Having foundational language skills is the key to unlocking our world. Entrepreneurial moms, or anyone running a successful business for that matter, knows this first hand. Just think about how critical communication skills are to your professional development – you use them to speak with clients and colleagues, draft meaningful messages and memos, give pitches and presentations, and the list goes on. They impact how we express our desires and interact with the world around us.
You want the same for your child!
During your child’s formative years, they begin to establish their speech and language skills. For some, these naturally come easy. For others, they may struggle to reach important developmental milestones and begin to lag behind children their age. Perhaps they are experiencing a speech delay, or are stuttering, or they’re having trouble pronouncing certain sounds, letters, or words. Or maybe they’re having difficulty with literacy, learning new vocabulary words, or comprehending language and verbal directions.
Watching your child struggle can be disheartening and frustrating. But that’s what working moms do – we solve problems. And fortunately, speech and language difficulties – like everything else in life – can often be addressed with appropriate intervention.
As a speech-language pathologist, I have the honor of working with the parents everyday to help their children become effective communicators. I particularly focus on fostering parental engagement because research has shown that when parents play an active role in their child’s speech and language development, children progress at much faster rates.
Easier said than done, of course.
One of the things I often hear from working parents is that they want to take a more active role in their child’s progress, but simply don’t have time. Improving communication is just like improving any other skill – it takes practice, persistence, and patience. Many of us are balancing work and family obligations with a hectic schedule that leaves little time to provide individualized, one-on-one time that many children need to be successful.
So how can busy moms and families find the time (and energy) to give their early language learners the help they need?
I’ve put together a few time-saving tips to naturally incorporate speech and language practice into your day-to-day life. Providing the foundational language skills now will help your child achieve success as they transition from childhood to adulthood, from the classroom to the boardroom.
Making Reading a Routine:
I know this first tip isn’t earth-shattering. But the impact of reading regularly on the development of children can’t be understated. Research shows that reading to your child early and surrounding them with a literacy-rich environment is instrumental in supporting their vocabulary, comprehension, and cognitive skills, as well as setting them up for success in school.
Although finding time to pour through a good book can be challenging at times (and don’t feel bad skipping a day here and there), try reading to your kiddo before bed. This is a great way to wind down after a hard day’s work, and it creates memorable moments and quality bonding time with your child. You can learn more tips for making reading fun and enjoyable here.
Incorporate Language into Exercise:
I love working with parents to find opportunities to incorporate foundational language skills into activities they’re already doing. Exercising is a great example! As an added bonus, when children are involved in physical activity, parts of their brains are activated to help them retain new skills and knowledge.
Do you regularly go on afternoon walks or bicycle rides to clear your mind or relieve stress? Perfect – invite your kiddo along. You can use the natural world around you as a language laboratory to stimulate conversation and practice skill building. For example, ask your child to name and describe certain objects that you discover together, such as, “what color is that flower?” or “what does that sign say?” If your child is a little older, ask thought-provoking questions like, “how tall do you think that tree is? This gets children to practice using descriptors and vocabulary, as well as their critical thinking abilities.
If you’re a yogi, invite your kiddo to join you. Not only does this introduce healthy habits early that help build strength and flexibility, it’s a great way to help them practice verbal directions. Describe each of the poses to your child with one-step and multi-step directions, and get them to follow along.
Online Speech Therapy:
For children that have speech and language issues, likely your doctor will recommend seeing a speech-language pathologist (SLP). They are experts in communication and the most qualified professionals to help evaluate, diagnose, and treat speech and language disorders. They’ll work with both you and your child to develop an individualized treatment plan tailored to your child’s unique needs.
The problem is, finding time to visit a speech therapist can be time-consuming and inconvenient. Most clinics are open during typical 9-5 business hours, which is difficult for mom’s working full-time. Take into account the lost time spent commuting and sitting in waiting rooms, and this quickly becomes a multi-hour commitment each week.
These days, we do everything online – so why not speech therapy? More and more families are turning to online speech therapy everyday, and with COVID-19, it has recently exploded in popularity. Online therapy helps families access the same high-quality care as more traditional settings, but provides added convenience and affordability advantages that make it more suited to working families.
For example, there’s no more commuting or waiting times – you can access an experienced and licensed speech therapist with the click of a button. Best of all, you can schedule sessions around your busy lifestyle and whenever is most convenient, including early mornings, in the evenings, or on the weekends. And finally, many online speech therapy practices don’t have to pay the same overhead as traditional providers (think the high cost of rent), allowing these cost savings to be passed down to you.
Some parents I talk with are initially concerned that their children won’t receive the same level of care or attention, or make the same progress, if therapy is delivered online. However, this is not supported by the research. In fact, research demonstrates that online speech therapy is just as effective as traditional, in-person therapy, plus it provides mainly benefits that make it a preferable option for many parents.
Appropriately modeling language at home is one of the easiest and most impactful ways parents can get involved in the speech therapy process. Modeling is a relatively simple strategy that you can incorporate into your day-to-day interactions with your child. It can help all children develop strong expressive language skills, even if they aren’t experiencing speech and language issues.
So what is modeling? Children learn new sounds and words by listening to those around them. Modeling is a strategy where parents use or “model” expressive language that you’d like your child to develop, rather than correcting or instructing them on how to say certain words or phrases. It’s an opportunity for your child to hear what they could say in the moment, and then try to imitate it. When you’re modeling correct speech and language, you should speak slowly, clearly, and with plenty of intonation. When talking to your child, you can also point to objects so your child can make associations between the word and object. For more information on modeling, check out this helpful video I created.
In short, the earlier speech and language interventions are provided to children, the better they’re outcomes will be. While staying involved can be difficult for busy moms, there’s many opportunities to naturally incorporate practice
Countless research has shown that the earlier children receive appropriate interventions for speech and language difficulties, the better outcomes they’ll experience.
Think of all the new skills and knowledge it took you to run your business. Maybe you were learning how to effectively use social media to promote your product. Or perhaps you’ve had to master new design tools, or CRM platforms, or customer acquisition channels. Each of these took constant practice, patience, and reinforcement.
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