Talking to a child with a speech and language delay

Parenting throws us plenty of curve balls, and generally, I have found, there is no warning or guidance on how to react or proceed. Recently, we found out that Ripley has a significant speech and language delay, 12 months +. This was pretty alarming as it was only from booking an appointment with a speech pathologist, of my own volition, that we were properly assessed. The maternal child health nurse, doctor, specialists etc all dismissed any questions I raised.

Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

Since we discovered the delay, particularly in realising his receptive language skills were delayed, it has completely changed how we talk to Ripley. In essence, it is about taking things back to a simpler way of communication and using simpler language, fewer words, and most positive messages. For example, saying ‘first we will put on our shoes, then we will go to the park’, instead of ‘you can’t go to the park until you put on your shoes’.

I have noticed that people often speak to Ripley in fast sentences and ask several questions at once probably because he is nearly two and a half, and seems like he should be able to understand. Now that I know where he is at, it is so much easier to say, ‘Ripley has a speech delay, you need to speak to him more slowly, with fewer words’. However, it can be quite difficult to pick up these skills, and for us, it has become simpler through everyday practice.

It’s not all flipbooks and flash cards though; like everything, we take a minimalist and gentle approach to building Ripley’s speech and language skills. By introducing simpler language and focusing on making sure we name things as we are playing with them, he has picked up quite a lot of new words.

Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash

There is a vast range of what is considered typical for child development, but one thing I have learned is that if your instincts suggest something isn’t right, it’s a good idea to trust yourself.


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