Research has found that parents can help their children when they are having difficulties with learning language. Children with speech or language difficulties benefit from speech language therapy; however one session a week is not sufficient to make rapid changes and parents have opportunities to help their child on a daily basis.
Parents can use naturally occurring opportunities to help their children’s speech and language development.
Below follows a short summary of a study (Colmar, 2014) in which book reading was used to improve both expressive (talking) and receptive (understanding) language in four and five year old children who were socio-economically disadvantaged. In this study, one of the parents were asked to read a picture book with their child for 5 – 15 minutes each day using the following strategies:
1.Pausing at each page so that the child had the chance to say something
2.Asking an open question (a question that cannot be answered by “yes” or “no”) related to the topic the child just talked about. This means that the children had a chance to talk about a topic they wanted to talk about.
The parents were asked to use the above strategies in everyday communication situations.
There were three groups of children:
• 11 children with language delays and difficulties who received intervention (book reading and using the strategies)
• 12 children with language delays and difficulties who did not receive intervention
• 13 children with normal language development who did not receive intervention
Both before and after the four months of book reading with one of the parents, the children’s receptive and expressive language skills were formally assessed. Results showed that the children in the intervention group had improved significantly in both receptive and expressive language. There were no significant changes in the two groups who had not received any intervention.
Furthermore, the parents enjoyed the “book reading time” with their children and they reported they started to use the strategies in everyday situations.
This study highlights that parents can be actively involved when their children have difficulties with aspects of language. When I provide speech and language therapy to children, I ask the parents to reinforce the therapy targets every day for approximately five minutes. This should be a “fun” time for the children. Furthermore, I give examples of everyday functional situations that the parents can use to practice specific speech or language skills.
Colmar, S. H., 2014. A parent-based book-reading intervention for disadvantaged children with language difficulties. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 30 (1) 79 – 90.