3 Activities to Support Speech and Language Development

girl and parent or speech therapist working on speech therapy goals in school

Waiting to hear your child’s first words is one of the greatest pleasures as a parent. But what happens if what you hear is not what you expect or doesn’t arrive as soon as you’d hoped? Understanding the basics of speech and language is something we aren’t taught when attending birthing and parenting classes while pregnant. Remfrey Educational Consulting has invited their partner, Worldwide Speech to help provide some of the answers.

Speech vs. Language, What’s the Difference?

Speech refers to how your child physically produces sounds with their mouth. According to the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA), speech includes: 

  • Articulation

Articulation is the process of how we make speech sounds using the mouth, lips, and tongue. For example, we need to be able to say the “r” sound to say "rabbit" instead of "wabbit.” 

  • Voice

The  use of our vocal folds and breath come together to make sounds. Our voice can be loud or soft or high- or low-pitched. We can hurt our voice by talking too much, yelling, or coughing a lot.

  • Fluency

This is the rhythm of our speech. We sometimes repeat sounds or pause while talking. You may notice that some people speak faster or slower than others. You may also notice that some people say ‘um’ more when nervous or giving a speech. 

Language refers to how your child expresses and comprehends language

According to ASHA, language includes:

  • What words mean. 

Some words have more than one meaning. For example, “star” can be a bright object in the sky or someone famous.

  • How to make new words.

For example, we can say “friend,” “friendly,” or “unfriendly” and mean something different because of the beginning or ending we attach to a word.

  • How to put words together. 

For example, in English we say, “Peg walked to the new store” instead of “Peg walk store new.” The order of the words in a sentence makes a big difference to how the sentence is understood by others.

  • What we should say at different times. 

For example, we might be polite and say, “Would you mind moving your foot?” when speaking to a colleague or stranger on the bus.  But, if we are speaking to a sibling or longtime friend , we may say, “Get off my foot!”

  • Understanding and communicating through written language.

We most commonly use  part of language when reading books and writing essays in school. 

  • Understanding language.

Understanding language is being able to comprehend what you’ve heard. For example, understanding multi-step directions such as a recipe or homework assignments, learning new skills, reading comprehension, etc.

 

Speech and Language Disorders

Children can have difficulty with speech, language, or both. If your child has trouble understanding what others say, they may struggle with receptive language. If they are struggling to  share their ideas, thoughts, and feelings, they may have an expressive language delay. It is important to note that a child may have both expressive and receptive language disorders. 

When children have trouble pronouncing sounds correctly, stutter when they speak, or have voice problems, they may have a speech sound disorder.

3 reasons to contact an SLP for language deficits

  1. Your child does not engage in communication.

If your child shows no or little interest in communicating with family or friends, it’s always the safe choice to have their language skills evaluated by a speech-language pathologist. Online evidence based evaluations can determine whether or not your child has a speech sound disorder or if their errors are typical compared to age-matched peers. 

  1. Your child has difficulty with grammar.

Does your child use the wrong tenses when using verbs? Do they often drop the past tense marker -ed or plural -s? Do they mix up their pronouns? If so, it is best to have a professional evaluation to determine whether or not the errors are typical when compared to age-matched peers.

  1. Your child struggles with reading and writing in school. 

If your child is struggling in school, particularly in English class on writing and reading assignments, it would be a good idea to reach out to an SLP. We know that early intervention is crucial, especially before third grade. Sometimes watching to see how things progress is a good strategy, but always set a timeframe for this time period and reassess soon.

3 reasons to contact an SLP for speech sound errors

  1. Your child is not meeting developmental norms for speech sound development. 

While speech milestones serve as a guide, keep in mind that speech development is variable due to a variety of factors such as gender, environment, languages spoken at home or in school, genetics, etc. Please find a speech milestone guide at the end of this blog post.

  1. Your child makes speech errors on some words, but not others 

For example, they say “fwee” for “free” but says the /r/ correctly in “french fry”

  1. Your child is feeling embarrassed about how they make sounds or they encounter bullying.

It is possible that students with speech sound disorders are bullied for sounding different than their peers. Not only providing support for speech and language is important, but it is also key to work on confidence with a school counselor or psychologist.

3 Activities to support your child’s speech skills at home

  1. Model correct speech sounds from an early age. Don’t shorten words or use “baby talk.” 
  2. Talk your way through the day! Think of yourself as a narrator by talking about what you’re doing as if they can’t see it themselves! Bonus if you include the speech sounds they’ve been working on. 
  3. Use Worldwide Speech Speech Pals PowerPoints on Teachers Pay Teachers to practice target speech sounds. These products keep in mind that the more repetitions, the better! Each sound is represented by a character who engages in activities with objects containing their speech sound. 

3 Activities to support your child’s language skills

  1. Similar to speech, narrate, narrate, narrate! For example, imagine you’re taking a trip to the park. This might be what your dialogue looks like. “Okay, it’s time to walk to the car, open the door and sit down on your seat. Don’t forget to buckle your seatbelt!” Once you get going, “Wow look at the clouds in the sky, what do they look like to you?” Or, “I see a yellow car and a red truck, what do you see?” When you arrive at the park, “We made it to the park! We got in the car, buckled up, window watched, and now we get to park!” Long story short, listen to the voice in your head that runs in a constant monologue, and use it out loud!
  2. Dialogic Reading with your child. That means you’re not just reading the words on the page, you’re using language to describe what you see in the pictures, using inferences to guess what will happen next, describing the emotions of the characters and what it would be like to be in their shoes. 
  3. Check out Worldwide Speech’s Multi-Use Language PowerPoint on our Teachers Pay Teachers store. It can be used for a variety of skills such as: pronouns, verbs, prepositions, following directions, naming pictures, and more! There is a detailed how to use page so you don’t have to figure it out on your own.

The Importance of Positive Reinforcement

Last but not least, for both speech and language, positive reinforcement works wonders. Any time you hear your child using their target sound or language skill correctly, make sure you really emphasize how proud you are! Be sure to give specific feedback such as:

  1. I love how you put your tongue up to make your /l/ sound 
  2. I love how you used that action word 
  3. Great job describing what you want in detail

Developmental Norms for Speech Sounds

Worldwide Speech is an online private practice that has provided speech therapy, occupational therapy, reading intervention, special education, and tutoring to families all across the globe for over 12 years. Enter your email below to receive free monthly newsletters and access to free parent handouts.

References

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (n.d.). What is speech? What is language? American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Retrieved August 1, 2022, from https://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/speech-and-language/