by Melissa Burns
If a child is slow to acquire language skills it doesn’t necessarily mean he is suffering from any kind of a language or speech disorder. Some children are just naturally slower to start and develop language abilities and will catch up with their peers in the course of times. History is rife with examples of people who had trouble speaking until a relatively late age and not only managed to grow up normal but extremely gifted and successful people – for example, Albert Einstein didn’t start talking until he was four.
However, it doesn’t mean that parents should leave their children to their own devices and hope that things will work out by themselves. Language acquisition can and should be promoted – so let’s take a look at how.
Speech delay is a more or less typical occurrence – no less than 5 to 10 percent of all preschoolers undergo developmental problems of this kind. It is even doubtful if it is correct to call it a problem – some children are slow to start walking, others have problems with starting to talk, but usually they get over it and develop properly later on. For them, it is a matter of pace, and progress can be fairly easily eased forward by their parents simply by talking to the child.
However, it is still better to contact a specialist immediately if you notice any delay, for it may be a sign of a real language disorder, and you may need help from a professional speech therapist.
Books are among the best instruments in battling speech and language impairments, and it is very likely that growing rates of these problems in recent times can be to some extent attributed to the fact that both children and adults are less exposed to written word and more to other media nowadays. By reading to and with a child, having him name objects in a book one helps develop his brain and create new neural paths.
Communication should become an interactive activity for a child, an activity in which he is on both giving and receiving side. He should perceive himself as a subject, not an object of the activity. It means that parents and speech therapists should treat him as a full communication partner, not a defective thing to be fixed. Don’t overcorrect the child – concentrate on the most important aspects while turning a blind eye (at least for the time being) to the less critical mistakes – this will help the child start expressing himself without being constantly afraid of doing something wrong.
Scaffolding techniques are a combination of linguistic methods in treating speech pathology using creative and adaptive support to help the child along in his speech attempts. For example, closing procedure involves the therapist pronouncing the first part of an utterance and giving the child an opportunity to complete the utterance. Syntactic and semantic expanding is based on the educator expanding the child’s incomplete utterance to make it grammatically and syntactically correct as well as more informative. This way the child sees from example how he can express his thought in full. There are many scaffolding techniques, but all of them are similar in one respect – they give the child support without making it overly obvious.
If a child is slow to start speaking it may not mean anything extraordinary – but it pays to treat it with all seriousness and apply every effort to easing him forward on the road to language. Language is a skill that we can only acquire in the course of a very limited time – if a chance is missed, it cannot be regained.
Melissa is a passionate blogger and journalist. She's also a freelancer and runs her content marketing agency Luckyposting.com.