I am often asked by other parents what they can do to help their child’s speech-language or social skills at home. So, I compiled a list of some tried and true speech-language and social development tips. You can use these suggestions for children who are typically developing or for those who may have a speech-language delay. Don’t think of these as added work for you. Look for ways that you can incorporate them into your everyday play routines and interactions. After a while, it will become second nature!
Provide Positive Praise
Continue to provide immediate positive praise and reinforcement when your kid is following directions, using grammar correctly, and when demonstrating appropriate social skills/behavior.
Help Increase Receptive and Expressive Vocabulary
Help your kiddo increase his receptive and expressive vocabulary by expanding on the things he says, talking through activities that he is doing, and asking him questions when reading books or completing tasks.
Make it visual! Try to pair what you are verbally trying to teach with something visible for your kid to see or something physical for him to manipulate. Google images are one of your best friends! When a child can’t visualize a new vocabulary term, Google images to the rescue!
Model Appropriate Behavior
When your child uses incorrect grammar and/or incomplete sentences, model the utterance back to him using the appropriate sentence structure. Emphasize the word error that you fixed. On a side note, this modeling techniques goes with negative behaviors, as well. Show him what he should do instead of the negative reaction.
Have Your Kid Repeat Directions Back to You
Have your kiddo repeat directions back to you to ensure that he understands what is expected of him at home.
Provide Open-Ended Questions
Provide opportunities for your kid to answer open-ended questions so he can practice expressive language skills with longer responses.
Read, read and then read some more! Stop after every couple of pages and discuss what you have read. Ask your kid –wh questions (who, what, when, where, why) to talk about what is occurring in the story. Also, ask questions about what might happen next and talk about the characters’ emotions/feelings in the story. You can also discuss the problem(s) in the story and ideas of what the character(s) can do to fix the problem situation(s).
Use Pictures to Practice Sentence Forming
Look at pictures in books and have your kiddo make up grammatically correct and complete sentences about each picture he sees. If the sentences are short in length, help him think of ways to expand and make the sentence longer and more complicated.
Use Household Products to Practice Spatial Vocabulary
Practice spatial vocabulary words such as–in, on, behind, under, next to, between, front, back, first, last, middle, above, below, and over. Use household objects and instruct your kid where to place them. “Put the spoon under the bowl.” “Put the dishes in the dishwasher.” Ha! See how easy it is to practice speech-language or social skills at home?
Get Kid’s Attention First
“Hey, go pick up your toys.” works much better if you say, “Will, can you look at me, please? Can you go pick up your toys?” That way you make sure he is focused on what you are saying and not still distracted by his toys.
Use Daily Routines
Visual schedules and calendars are great tools to help with daily routines and to help keep your kiddo focused and organized. (As organized as a kid can be! Ha!)
Practice Following Directions
Give your kid verbal directions that contain one to three steps (i.e., first touch your nose, then stand up, then make a silly face) so, he can get used to completing instructions in sequential order.
Answer -wh Questions
Questions are a great way to get your kiddo talking. Kids (and people in general. Ha!) like to talk about themselves, so by asking (who, what, when, where, why) during daily activities it gets your kids talking in ways you may not have expected. Examples: “Who is sitting next to you right now?” “What color are you using for your picture?” “Why do you think the dog is wagging his tail right now?”
Provide Social Interaction Outside of School
Outside of school, provide a variety of opportunities for social interaction with age-matched peers for him to continue to develop appropriate pragmatic skills. Play dates (if that’s your thing!), summer camps, and non-competitive activities are a great place to start. Even time around cousins is an easy way to provide social interaction.
Pre-Teach Expected Behavior with Kids
Before your kid goes to a play date, camp, or activity, try to pre-teach expected behavior and things to talk about in each particular interaction. Some examples include sharing, taking turns, trying to stay calm when something doesn’t go your way, asking your friend questions, and others depending on the situation. If you help him prepare speech-language or social skills at home, it may ease anxiety or issues that could occur during the event.
What do you do at home to help with speech-language or social skills at home? I’d love to hear them, and I’m sure everyone else would too!