My son, Leo, has a speech delay – medically known as Alalia, which refers to a delay in the development or use of the mechanisms that produce speech.
I picked up on Leo’s speech delay later than maybe I should have due to the COVID-19 lockdowns. Not being able to see Leo with children his age meant I was not able to see the difference in his communication ability. I realised around the time he was two, so this is when our speech improvement journey started.
I hope that sharing what has helped Leo might speed up your journey and help your little ones find their voice. You should note that I am not a speech therapist, nor a medical professional, I am just a mum who is desperate to help her child communicate.
We use MySunshine to keep the family up to date with how Leo’s speech is developing. Our family loves to see and interact with how Leo is doing with his speech.
We share memories of Leo doing his activity books. We share videos of Leo’s first words and how his speech is developing. We also add notes to show which new words Leo has said this week. All of this will be invaluable when we look back on Leo’s speech journey.
When we first started with our home speech activities we were covering a range of themes in any one day. When I put myself in my son’s place I thought about how confusing it must be to go from talking about colours to animals and then on to counting in a short span of time.
To keep things clearer for Leo, I created a 6 week theme rotation to work through. I then try to make our activities fit with that week’s theme. Our weekly theme schedule is:
I noticed the most improvement in his speech when making this change. For example, at the beginning of our first numbers week, he could only say the number two. By the end of that week, he was able to say and count up to three. He is now able to count to ten and we are working on trying higher numbers now.
We were given a list of repetitive books by the speech therapist. These are the books I read during the day when he has more concentration. He is now able to join in with some of the words in the book.
Each page of ‘You Choose’ has a question with various pictures. This gets Leo to talk as he wants to tell me what he’s chosen! This is his favourite book so I bought another copy to keep at nursery.
This is a great activity book. We have just moved on to the ‘Play Smart Early Learning’ book for 3 year olds.
On days when we are home, we try to play some games. I have found these ones the best for encouraging speech:
Activities and Strategies
- Follow your Child’s Lead. This has helped me the most. I used to try to get Leo to do certain, preplanned activities but we would both get frustrated if he wasn’t interested. I now let him choose what to play with and then try to involve our speech activity with what he has chosen. This means he is far more likely to be engaged with the activity!
- Use Simple Words. I was told by the Speech Therapist that children tend to babble because that’s what it sounds like to them when we talk too fast – they think they are replicating our speech. After finding this out, we started using very simple language at home. Initially, we would start with one word, for example, ‘tractor’. Once he was comfortably saying tractor we moved on to ‘big tractor’ and built upon it each time. We are now up to ‘one big green tractor’.This is quite a common strategy and it really does work! It can feel strange to start off with but it’s so worth it, it really does make a difference.
- Nursery rhymes. My son hates singing but I try my best to get nursery rhymes into our daily routine. Most of them are repetitive and he will try to sing along – depending on his mood. Our favourite is wheels on the bus. If I could go back, I would have done this more consistently from a younger age so that he wouldn’t be resisting it so much now!
In the early days of our speech development journey, I had considered going down the PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) route. However, I felt it could take too long to find the card he wanted and he would get frustrated. So I decided to use posters which I have put up around the house. For example, I have put the emotions poster at the bottom of the stairs so we can discuss what emotions we might have or have had that day whilst putting on, or taking off our shoes.
I have printed out some PECS-style cards for our daily routine. This helps Leo understand what we are doing that day and provides some structure. I used twinkl for this, you have to sign up to download their resources which is free to do. Some resources you have to pay to download but there are also loads of free resources.
One of the speech therapists we saw said not to feel bad about screen time. We all need some downtime and rest! However, I am conscious that he isn’t talking much whilst watching TV so I try to limit this when possible. I tend to use it when I need him to be occupied whilst I’m cooking tea.
These are the TV programmes and apps that I have found to help with speech:
Number blocks (BBC iPlayer)
Alpha blocks (BBC iPlayer)
Khan academy (App)