Why is my child not talking when all the other children I know are? When will my child talk? I just want to hear words! Do you think we’re making progress?
These are all questions parents might ask when they start their speech-language therapy journey, and understandably so. After all, communication is so important, and your child’s ability to communicate makes life so much easier!
However, talking is not as simple as ‘just talking’. There are so many pre-language/talking readiness skills a child needs to master, before they’re ready to use words. These are the things we do with and without words, to communicate; things like using gestures, facial expressions, imitation, joint attention and eye contact.
All these skills are the foundation on which understanding and talking are built. If your child finds it difficult to look at and attend to you when you’re talking, they’ll have fewer opportunities to hear language, learn words and attach meaning to words and objects.
Another key skill- joint attention (when people share attention on one thing at the same time)- gives opportunities for a child to learn about the world around them. When you and your child look at something together, your comments help your child to learn about the world and attach meaning to words.
If your child is having difficult developing pre-language skills, they may go on to have verbal language and interaction difficulties.
During Speech-Language Therapy Sessions, the focus might start with some of these skills, to help build that foundation. Therapy will focus on:
- Developing play skills
- Developing social interaction skills
- Improving the ability to learn how to use words and language to communicate wants, needs, thoughts and ideas.
- Developing an ability to understand language
- Improving turn taking skills
- Teaching the cause and effect nature of communication, e.g. if you say/do something, you will get something in return.
- Developing social communication skills such as eye contact
So, what are the building blocks?
If you think your child might have problems with the foundations for talking, you might notice that they might not:
- Give eye contact, or give fleeting contact
- Smile socially
- Use different vocalisations and sounds to indicate happiness, sadness, hunger etc
- Play with sounds/babble
- Copy facial expressions and gestures e.g. “oh oh”
- Use sounds and gestures to get attention
- Attempt to show you things e.g. by pointing to them
- Participate in play.