Verbal communication for most children comes completely natural, but what happens when your child just isn’t talking at all?
Non-verbal or verbal delays can happen for a number of reasons. Some of these may include,
Oral-motor impairments – such as problems with the tongue or palate.
Global development delays
Hearing loss or chronic ear infections
Being born prematurely
Auditory processing disorder
If you suspect your child has a speech and language delay, there is plenty of resources and help out there for you. First make an appointment with your family doctor who will be able to give you contacts of your local speech and language therapists.
If you already have a diagnosis and are on the journey of discovering what works for your child, then take a look at our helpful strategies that can help language development in nonverbal or speech-delayed children.
All children learn through play and even your non-verbal or verbal delayed child can gain communication skills through activities that encourage your child interacting and communicating with you.
Certain games/toys promote their motor skills, as well as cause and effect. Give your child a mixture of toys to prevent them from self-stimulating or fixating on one thing.
Ideas can include:
Tactile experiences such as play-dough, sand, touch and Feel books or The Sensory Child boards.
Simple matching and sorting
Ball games or bean bags
Singing and musical instruments
Construction sets like Lego, which encourages putting things together as well as using their bilateral grasp and crossing the midline.
Mimicking your child’s sounds and play behaviours will encourage more vocalizing and interaction. It also encourages your child to copy you and take turns. Remember to only imitate good behaviour.
3. Focus on nonverbal communication
Nonverbal communication is just as important than verbal communication. Especially for a non-verbal child as it’s their only way of communicating with us. So instead on focusing on what they aren’t saying out loud, focus on what they are saying with their body. These could include:
Exaggerated gestures like pointing and nodding
Eye contact – if your child has some or all vision
Different tones of cries, moans or grunts
Facial expressions and body posture
We live in such a busy world that it’s very challenging for both the child and the parent to slow things down. It’s important to give your child more time to respond to questions and to not fill in their blanks too quickly. Repeat the question slower, or rephrase it.
If they are struggling with a verbal response, ask them to show you.
5. Keep it simple
Instead of big complicated sentences – try just using one or two words.
Some examples include:
Do you want a drink? – Change to “Drink?”
Do you want to play with the cars? – Change to “Cars?”
Do you want to go outside? – Change to “Out”
6. Use assistive devices, visual or tactile supports
Assistive technologies and visual supports can do more than take the place of speech. They can foster its development. Examples include:
Devices and Apps with pictures that your child touches to produce words.
Flashcards –both visual and tactile
7. Be positive
Avoid drawing attention to mistakes – as this can affect your child’s self esteem.