Some children find it difficult to talk fluently. Their words won’t flow smoothly, they face difficulty in expressing themselves. They may face stammering while talking or their speech may lack clarity. Kids with these problems may lose confidence. So speech therapy for kids, who face these kinds of problems is highly recommended. Speech therapy is the assessment and treatment of communication problems and speech disorders. It is performed by speech-language pathologists (SLPs), which are often referred to as speech therapists.
Here we will tell you about speech therapy for kids and the small activities that you can perform at home to help your child.
What is Speech Therapy?
Speech therapy is a method in which children who face difficulty in speaking are helped by speech therapists. It mainly focuses on improving a child’s speech, their ability to discern speech and overcome problems like poor articulation, disfluency, and voice disorders, etc. Speech therapy techniques are used to improve both verbal and nonverbal communication.
Speech therapy for kids mainly emphasis:
1. Articulation and fluency to form sounds, words, and sentences.
Articulation and fluency to form sounds, words, and sentences. Children often face problems while forming coherent words and speaking fluently, the technique of speech therapy aims to help the children to improve their speech and form words and sentences better.
2. Regulation of the volume of speech.
Children affected with speech problems often tend to speak either in very high or very low volume. Speech therapy helps to regulate the volume and pitch in which a child speaks.
3. Expressive language through pictorials, signs, and written forms.
Expressive language disorder is difficulty conveying or expressing information. A child with a speech problem may have trouble forming accurate sentences, such as using incorrect verb tenses. They find it difficult to convey a message to others using words, sentences, and writing. They also struggle to use grammar correctly and frame words in a sentence and describe incidents. Speech therapy aims to work on these areas.
But if a child talks slowly or in intervals, it doesn’t always mean that they need speech therapy.
How To Know If Your Child Needs Speech Therapy?
There are levels of the problem when speech therapy becomes necessary. Here are some of the criteria:
1. Your child needs speech therapy if-
- Your child does not utter two or three-word sentences, but rather only one or two words like mama and papa.
- Your child’s speech is disturbed with stuttering, repetition, prolongation, and blocks.
- Your child faces problems while developing social skills like making friends, having direct contact, learning play skills, and engaging with others.
- When the speech of your child is not clear, and people find it difficult to understand what your child is saying.
- Your child struggles in uttering words or translating their thoughts into words.
2. Although your child may be an early reader and have perfect pronunciation but they still might need speech therapy. It will help them to hone their pragmatic language skills or the process of using language aptly in social scenarios to have a conversation, make new friends, or simple requests to someone.
3. A child may also need speech therapy due to disabilities, or medical conditions like autism or hearing impairment as they affect the ability to communicate.
It is advisable to consult a speech-language pathologist (SLP) for the above cases. They start their services for the kids at a young age which continues through their school years.
Home is the first place to begin. Even if your child has been enrolled in a speech therapy program, you still have to practice them at home. When a child gets a problem with speech the first thing to do is check if they have any hearing disability. Observe how they react to sounds and noises around them like TV etc.
Tips For Parents On Speech Therapy For Kids At Home
Pressuring your child can impact them more negatively. Rather parents should follow the below tips:
1. Target areas:
Pick up a particular area where you see your child struggling. Focus on that area. Keep some goals that would be possible for both you and your child part to complete.
2. Make your child read:
Ask your child to read books. Look for the genre they like and ask them to read it out loud and repeat it twice or thrice. It will help them inculcate speaking and language skills.
3. Encourage conversation:
Talk with your child and ask them thought-provoking questions like, “What would you do if you could swim?” It will give them a space to express themselves.
4. Practice short bedtime prayer:
Practicing prayer will teach your kid to pray and will help instill in them a lifetime habit of talking with the Lord.
5. You can try this exercise:
You can engage your child with some simple games and exercises like Chinese whisper etc.
5. Address one sound at a time:
Start by breaking difficult words into simple short words and teach them.
6. Listen carefully:
Listen very carefully when your child speaks, that gives them confidence and the feeling that they are being heard. Hence they try to speak fluently. Even when they take some time to speak, try to be patient and attentive.
7. Do an assessment:
Regularly keep a performance assessment record of your child. This will help you know where your child has developed and which area is still lacking. You can analyze by comparing your child’s performance with the normal milestones in children of that age.
There are various other activities as well which can be performed as a part of speech therapy for kids, but you should always keep in mind that your child enjoys them. They will show interest and cooperate only when they like what they are doing.
Speech Therapy Activities And Exercises
All the below-mentioned exercises will also help stimulate speech in children.
1. Play catch
Practice saying the words while playing catch with your child. In this way, you can help in doing two exercises at a time.
