I knew my daughter had delayed milestones. This was told to me continuously, since she was born premature. From crawling, to walking, to fine motor-skills, I could see other children her age fairing better than her. What especially bothered me, was her delayed speech. I craved a child talking to me. That is why I learned through trial and error, the 3 tips that helped us with our speech delayed child.
Firstly, I did the parent thing and took her to the doctor, and got tests done. I was told that her speech is perfectly fine. You see, I worked full time and my daughter went to an all Arabic daycare, while at home we spoke only Urdu, and the TV shows were all in English. This combination of languages led to our child being confused and not being able to form proper sentences.
Based on what the doctor suggested and what I learned from my own research, I am sharing the 3 tips for late talkers.
1. REDUCE SCREEN TIME.
14 years ago, being first time parents, and the world still being new to multiple screens at home, we did not think much about how much TV our child watched. There was no conversation on this topic.
Today, more and more research shows that unmonitored screen time actually paralyzes mental growth. This includes all kinds of screens: TV, iPads, Phones and so on.
Once we knew that our child is speech delayed, we made changes. As parents, we drastically reduced the TV time. I must tell you, it was like taking an addict off a drug! The first few days were chaotic, to say the least. Our child tried everything from tantrums, screaming, to stop eating to try and get the unlimited screen time again. However, through persistence, we were able to control the screen time to 1 hour per day.
A fun way to get the child involved in this scheduling is to have the child set the timer for the screen time. That way, the child feels in control. We used a simple timer like the one below.
You can get this one, or a similar one here.
2. ENCOURAGE BOOKS.
Books do not need to be just wordy, when introducing them to your child. Humans start learning visually first. Picking up colorful books with interesting topics can encourage the child to consider books as a form of entertainment.
Remember, you are not building a vocabulary in the initial days of minimal screen time. Getting colorful and interesting kids books will allow the child to focus on other forms of entertainment.
Once children start considering books as part of entertainment and play, reading and speech will follow.
I read a lot of Dr. Suess books with my daughter, as they were not only colourful, but also funny. This brought the sense of a cartoon show to my child, when I read the book with her.
You can get a box set easily here.
3. INCREASE PLAYDATES.
Yes playdates are still a thing, and a must, with the changing world. Gone are the days when your child could go and play on the street and make friends. In this changing world, playdates are essential for building social skills and encouraging your child to talk with peers of their own age.
I tried to arrange regular playdates at our place, or at someones’ place, to have my child in a social environment and be forced to talk.
I know that your child’s first playdate can be scary. Be smart about it. Do not leave your child at someone’s place, who you are meeting for the first time. I was always happy to have mothers stay for coffee, while the children played. Only once I knew the family well, and my child was independent enough, that I did drop offs.
I understand that now with COVID, this option is not possible for younger kids. However, if your child already attends a program and has a friend, you can connect with the mother for a virtual playdate. An easy idea is to have a video whastapp chat for the children. Make sure that you are close by for safety reasons.
I hope that these 3 tips to help late talkers would guide you, as it did our family.