When my two year old son was diagnosed with a speech delay, I did all I could to help his speech improve. However, I wasn’t very educated on developmental delays in children and had no idea where to begin. All I knew was my son had a speech delay and he was getting increasingly frustrated when he tried to communicate and no one understood him.
I strongly believe the first step to dealing with a speech delay is t seek out professional assistance. There are wonderful, highly trained teachers and therapist able to help decode and work through a speech delay. It is recommended that you search and contact Early Intervention Services that are in your area if you suspect your child has a speech delay. My son has a wonderful team that has helped him along this journey and in one short year- the difference in his speech is incredibly different. Had it not been for the services he was offered through early intervention, he would not be where he is today in his speech. With that said, I have learned a lot from each one of his teachers. Who, by the way, come to the house and encourage me in finding new ways to help promote proper speech and sounds. I figured I would share some of these tips in case you have a child who has a speech delay.
One of the most prominent issues for a speech delay is simply because the muscles in the mouth are weak, and a child doesn’t know how to form proper sounds of letters with his mouth. Because of this, it is often recommended to do oral excises with your child to encourage awareness of the mouth and positions of the lips, tongue and pallet in different scenarios.
Speech Delay Oral Exercise # 1
Blowing bubbles- Not only is blowing bubbles a great activity to keep children entertained, but it also increases the use of the facial and jaw muscles. Developing a strong “bubble blowing” oral position can help a child who has a speech delay make the “w” sound as is “what” or “ewww” and long “o” as in “book” or “food” as well as other sounds.
Speech Delay Oral Exercise # 2
Drink from a straw- this oral exercise is great with kids who have a speech delay because it uses the same muscles that blowing bubbles does, except also gets the tongue moving and raises awareness of the pallet. This oral exercise also offers a tighter grip than blowing bubbles, further developing the muscles in the moth, face and jaw. Try to encourage your child to drink from a straw as often as possible to help improve their speech delay.
Speech Delay Oral Exercise # 3
Chap stick and a mirror!- One of the best ways to get a child’s attention to to have them look at themselves. This is a huge benefit to a child with a speech delay as the can actually watch and observe what their lips and tongue look like when the make sounds or speak. In addition to encouraging your child to look in the mirror more often comes a fun game! The kissing game. Have your child put in chap stick and encourage them to make the “mwah!” sound with their mouths. Show the how to pucker their lips, which helps again strengthen the oral muscles. Your child will have fun and be rewarded with getting to see the imprint of their lips on the mirror. You can also encourage other speech sounds the child may be having a hard time grasping and make different shaped “kiss marks” making them aware of how their lips can move.
Speech Delay Oral Exercise # 4
Use finger guides- Many children with a speech delay can not figure out what to do to make the words and sounds they need to make, come out. Helping your child with their speech is a continual effort of your part, but adding little “ques” and guides will help your child take notice to the position of YOUR lips when speaking to them. Simply point to your lips when you use letters like “p” as in “pop” “b” as in “ball “m” as in “mine” and so on. It also helps if your speech is semi-over exaggerated. say POP! instead of pop. make it exciting and repeat the sound “p” makes a few times before saying the word. For example say “Pa Pa Pa – POP!” while pointing to your lips while talking to your child. In time to can place your finger near their lips to encourage them to do the same.
Speech Delay Oral Exercise # 5
Make eye contact- This is not so much an exercise for speech delays, but is just as important in helping a child with a speech delay. The more your child sees you speaking, the more your child will learn about mouth movements. Take every opportunity you can to use words and make eye contact with your child. It can be as easy as stirring a cup of chocolate milk and saying “stir stir stir” while mixing the milk. By exaggerating some of the sounds heard in the beginning or end of the word. Such as “SSSSTIRRR”
Speech delays are very common in children and may or may not include other developmental delays. The most important thing to remember is a slow start does not mean speech won’t come. Much like potty training, it is eventual and many kids work on a different time table. The most important thing is learning to work with your child and incorporating activities like the ones mentioned above to help the speech delay in your child subside. Don’t be afraid to inquire for help from professionals. Many times these services are offered for free, since it ties in with education. The best thing to do is keep yourself well informed and be prepared to learn a lot!