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Is my daughter almost 3? Yes. Can she string two words together yet? No. Can I understand her? Yes... most of the time. So, what has helped me understand my verbal-delayed toddler?
There are quite a few tips online that can help anyone help their toddler speak. We were fortunate enough to live in a great school district that sends special education teachers out to homes for early evaluation. They were able to help me learn a few easy sign language words that she picked up on quick. She was able to easily pick up the signs for "more," "all done," and "help me."
More, All Done, and Help Me
We were able to get her in speech therapy, and are currently getting her tested for autism. She's also in a special education preschool class in our school district, and we've seen a spike in her speech patterns and individual sounds since she's been introduced to other children. She's made great progress, but none of this is as important as what we can do for her at home.
Here are a few things that we can do at home to help.
So what can we do at home to help her speech delays?
- Be patient. While she doesn't speak any words yet to let us know what she wants (she uses only simple sounds like "ga", "la", "bo", etc.), she IS VERBAL. The sign language helps to let us know if she wants "more" of something or needs "help" with something. It may take her some time to let us know what she wants (and us some time to understand it), but acknowledging that it will take time is the first and the best thing we can do to help her.
- Do NOT lose your temper. Sometimes, she gets impatient. When she gets impatient, she tends to yell and scream to get our attention. Being slightly non-verbal she has come to learn that if she needs us for something, this is a good way to get it. I've come to understand that this is just a way of communication for her, and I am slowly encouraging her to use other forms of communication if she needs me (such as leading me by the hand or pointing). She is getting better, but as I stated above, we need to be patient with her. Losing your temper will do nothing but harm and may cause further delays as it can affect confidence and cause self-doubt.
- Have fun. There are plenty of songs on YouTube that you can learn to help your speech-delayed or non-verbal children become engaged. You probably know the ones I'm talking about. Any parent of a toddler has probably heard "Johnny Johnny" or "Baby Shark" enough times to have it on constant repeat in their head (including me right now). There are hundreds of such songs online. Those repetitive hand movements with sounds is a great way to play together. Getting my daughter to imitate the sounds of "Wheels on the Bus" with the hand gestures is one of her favorite past times. Other games could include chasing each other around the room yelling "Grrrr" or bathtime with toy fish learning "bloop bloop bloop." The important thing is to have fun with whatever you choose to do. It also helps to just talk to her. Even if I don't know what she's saying, I love to have entire conversations with her.
All children are different, and both mine and yours are still young and in a very early stage of development. Speech takes time to learn, so give your little one time. Encourage them. Congratulate them. Love them. Let them know that there's nothing wrong with them. Their speech will come in time, and when it does you won't get them to shut up, but just maybe you won't want them to.