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Better Hearing and Speech Month: A Guide to Helping 2-3 Year Olds

May is an important month to raise awareness of communication disorders and celebrate those dedicated to providing treatment, such as our amazing Early Intervention and Pediatric Therapy team.

The early years of a child's life are critical for developing their communication and language skills. As children grow, they learn to understand the world around them and express themselves through speech and language.

This article will explore the crucial aspects of speech and language development in young children, the role of a speech-language pathologist (SLP), and when to seek assistance.

The Role of a Speech-Language Pathologist

SLPs are development specialists who help children with communication and swallowing difficulties. They support children by providing various skills to advance a child’s ability to hear, understand, express themselves, and communicate with others—essential to their growth and development.

Ensuring that your child is on a path to communicate with others and express themselves effectively through the following milestones:

Hearing & Understanding Milestones

  • Points to objects, pictures, and body parts when named

  • Follows simple 1-2 step directions

  • Answers simple questions

  • Participates in pretend play activities (e.g., feeding toys, etc.)

  • Understands longer sentences

Talking Milestones

  • Has a vocabulary of around 200 or more words by the age of 3

  • Puts two words together meaningfully

  • Uses words for various purposes, such as requesting, labeling and commenting on objects or actions, asking for help, greeting others, etc.

  • Imitates words heard in conversation

  • Takes turns in conversation

  • Carries on “conversation” with self and toys

  • Describes objects using basic adjectives

  • 50% intelligible to unfamiliar listeners

  • Many speech sounds and patterns are not fully developed at this point

    • Sounds not developed yet: V, S, Z, SH, CH, J, L, TH, R

  • Throughout the age of 3 these speech processes start to eliminate:

    • Final consonant deletion (e.g., "bow" for "boat"; "duh" for "duck", etc.)

    • Fronting (e.g., "tar" for "car"; "dod" for "dog"; "dut" for "duck", etc.)

When to Connect with a Speech-Language Pathologist

  • No imitation of words or word combinations

  • Limited words or signs used during daily activities

  • Child appears to have a hard time understanding what you are saying and following instructions

  • Child appears to have lost skills they once had

  • Speech errors are present in the following sounds: P, B, D, M, N, H, W

  • Beginning sounds in words are consistently omitted (e.g., "op" for "top", "own" for "down", etc.)

  • Vowels are not produced correctly or consistently (e.g., "buh" for "bye")

How You Can Help

  • Reward and encourage efforts of communication

  • Talk about everything you’re doing - Narrate play actions

  • Talk simply, clearly, and slowly

  • Repeat new words over and over

  • Point to objects and actions in books while labeling what they are

  • Use language you would expect the child to say

  • Give the child time to respond to what you say

  • Use two set choices during requests (e.g., "ball or train?" while holding those objects)

  • Expand what the child says-add one word (e.g., child: “go”; you: “go car,” "go fast," etc.)

  • Model statements more often than questions (e.g., "You need help! I'll help you" vs. "Do you need help?")

  • Use communication temptations (e.g., placing desired objects out of reach for the child to request, etc.)

  • Encourage the child to look at your face when modeling sounds and words

  • Exaggerate sounds that the child may have more difficulty producing

Speech and language development is vital for a child's growth, and caregivers are key. Understanding milestones, seeking help when needed, and implementing supportive strategies lay the foundation for critical skills shaping a child's life.

For more information on speech and language development or to learn more about ISNW pediatric therapy services, visit our Pediatric Therapy webpage or contact our team.

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