2. Flashcards and question cards
When you see your child struggling with certain words, place some flashcards containing pictures in front of them and ask them to speak what they see. Begin slowly and then drag them into a conversation.
Question cards have simple questions for children. Choose one card at a time and slow down to have a conversation. This can be a grand strategy to pull your child into a conversation.
3. Go for a walk
One of the best ways to have speech therapy practice is to go for a walk. Ask your child a question or provide them with a word and tell them to move forward when they say the correct answer. It will build interest in them.
4. Mirror exercise
This will help your child know how their mouth moves while making a particular sound. You can show them how to make a particular sound and they can see the difference. It will give them visual feedback.
5. Hop and speak
This game makes your child repeat the word nine times. Start with the words you want your kid to practice. Draw hopscotch with 1-9 numbers and ask the child to utter the word each time they hop on a number. Once they complete hopping up to 9, change the word and let them hop again, this time with the new word. You can begin with fewer words and increase them gradually. Once they complete the game by saying the words correctly, reward them with a gift. This increases the child’s confidence.
Apart from the above-mentioned exercises and games, you must also make sure that your child practices exercise for oral muscles.
Oral Motor Exercises
Strong oral motor skills are needed to perform various skills like eat, swallow, talk, etc. The muscles inside the mouth, including the lips, cheeks, jaw, and tongue are referred to as oral muscles. All these parts are tied to muscles, which can be strong or weak, coordinated or uncoordinated.
Below are the different oral motor exercises for your kids to practice in the comfort of home.
1. Cheek movements
You can strengthen the child’s cheek muscles with these movements:
- Ask your kid to keep their lips sealed and contract the cheeks.
- Make an “o” with the lips and move them in a circular motion.
- Relax and repeat.
- Use a straw to drink water.
2. Lip movements
These lip movements make for an excellent oral exercise for kids.
- Say ooo, then eee. Combine “oo-ee.” All these utterances have different movement patterns.
- Ask the kid to smile big, relax and repeat.
- The child can puff out their cheeks while not opening the lips. Alternatively, they may puff one cheek and rest the other.
- Ask the child to blow a balloon or whistle.
- The same can be done with lips. Puff the upper lip followed by the lower lip. Relax. Repeat.
Make the child drink from a straw instead of a cup.
3. Tongue movements
Try these ‘tongue twisters’.
- Make your child practice tongue tip sounds like “t-t-t-t,” “d-d-d-d” “p-p-p-p.”
Say “go” with exaggeration
- Have your kid hold their tongue and not rest it on the lips or teeth. They have to tighten the tongue and then relax.
- Ask the child to protrude the tongue and make circular movements.
A Few Other Exercises For Oral Motor Skills:
4. Peanut butter
Every kid has a special corner for peanut butter. Apply some peanut butter in the corner of the lips and have them lick it. By doing so their tongue moves to the extreme points and from one side to another.
5. Blow bubbles
Letting your child blow bubbles for breath control and for the lips will make them purse their lips, which is an oral motor exercise.
6. Tune the harmonica
Blowing the harmonica helps in breath control and lip-pursing.
In addition to these exercises, games, and movements you should also train your child right from a young age.
Age-Wise Activities For Speech Development
Never pressurize your child to do any activity against their will. Do only those which they enjoy.
Birth to 2 years
At this age, the baby cannot speak but make some sounds. Hence you cannot know if they need any speech therapies. You can take up the below exercises if you want to encourage your infant to make sounds/ utter syllables.
- Make sounds like “ma,” “ba,” “ga”. Eventually, your baby might repeat them.
- Pretend to have a conversation with your baby whenever they make sounds. Talk back and repeat whatever they say. This encourages them to ‘talk’ more.
- Teach your baby to clap hands.
- Sing a song
- Talk to your baby while bathing, walking, or feeding them. You may talk about anything.
- Introduce board books
- Use gestures like waving and flying kiss, pointing.
- Talk to your baby about animal sounds, like, “The cow says moo-moo”.
- Use vowels in the words.
2 to 4 years
- Speak with clarity so that the child learns that from you.
- Repeat what your child speaks to tell them that you understand.
- Add on to what they say. Example: “Together? We will play together. We will walk together.
- Help your child understand and ask questions. Play the yes/no game. You may have them come up with sentences like, “I can fly,” “A tree can walk”, and then you answer in yes or no.
- Put familiar objects in a box. Have your child take one out at a time and tell you what its name is and how to use it. “This is a pencil. I use a pencil to draw sketches. I also write using this pencil.”
- Ask the child to read aloud slowly pronouncing each word separately.
There are also many speech development toys and speech therapy books that are available and can be used.
But remember not to rush with the speech process. Children take time to learn. Give your child the room to improve. Children improve only when parents encourage them.