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Baby Talk and Beyond: Helping your child develop great communication skills

By Caitlin Abbas, MA, CCC-SLP, LifeScape Speech Language Pathologist

It’s Better Hearing & Speech Month, a great time to think about language development in young children. Parents have many roles, but one of the most important is being a teacher for their children. Language skills can and should be taught to children from day one. The more parents talk to and interact with their children, the faster they learn language. Good language skills lay the foundation for good academic and social skills.

There are many things that can be done to help develop skills. Two of the most important things that should be done at any age are:
• Check your child’s ability to hear, and pay close attention to any ear problems and infections.
• Read, Read, Read! Reading enhances vocabulary, sentence building and grammar, listening, attention span, imagination, thinking, storytelling and bonding.
Prior to first words:
• Reinforce your baby’s communication by looking at him or her and imitating his or her vocalizations, laughter and facial expressions.
• Talk about what you are doing and where you are going. Using descriptive words helps build vocabulary, even at an early age!

After baby’s first words:
• Use simple but grammatical speech. Place emphasis on the important words. This is much easier for your child to understand and imitate.
• Expand on words that your child says. If she says “car”, respond with “That is a fast, blue car.”
• If you cannot understand your child, continue to reinforce communication attempts. Ask him or her to repeat or point to things to clarify the message.
• Ask your child questions that require a choice, rather than a yes or no answer. For example, instead of “do you want a cracker?” ask “do you want a cracker or a cookie?”
• Place toys in a bucket and have your child take the toys out while labeling each one. Expand on the label using describing words.

Incorporating these easy ideas into your everyday routine will expand your child’s language skills and enrich their daily activities. If you have concerns about your child’s language development, talk to your child’s doctor. They may refer your child for a speech and language evaluation. LifeScape offers free developmental speech and language screenings for children. Contact us at (605) 444-9700 for an appointment.

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