2016 Mar 22
Parenting with Joanne
We hear of developmental delays and milestone charts and wonder if our child is on par with other children his age. Perhaps we worry if his delay in language could result in a lifelong setback in expressive language. We consider if our children have associated hearing problems that need our attention and we are not sure where to go for help or if the help that’s available is the best there is. Here are a few pointers for us parents to remember when such worries dominate our thoughts
- Language cannot be forced
I have had the unfortunate chance of meeting some speech therapists who assume that language can be forced out of child. The result of this misguided assumption is adding to a stressful atmosphere for a child who is perhaps already rather frustrated with the delay in expressive language. We need to understand that language for a child stems from an internal need to express his needs. It begins at the cradle when an infant cries for milk or for his diaper to be changed. It is inborn.
- Language has many forms
Just because a child of two or three is not ‘talking’ does not mean he is not communicating. We as adults need to understand that any form of communication with a child who has a speech delay, should be encouraged instead of discouraged. I have watched parents trying to insist on a child speaking when he is already expressing a need through sign language and wondered if they understood the damage they were incurring in doing that. If a toddler points to water and we insist on him saying ‘water’ before we meet that demand, we are in effect discouraging him from communicating. Instead it is wiser to acknowledge the child’s request by saying “water? Here’s some water”
- Provide an environment that stimulates language
Any situation during a toddler’s daily routine can be used as an opportunity to stimulate language. Bath times can be a time for discussing names of body parts and the items used during a bath. Meal times can be used, on the other hand, to reinforce names of food items and ingredients that make up a dish. While travelling, parents can chat with children about what they see on the roadside. Just because your toddler isn’t speaking does not mean he isn’t listening. Remember, that before language can be verbally expressed a child should have the needed vocabulary to do so.
- Do not be anxious.
This is probably easier said than done. However, there is an almost vital need for us parents to remain calm and avoid anxiety in this regard. I say this mainly because, our anxiety most often manifests itself in the way we treat our children. If the environment for a child with a speech delay is hostile, a child may never feel the freedom to express himself. The last thing we would want to do is to create tension in his environment and make him feel less adequate because of this delay. Remember that a delay does not mean that speech will never come. It’s just taking more time than you expected. What you choose to do in this time is important in helping your child with his language development.
Joanne Sathyadass has a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Journalism, Psychology and English Literature from the University of Bangalore now serving as a Special Needs Educator
For any queries please email Joanne on firstname.lastname@example.org