What devices or teaching techniques can I use to improve my two-year-old daughter’s speech? I was thinking of trying sign language but I am afraid that it will make her not want to speak. She gets upset and makes a lot of sounds when she wants something. It’s like a guessing game to figure out what she wants. She says other instead of mother, uck instead of duck, etc. Does this mean that she may be able to speak someday? She understands everything but it seems like she should be speaking a lot more. She gets speech therapy three times a week for 30 minutes. What can I do to help her?
The vocalizing that your daughter does and the words that she uses are great! I believe that she will likely continue to develop oral language, especially given all of the talking she is doing now. At 18 months, we do not expect children to have perfectly clear speech, and it is good that she has developed a few words. When she mispronounces a word, repeat that word, emphasizing the initial sound. I also would continue to have her try new words, especially those beginning with b, n, d, since these seem to be sounds she uses with some frequency. (Examples: ball, baby, no, daddy, doll, etc.) If your daughter seems open to sign, then that is always a great option and it does not slow down the production of oral speech. Common first signs are hi, bye, more, play, food, drink. Sign language actually may assist the production of oral speech. Continue to use primarily one-word utterances and two-word utterances (ball, want ball) with her, as this will give her language on which to focus. Also, use a lot of intonation in your speech to her, and focus on words that are easy to pronounce and things that she is interested in, using lots and lots of repetition.
Most children learn words that refer to things that move (e.g., ball, doll) more readily than things that are stationary (e.g., bed, table). For most children, the easiest first words begin with p, b, n, m, or w.
If your daughter has any weakness in her mouth, some oral strengthening exercises would be appropriate, including sucking on or mouthing wash cloths or “squishy” toys, tapping in a circular motion around her lips, using firm but gentle pressure when you wash her face moving in the direction toward her lips rather than in a circular motion, wiggling her tongue, etc. Since she is only 18 months, a picture communication system may be difficult for her; however, if she does recognize simple pictures, those could be cut out for her and put in places that are appropriate (e.g., a picture of milk, juice, food that she eats could be placed on the door of the refrigerator; pictures of toys could be placed on the toy chest, etc.) When your daughter is being given one of those items, that word should be used and the picture should be pointed to. Also, using your daughter’s hand, point to the picture so that she gets the idea that she should point too. Give her the item after her hand has touched the photo or large picture (size of a baby board book picture would be appropriate).
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