Speech Therapy Tips on Improving Language at Home

Are you concerned your child is not understanding everything they should for their age? Do you have to repeat basic directions? What about if you’re finding your child struggling to express themselves? Here are some basic speech therapy tips to help improve language skills at home!

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO IMPROVE RECEPTIVE LANGUAGE?

Face-to-Face with Eye-Contact: Get face-to-face with the child when talking; obtain the child’s eye contact before giving them an instruction.

Minimal Instructions: Refrain from giving too many instructions at once. Simplify the language you use with the child so it is at a level they can understand (i.e. usually just above their expressive language level or how much they are saying). If they are speaking in two-word sentences- “want cup”, use 2-3 word sentences- ”go get cup”.

Separate Multi-Step Directions: Instead of saying, “Go get your backpack and your coat and go outside,” first say, “Get your backpack.” Once the child has completed that instruction, then say, “Now get your coat.“ Once the child has completed that instruction, end by saying, “Go outside.”

                                                                                                                 

Repeat: Ask the child to repeat the instruction to ensure that they have understood what they need to do (e.g. “Go get your bag then sit at the table. What do I want you to do?”).

“First/Then”: Use this concept to help the child know what order they need to complete the command (e.g. “First get your jacket, then put on your shoes.”)

                                                                                                           

Clarify: Encourage the child to ask for clarification if they forget part of the instruction or have trouble understanding what they need to do (e.g. “It’s ok to ask me to repeat. Say, ‘Can you say that again please?’”)

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO IMPROVE EXPRESSIVE LANGUAGE?

Open-Ended Questions:  (For older children) Ask, “What’s happening in this picture?” instead of asking, “Is the boy playing?”

Pretend Play: While playing “kitchen/dolls/house/puppets/etc.” use sequencing by saying, “What should we cook first?…What should we cook next?” Have the child verbally request items or their turn before giving them the preferred item.

                                                                                                                  

Model: Repeat your child’s incorrect phrase without saying “No, that was wrong.” For example, if the child said, “I go-ed to school”, you can say, “Yes, you went to school.”

Slow Your Own Rate of Speech: Slowing down will make the child feel less pressured to speak quickly, helping them formulate their thoughts before saying them.

Comment: When you see that “Wh” questions (Who, What, Where, When, Why) are difficult for the child to answer, try to comment instead of asking a question. For example, instead of asking “What’s on your shirt?”, say, “I love the car on your shirt.”

Expand: When you repeat a child’s sentence, add a word. For example, if the child says, “Car!” then you can expand on the statement and say, “Red car!” If the child is using 1-word utterance, expand to 2 words; if the child is using 2-word combinations, expand to 3 words, etc.
Offer Choices/Binary Choices: When the child cannot think of the word(s), you want to give them options. For example, while sitting at a table with paper, colors, markers, glue, etc. and you notice the child looks stuck on what they want to request, say, “Marker or crayon?”

BY: Courtney Harrison, M.S., CCC-SLP  and  Justine Langkopp, M.A., CF-SLP