Support your child’s speech and communication at home

As the parent of a child with a developmental delay or a disability, you will play a huge role in their ongoing education. There are many things you can do at home to support what they learn at school or with specialist teachers.

The good news? You know your child best, so you can play to their strengths. With a little patience and a lot of fun, you can extend your child’s communication skills.

If your child is seeing a speech pathologist or other specialist, they will likely give you a great list of activities and games you can play each day to build on their therapy sessions. It’s essential to do these activities – think of them as homework and try to set aside a block of time each day to get them done. (Just don’t call it homework in front of your child – you want them to enjoy it!)

It’s always a good time to practice communication

As well as doing your speech therapy homework, there are plenty of other things you can do to help your little one learn to communicate:

  • Follow the leader.
    • Use your child’s interests and let them choose the toy, even if it’s not what you would play with. Talk about what your child wants to talk about.
  • Encourage your child to be a good listener.
    • Spend time listening to the sounds around you, then share what you both heard.
  • Make comments not questions.
    • Testing is not language learning, and it is more valuable to have two-way conversations.
  • Use communication aids to support your child.
    • Visual supports are important to develop vocabulary, language and conversation skills.
  • Extend your child’s sentences.
    • If she says, “Read book” then you could answer, “You want me to read you a book. Let’s choose one”.
  • Read books with your child.
    • Expose them to new vocabulary and concepts. Encourage them to interact with the book by asking questions and make your own comments.

Be patient and positive

Remember: speech, language and communication are all different things. They are complex skills and it takes time for children to learn and grow.

You might find it helpful to remove any distractions that might get in the way of your at-home therapy sessions. Turn off the television or radio, ask other children to play somewhere else while you work. Switch your phone to aeroplane mode or turn it off. Limit the number of toys or books you’re using – one or two at a time will help them to focus on whatever you’re talking about.

Make silly mistakes on purpose, like putting your socks on your hands, to encourage them to notice and react. As they develop, challenge them with more difficult concepts and ask open-ended questions, like “Why do you want to wear a dress today?”

Finally, stay positive. Kids love praise and positive reinforcement – it helps to build their confidence and will encourage them to try again next time.

For more specific information about supporting a child at their level of communication, we recommend the Speech Pathology Australia factsheets.