Next Step Therapy: May Is Better Hearing and Speech Month.

| May 12, 2022

SENECA, Pa. (EYT) – The following article was submitted by a speech therapist from Next Step Therapy: May is Better Hearing and Speech Month.

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month.

At Next Step Therapy and Next Step Child Enrichment Centers, we provide speech and language therapy to kids birth to eighteen years old. This includes Early Intervention services and outpatient therapy services. Next Step provides Early Intervention services in the following counties: Armstrong, Butler, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Erie, Forest, Jefferson, Mercer, Venango, and Warren. We have two outpatient therapy locations, one in Seneca and one in Titusville.   

Early Intervention is a wonderful program that provides therapy services (speech and language, occupational, physical, special instruction, and nutrition) to children ages, birth to three, who qualify for free in their home. In Early Intervention, the speech-language pathologist can provide services for children who have swallowing and feeding issues or who have a speech and/or language delay. Speech-Language Pathologists help to support the parents in Early Intervention by showing them different strategies to help them encourage their child to communicate. Your child’s most important job is to play! Kids learn so much when they play. Playing with your child is a great way to help your child’s language grow and bloom. Children learn to talk by watching the adults and children around them. One of the most important things you can do is get on the floor and play!

Here are ten ideas of activities to do with your child to encourage language:

1. Roll trucks and cars on the floor, back and forth. There is so much communication that can happen with this simple activity! Label the vehicles (car, truck, van, jeep, ambulance, firetruck, etc.), make car noises (vroom-vroom, beep-beep), label actions (stop, go, go up, go down, crash etc.)  

2. Play with “animals”. Animals are great to work on labeling. Label their names and sounds. Animal sounds are usually easy to make, so kids typically imitate the sounds before their names. I also love to label actions while playing with animals. You can make the animals walk, run, stomp, jump, hop, fly, hide, sit, stand, go in, and go out, to name a few.  

3. “Talk on the phone.” Pretending to talk on a play phone is a great way to teach names of family members and words. You can work on hi, bye, okay, yes, no, mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, etc. It doesn’t have to be complicated and is a good way to model language.

“Who’s on the phone? Is it Daddy? No, okay. Is it Papa?”

“Did you tell Papa hi? Hi, Papa. Bye-bye Papa.”

4. Sing songs with motions. Wheels on the Bus, Itsy Bitsy Spider, and Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes are just a few of the songs that are great to sing with your child. Kids will typically imitate the motions first, and then they will do a few words, and then next thing you know, they can do the whole song! I know YouTube kids and Cocomelon are super popular right now, but your child will actually get more out of singing with you if you sing the songs without the videos. That way, the focus is on your interaction together and not on a device.  

5. Play with Mr. Potato Head, a stuffed animal, or a baby doll. You can work on body part identification and labeling. Label the toy’s eyes, show your child where their eyes are, and then show them where your eyes are. This can then be repeated with your nose, mouth, ears, etc. With the stuffed animal and/or babydoll, you can work on pretend play and a ton of language. You can pretend to feed, burp, rock, change the diaper, give a bath, and put the baby/animal down for a nap.  

6. Look at books. You don’t have to sit down and read a twenty-page book. Most children don’t have the attention span for that. Start small, look at two pages. You don’t necessarily have to “read” those pages either. Point to and label a picture on each page. Once two pages are routine, see if you can look at three or four pages. It might take some time, but eventually, you will be able to look at a whole book.  

7. Play with a ball. Playing ball is good for developing joint attention and turn-taking. You can work on lots of words-roll, throw, catch, bounce, up, down, my turn, your turn, ball, and more. Wait a few seconds before rolling or throwing the ball back to allow your child a chance to request the ball. If they don’t request, you can then model for them while throwing or rolling the ball back.  

8. Blow bubbles. This time of the year is a great time to go outside and blow bubbles. This is a great activity to work on requesting. The child can request more bubbles. The parent can work on modeling “more bubbles.” You can work on the words bubble, up, down, pop, and jump.

9. Puzzles are great for a variety of language skills. You can work on naming, requesting, following directions, and the concepts in and out. There are so many puzzles- farm animals, pets, vehicles, shapes, bugs, dinosaurs, food, etc. Work on naming the pieces first or requesting more pieces or a specific piece. Model concepts – “You took the dog out.” Work on directions – “Put the dog in.”  

10. Pretend play with “food.” Kids love to pretend to cook food and eat it. The kids don’t even need pretend food, cups, or plates to do this! Kids are great at using what they have. If you have pretend food, awesome, but if you don’t, it’s okay. Kids have great imaginations. A block, a car, or a random toy can be mac and cheese if you want it to be. Also, that granola bar box, cereal box, or puff container that is empty can be incorporated into pretend play. Model pouring food, cooking food, drinking, and eating. You can model yummy, yucky, good, more, all done, hot, cold, cup, plate, fork, and food names.

The best thing a parent can do for their child’s language is to talk to them. Play with them, narrate what they are doing, narrate what others are doing, and narrate what you are doing. Of course, if you have concerns about your child’s development, talk to their doctor, and contact your county’s Early Intervention office and have your child evaluated.  

Happy Better Hearing and Speech Month! 

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