Most toddlers need some kind of translator as they stumble through their first words. However, little ones who have speech and hearing challenges need special help. The Centers for Disease Control tells parents that working with their hearing-impaired children as early as possible helps the little ones learn communication skills. There are many things parents can do to help their hearing- and speech-impaired children.
1. Talk to Your Child
Toddlers need to experience communication in order to learn how to communicate themselves. So talk to your toddler every chance you get. If you are doing the dishes, hold up utensils or bowls and ask your child to name the item. You can help by making it a game. For example, when you hold up a spoon, ask your child: “Is this a plate? No! Silly Mommy. That isn’t a plate, it’s a spoon.” Laugh along with your joke and encourage the child to play along too. If your child is hearing-impaired, the CDC encourages parents to make sure to face the child. This helps her to see your expression and mouth movements.
2. Read to Your Child
Reading books can help your child learn early literacy skills. Parents can find many ways to encourage speech-impaired toddlers through reading favorite picture books. Point to objects in the illustrations and ask the child to name the item. Point to each word as you read and encourage the child to repeat the sounds initial letters make. Speech pathologist Dr. Caroline Bowen tells parents that early letter recognition is critical for speech sound disorders. Bowen warns parents that playing word games where the child must race to think of a sound might be far too frustrating for toddlers. Instead, explore the letters and sounds together in books, on signs and around the house.
3. Play With Your Child
Playtime can be a wonderful time to work on communication. When playing in the pool, suggests the American Speech Language Hearing Association, work on simple commands such as “jump” or concepts such as “in” or “out.” A bathing suit gives your toddler the perfect wardrobe for exploring and naming body parts such as the belly, knees and toes. Introduce your toddler to color words by asking him to hand you the blue car rather than the red one. If your toddler is hearing-impaired, make sure that he can see your mouth clearly form the words or your hands make the signs.
4. Some Things to Remember
The American Society for Deaf Children encourages parents to talk and sign to their toddlers constantly. The interaction helps the toddler learn communication skills. When your child speaks, reinforce his words with your own. For example, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communicative Disorders suggests if your toddler points to a stuffed toy and says “cat,” agree with him. Say “Yes, that is a cat. Is he soft?” Wait for an answer. Continue to interact with him so that he not only learns the words, but also learns the rhythm of a conversation. Hearing-impaired children have a lot to watch, so limit the number of toys you give him. It will be difficult for your toddler to pay attention to your signs and your mouth movements when there are a dozen tempting toys in front of him.
- Centers for Disease Control: Communication Brochure
- Speech-Language Therapy: Literacy and Children with Speech Sound Disorders
- American Speech, Language and Hearing Association: Summertime Speech and Language Activities for Toddlers
- The American Society for Deaf Children: Getting Started with Early Intervention
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