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When to seek help of the speech therapist and the role of the family in early childhood development

5 March 2019

The most challenging role in our lives is to be parents. No matter how prepared we feel, there will always be moments of uncertainty and hesitation. At these times, never forget that you know and feel your children best, and that the greatest power besides endless love and devotion to them is to “ask” if you feel worried. In this article, I will focus on when it is appropriate to look for a speech therapist and / or an early child development consultant and will share tips for tracking the child development.

The speech therapist is a specialist you can seek for support from the birth of your child. From it you can get guidance on breastfeeding, feeding, eating and drinking, behavior, communication, play and linguistic development. All these elements are the key in the stages of child development and are interdependent.

Even before the child talks, it is important to follow the stages of his development.

Take a look at nutrition as well as the stage before 8 months of age when the child does not communicate purposefully, but the adult interprets his behavior and supports it – turns this behavior into purposeful. This is also the stage in which baby chatter or sticky speech occurs. We aim for intense behavior between 8-12 months, it includes more purposeful attention, gestures for words that gradually begin to resemble real ones. Think about the purpose and the way your child communicates. The goal is whether it is at an early stage in which there is a protest and a request, that is, the child repels an unwanted object by hand and stretches to a desired or pointed point. He tries to attract attention through specific behavior such as: weeping, rolling, vocalizing or commenting on something that has made him impression. Often at this stage children are trying to use words. An example of this is during a walk to hear an airplane and point it to you, imitate the sound or try to name the word, tell what has made an impression on it.

Pay attention to how the child communicates with words, vocalization, gestures.

This is important because it would guide you if the child has difficulty or rests you if you are worried about some of these basic things. If you feel that something is not right or difficult to achieve, the speech therapist or early child development consultant will help you understand if your anxiety is right and if so how can you stimulate child development at that time.

There is no age limit to start working with the speech therapist. It can start from 0.

Ask your questions freely and make comments – this is valuable to both sides. The sooner you get the answer to your questions, the faster and your support will be.

Some important tips:

  • It is important to watch your child, “explore” what he likes, how he wants something to stimulate him in learning a new skill.
  • Always be positive about communicating with him because it is a major step in his desire and effort to communicate.
  • Be sensitive to his or her emotions, experiences and desires. Teach him how to show them in a way that everyone can understand.
  • Read books and pay attention to what impresses the child, not simply to read a story or a fairy tale to the end.

Communicate as often as possible with your child !!

According to the theory of interactions (Transactional Theory Gossamer, 2009), the more often you communicate / the frequency of initiation or response from the communicating partner / your child, the more opportunities you give him to develop his communicative and linguistic skills. And as many times as you miss this opportunity or are uncertain and less responsive, the more you reduce the possibility and speed of development for these skills.

It is important how you talk with your child. Here are some specific guidelines:

  • Refer to the child by name, speak with short and clear words, do not go into many explanations. If you want to learn him something, try in a cleaner environment by side sounds, toys and more. Of particular importance is the environment that is familiar to him or if he can learn during a routine / habitual repeated / activity in everyday life.
  • Wait even know what he wants, give him an opportunity to initiate this first communication, if support is needed him how to do it.
  • If you want to stimulate the child’s ability to communicate, to provoke his interest, use the things he enjoys. Concentrate on his favorite places, games and activities, not one hundred percent on that which you want to learn him.

Why should we seek support early?

From intrauterine to up to three years, nerve cells develop most actively, brain connections are built up, become more strongly stimulated, especially by the outside environment, and some of them that are not used often break down and lose. This period is crucial because children develop these important mental connections to three years and this experience is extremely valuable.

Early stimulation has a role on all other areas of development in the future: children have  good results in cognitive terms, improve their skills and learning, develop social skills with their peers and adults, not least the skills to build relationships and career development. Following the advice above, looking for support from a specialist will make you even more confident and good parents and will be prevention of future concern.

There is no greater role than the parent, be confident and brave! The role of the family as supportive and stimulating is a leading one. The role of the speech therapist is to be your support.

Special Advice of the Author: If your child has difficulties in infancy, look for an experienced speech therapist or consultant. It is good during the speech session that the parent also attends and takes an active part to bring the new skills home. I recommend that you choose an intervention to support the family where family-oriented or family-mediated intervention is involved. It is important to feel that you are valued, listened, motivated, and not just following tips standing on the other side of the door.

Author: Nikoleta Yoncheva, speech therapist, trainer at the Karin Dom Foundation

Nicoletta has a Bachelor’s degree in “Hearing and Speech Rehabilitation” and Master of “Speech Therapy”. Currently she is a PhD student in the field of family-mediated early intervention at the Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski.Nicoletta is a Fulbright scholarship student on a program “Development of urban society” in 2018. She has experience in various innovative projects related to people with disabilities who have achieved both at home and abroad. Her professional interests are in the following areas: communication, nutrition and drinking, gesture language, early childhood development and family-mediated intervention. Nicoleta is a certified ABA and PECS therapist. She worked in Karin Dom mainly with young children and their families. She teaches parents, teachers, early childhood therapists, communication, nutrition and other adaptive skills to cope with the challenges they face in their daily lives both in Bulgaria and in countries like Georgia, the United States, Italy and others.

Some important facts:

• Communicative and linguistic development is strongly influenced by early linguistic experience (Hammer et al., 2010, Hart & Risley, 1995, Walker et al., 1994).

• Parent-child interactions that are characterized by good quality and quantity have strong interrelations with (Zauche, Thul, Darcy Mahoney, & Stapel-Wax, 2016): Language development, Cognitive development, Ready for school, School success.

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Photo: Gergana Encheva


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