Friday, 24 September 2010

sep, 24th - guest post: speech therapy for babies....

day 224:

This is my gorgeous friend, Angie. She lives down in Oz. Not only is she an amazing mum but also a brilliant speech therapist. I asked her what we should be doing with Limi to encourage her speech and communication and this is what she said......

Dee asked me to jot down a few ideas about helping Limi to communicate and I thought, where do I start?  As a speech pathologist and a mum of two young boys, I could talk all day on this topic!  Early communication development is my job and my passion.  So here’s my thoughts below.  I’ve tried to keep it short, so please don’t hesitate to contact me by leaving a comment, if you have any questions or want more information.

The ability to communicate is the most important skill your child will learn, and parents are the most important teachers of this skill.  Communication begins at birth and is more than just words.  Smiling, reaching, pointing, crying, looking and making sounds are all ways we communicate.  There are lots of things you do to help your little one to develop their communication skills.  Here are a few tips and some places to go for further information or advice.

1)    Talk to your baby.  Ok, this may seem like a stupid thing to say, but talk talk talk LOTS.  Research has shown that children who grow up in ‘talkative’ homes have better communication skills than children who grow up in ‘quieter’ households.  As you go about your daily routine talk to your baby about what you are doing.  Repeat key words and show the item you are talking about.  Make comments more than you ask questions.

2)    Use waiting to encourage communication.  As your baby’s main communication partner, you can offer them more opportunities to communicate by simply waiting for them to communicate.  You make a comment or ask a question, then look expectantly and WAIT.  Count to 10 in your head if that helps you to wait!  Little ones need more time to process information and develop a response than we do, as adults and experienced communicators.  By waiting, we often see children communicate more, eg. vocalise, reach, look, point.  So, when they communicate, you reply and then you’ve got turntaking, which is the basis for a conversation!

3)    Sign with your baby.  Speech is a complex motor task and takes years to develop, but a baby’s hand movements generally develop faster.  Your baby can understand lots of language, and develop ideas, but can’t yet say words.  Teaching them a few signs gives them a way to communicate their ideas to you.  Remember to always talk when you sign.  Some first signs to practice might be- gone, more, sleep, finished, eat, animal names (eg. dog)/names of toys (eg. ball).  Use the signing system of the country you are in.  Australia uses Auslan (see and the UK uses BSL (see  There’s no need to buy expensive resources or attend courses (there are many people making a profit from baby signing) though you might find these resources more parent friendly and some of the signs have been modified so they are easier for little hands to do.  As your baby begins to say words, they tend to drop off their use of signs, though the signing was useful in the meantime, while they were developing their speech skills.  Some studies have showed an increase in language skills and intelligence testing scores for children who have had exposure to signing. 

4)    Last, but not least, my favourite tip- read to your baby from birth.  My favourite book on this topic is by children’s author Mem Fox called “Reading Magic”. See Mem’s ‘Ten Read Aloud Commandments’

If you have any concerns about your child’s communication development please speak to a child health nurse or GP.  You can also contact speech pathologists directly by finding them in the phone book or by contacting the speech pathology association in your country:
Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (UK):
Speech Pathology Australia:
South African Speech-Language-Hearing Association:

Photo by: Maureen Haynes

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