Don't Give Up On Speech

Communicating Partners

Dr. James D. MacDonald's Website:

Helping Parents Help Children. Programs for Parents, Therapists & Educators

Many children can learn to speak long after age 3 and 4, especially ones with muscular and neurological delays such as Down Syndrome, Autism, Apraxia, Cerebral palsy, and other problems.

Do not believe the MYTH that if a child is not talking at 3 or 4 , she will not talk.I am currently working with two brothers with DS who are beginning to talk at 7 and 9.

In 30 years of clinical and research work with late talking children we have found the following:

  1. Too many people give up on speech too soon..

  2. Children can learn to speak after ages 3 and 4, even as late as 8 and 10.

  3. Children with Down Syndrome, Apraxia, and other issues have sever oral motor delays.

  4. Before children speak, they need to be CONSTANT SOCIAL SOUNDERS.

  5. Adults must enter a child's world of sounds before pushing for word.

  6. Imitating your child's sounds is very important for him learning to talk. Make sound imitating your most frequent way to play with your preverbal child.

  7. Expecting words too soon can discourage your child from the sounding practice he needs.

  8. The most important exercise children need for speech is MAKING A LOT OF SPEECH SOUNDS.

  9. Practicing sounding all day long is necessary; therapy sessions are not enough. Learning to speak is like learning to play piano; a child ill not learn piano if he only takes a lesson once a week and does not practice.

  10. Parents must learn what children need to do before speech: social play, imitation, turntaking, social sounding and communicating habitually without words.

  11. Late-talking children often interact much less than others.

  12. The more a child interacts , the more likely will he learn to speak.

  13. The more you play in your child's world the more he will speak.

  14. The more you pressure him to speak in ways he is not ready the less he will speak.

  15. Be a living dictionary: put a word on your child's immediate experience.

  16. Be a translator: your child has two languages: one is English and one is his own special language ( call it "Lisa "or "Larry" language) : respond to his special language such as" ee-ee" for"doggie" with the simple word "doggie"

  17. Have conversations with sounds before words.

  18. Over stimulation is a serious barrier to learning to speak. Be careful not to "bathe" your child with language because you might" drown" him out.

  19. Match your child's communication: talk in ways he can talk; avoid talking too much in ways he cannot try to do.

  20. Avoid (like the plague) correcting your child's speech or making him feel he is doing something wrong. Simply give him the word clearly without judgment.

  21. The more your child feel successes, the more he will speak.

  22. Speech for school or performance ( show and tell) is not enough. Make sure your child is really communicating with people not just answering questions or reciting things.

  23. Signing can help at first, but do not depend on it; go for speech. I know many children who sign hundreds of words but rarely speak to people; be very careful.

  24. Talking back and forth in many turns is more important that combining words in long sentences. FOCUS ON MORE TURNS BEFORE MORE WORDS.

  25. Children talk more when you join in his enjoyable activities..

  26. Parents are the best language teacher: Your child learns to talk in every interaction you have; not in school or therapy.

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