If your child has been identified as having a language impairment, there are simple activities you can do at home that facilitate language development. These activities work in conjunction with your child’s formal therapy sessions and the activities he or she may participate in at school, either in the classroom or in an adjunct therapy session.
Such activities have three characteristics:
- They are fun.
Therapy is almost always more effective for small children if it’s fun. Observe the therapist and note that almost all of the activities during the session are based around something that your child already likes to do.
- They are part of “ordinary” interactions.
While formal therapy sessions are important, the activities at home don’t need to resemble therapy. Instead, they should be built into the normal course of everyday interactions to facilitate language skills naturally.
- They build receptive language and vocabulary.
As you help your child develop language at home, the process becomes a natural part of your day together. Instead of being singled out as “language impaired,” your child is a loved and “normal” part of your family, and building his or her language skills becomes something that you do with your child just as you would with anyone. In addition, the interaction as you work together to strengthens your bond as you communicate.
Some simple activities to help your child include:
- Reading aloud
Every child loves to be read a bedtime story; it’s a special time to snuggle with Mom or Dad and to hear a favorite story, again and again. Children find this repetition comforting; it also helps build both receptive and communicative language because as they learn the familiar words – both what they mean and how to say them – they can repeat them as you read the story together. This is perhaps the most perfect activity to help your child because you can do it every day. In fact, your child will look forward to it and probably even demand that it be done.
- Telling stories, repeating rhymes, and asking your child to “complete the sentence”
Nursery rhymes and familiar stories are additional fun ways to expose your child to both communicative and receptive language. These activities develop language skills in a playful and non-stressful manner. For example, as your child develops familiarity with a rhyme, story, etc., simply pause at the end of a phrase and have him or her complete it.
- Singing and listening to songs
Music is a wonderful facilitator of language too, and great to include in activities to help your child with language impairment issues. Spend some time each day singing together or listening to songs while driving, for example.
- Playing the game, “What comes next?”
The “alphabet song” is a good example of how to play the game, “What comes next?” with your child. Since this song helps most children learn the alphabet, begin by singing the song together, and then as your child learns the alphabet, drop out so he or she sings the next letters alone.
“What comes next?” can also be played with days of the week, months of the year, counting, and more. The beauty of “What comes next?” is its applicability to anything language-based. Customize it to suit your child’s likes and dislikes, and it never gets boring.
- Providing appropriate language modeling
Among the best activities to help your child is modeling correct language during conversations. Your child will watch, learn, and ultimately respond correctly, with gentle prompting at first.
About the author:
Erica L. Fener, Ph.D., is Vice President, Strategic Growth at Progressus Therapy, a leading provider of school-based therapy and early intervention services.