’s early language development.

Nurturing Early Literacy

Smart Speech Therapy | Resources

Early literacy lays the foundation for a lifetime of reading and learning. As Speech Pathologists, we’ve seen firsthand the impact that simple activities can have on a child’s literacy development. Here are some practical tips to help you support your child’s journey into the world of words:

  • Clap and Jump Out Syllables: Breaking words down into syllables helps children understand the rhythm and structure of language. Try clapping or jumping out the syllables (beats) of words together. For example, for the word “butterfly,” you can clap or jump three times to emphasise each syllable: “but-ter-fly.”
  • Focus on Sounds, Not Letters: When helping your child learn about the building blocks of words, it’s essential to focus on sounds rather than letter names. Encourage your child to identify the first and last sounds of words. For instance, ask them what sound they hear at the beginning of “cat” (‘c’) or at the end of “dog” (‘g’). This helps them develop phonemic awareness, which is crucial for reading success.
  • Explore Rhyming Words: Rhyming is not only fun but also an excellent way to enhance phonological awareness. List rhyming words for a target word to help your child recognise and understand word patterns. For example, if the target word is “run,” you can suggest words like “fun,” “sun,” and “bun.”
  • Segment and Blend Sounds: Break words apart and put them back together again to help your child understand how sounds combine to form words. Ask them to tell you a word with the first or last part or sound removed. For instance, challenge them to say “kangaroo” without the “roo” (“kanga,”) or to say “sun” without the initial “s” (“un”).

By incorporating these activities into your daily routine, you’re not only helping your child become a better reader but also fostering a love for language and learning that will benefit them for years to come. So, let’s clap, rhyme, and play with words to nurture our children’s early literacy skills together! Feel free to contact us if you have any concerns about your child’s literacy development.

How can I get my child to attend and listen?

Smart Speech Therapy | Resources

Attention and listening skills are crucial for children’s learning and development, and as parents, there are many ways you can support and encourage these skills. As Speech Pathologists, we often work with children who struggle with attention and listening and have seen firsthand the impact that targeted strategies can have on their abilities.
The ability to focus on a task or speaker is essential for success in school and social situations. Children with difficulties attending and listening may exhibit behaviours like fidgeting or being easily distracted, but it’s important to recognise that even quiet children may also struggle with these skills. So, what can parents and teachers do to help their children and students improve their attention and listening abilities? Here are some strategies:

  • Reduce distractions: Create a calm and quiet environment at home and in the classroom to help children focus better.
  • Gain attention before giving instructions: Make sure you have your child’s full attention (by saying their name) before giving them tasks or information.
  • Use visual supports: Pictures, gestures, and handouts can help reinforce verbal instructions and concepts. Visual cues can also help remind children of expected behaviours during group activities.
  • Break down instructions: Simplify tasks by breaking them down into smaller parts and giving the child time to process each step.
  • Encourage active listening: Teach your child to recite instructions or information to themselves to reinforce their understanding.
  • Provide positive reinforcement: Praise your child when they demonstrate good attention and listening skills, and use rewards to motivate them.
  • Offer movement breaks: Allow children to release energy through movement-based activities before expecting them to sit still and focus.
  • Establish routines: A visual timetable can help children anticipate what’s coming next and transition between activities more smoothly.
  • Seat strategically: Place children away from distractions like windows and closer to the speaker or teacher to help them focus better.

By implementing these strategies consistently, parents and teachers can help their children develop strong attention and listening skills that will serve them well in all areas of life. Remember, every child is unique, so it may take some trial and error to find the approaches that work best for your child. But with patience and persistence, you can help set them up for success. Feel free to reach out to us if you’d like some assistance in navigating the best strategies for your child.

Suspect your child may have Selective Mutism?

Smart Speech Therapy | Resources

As Speech Pathologists, we understand the challenges that parents face when supporting a child with selective mutism. Selective mutism is a complex anxiety disorder that affects a child’s ability to speak in certain situations, despite being able to speak comfortably in others. If your child is struggling with selective mutism, here are some strategies to support them:

  • Ask forced-choice questions: Instead of open-ended questions that may feel overwhelming, ask your child forced-choice questions. For example, “Do you want the apple or the orange?” This gives your child a sense of control and makes it easier for them to respond.
  • Make lots of comments: Reduce the number of questions in conversation and instead make lots of comments. This takes the pressure off your child to respond and allows them to participate in the conversation in their own way.
  • Praise their efforts: When your child does speak or communicate in any way, praise them for their efforts. For example, say “Well done for telling me you like the dog.” This positive reinforcement can boost their confidence and encourage further communication.
  • Repeat back what they say: When your child does speak, repeat back whatever they say to you. This validates their communication and shows them that you are listening and understanding.
  • Avoid pressure: Never put pressure on your child to talk. This can increase their anxiety and make it even harder for them to speak. Instead, create a supportive and understanding environment where they feel safe to communicate in their own time.
  • Avoid yes/no questions: Yes/no questions can easily be answered with a nod or shake of the head, reducing the opportunity for your child to verbally respond.
  • Encourage independence: Try not to answer questions for your child or speak on their behalf. Instead, encourage them to communicate in their own way, whether that’s through gestures, nods, or written communication. If someone asks your child a question, try to rephrase it in a way that feels more comfortable for them.

By implementing these strategies and providing a supportive environment, you can help your child with selective mutism feel more comfortable and confident in their ability to communicate. Although it certainly comes with many frustrations, remember to be patient, understanding and empathetic, and celebrate each small step forward. This is one of our areas of speciality, so feel free to contact us if you need any further support.