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An Open Letter to Families with Children with Speech and Language Delays from a Speech Therapist

I hope you are all taking care of yourselves and your families. This is a crazy time and I know expectations of families are high - All of a sudden, we are not only parents, but teachers, and therapists. The struggle is real. I see you. I hear you.

Many families are struggling because their child doesn’t want to practice their speech and language skills at home. I’m going to tell you this: As a mom of two young boys - I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND where you’re coming from. To say that kids learn differently from their parents and from their teachers is an understatement.

I’m going to give you one suggestion - it’s simple but very effective: BE PRESENT. Take the time to talk with your child. Play games. Read. Have fun. This is how children learn language - by interaction. 

I’m going to make you a promise.  I promise that your child is going to be okay - even if you feel like they are slipping behind.  Helping your child catch up is what teachers, SLPs, and therapists are made to do. Your job is to love your child and do the best you can. You are doing a good job - I promise. I want you to say it out loud, "I AM DOING A GOOD JOB!".

If you are looking for some tips for working on speech and language at home, I’m going to share what has worked for me (as a SLP and as a mom):

1) Use a visual. Show your child how many times they need to say their word/practice a skill. You can use your fingers, a token system, stickers - anything that can show your child how much is left. 

2) Model. Model your child’s speech and language goal throughout the day. If they are working on sounds, model their speech sound. Say it loud and long. If they are working on learning action words, talk about action words all day. 

3) Work speech and language into your daily routines: If your child is reluctant to sit down and practice, try working your child’s goals into daily routines. Let me know. You can always contact me via email or phone - you don’t need to wait until we have a session. 

4) Set special time aside for each child: This doesn’t have to be daily! Try to set aside 15 minutes for a ’special date’ where it is just you and your child. During this time, you can play a game, read a book, do a craft, bake - whatever it is - and practice your child’s speech and language skills. Most children thrive on this attention.

5) Give choices: I am guilty of this with my own kids - it’s my way or the highway. Then I rmember that I'm the adult and can probably "let it go". Let your child choose the activity - you can give a few options - and then practice your child’s speech and or language skills using that activity. You might have planned a game but they want to play hopscotch - that’s okay! Following their lead and giving choices will help your child engage in the task. 

6) Take turns: Make sure you are practicing too! Take turns in games and activities so your child doesn’t feel like they’re being “drilled”.

7) Get your child moving: I find with my own kids that 15-30 minutes of exercise before ’sit down’ activities really helps them regulate and focus. Ideas for getting active include: going for a walk, riding bikes, doing a Go Noodle video, having a dance party.

8) Try a different time of day: If you’ve been trying to practice in the morning and having no luck, try after lunch. If you’ve been trying before bedtime and having no luck, try in the morning. Sometimes changing the time of day can have a big impact on children!

I hope that this is helpful. If there are any tips or strategies that you have used and I have missed, please share them so I can share them with other families. We’re all in this together!

Lastly, I want you to remember you are doing good job! This is an unprecedented time and nothing could have prepared you or your child for this. Take it one day at a time and celebrate the wins - even the tiniest ones.


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