Language development is a huge part of a child's progress and learning to speak is vital to their social developing, learning, and understanding. In today's episode, Molly will talk us through some of the ways to help us encourage our babies to put their speech on the fast track.
Molly. She is a Speech Pathologist and Feeding Therapist in New York. She also manages a social media presence and website called "The Speech Teacher." Her goal is to provide parents with quick and easy tips and activities that they can do at home with their children. Molly recently published "The Speech Teacher's Handbook" on Amazon. It's a quick and easy guide that parents can read in one sitting and it provides simple, fun and functional activities that can be implemented at home.
She volunteered at a Special Needs school where her aunt was a teacher. She noticed that the speech therapies need the most amount of progress and she fell in love with how much it worked. From there, Molly knew that she wanted to be a Speech Therapist so she went to undergrad school for Speech Therapy. Then, through grad school, she got more into feeding and had a lot of experience doing feeding therapy. Through her time in New York, she specialized with the birth-to-five population.
Speech and Feeding Therapy. Parents who are concerned about their child's speech and/or feeding progress usually speak with their pediatrician or school teacher first. Then, Molly visits the family at home and starts evaluating their child by chatting or playing with them. She has seen babies who are not breastfeeding, children who are not speaking, or kids who don't stop talking but have articulation errors. After her evaluation, she provides parents with recommendations like having their child attend a therapy through the state's early intervention program or private therapy groups.
A feeding therapy session helps children eat more safely and more functionally. It is usually for children who are gagging, choking, or coughing during meals. It also helps parents with their children who are picky-eaters by expanding the diversity of food. Some children are uncomfortable when feeding so they assist parents in transforming their feeding session into a fun and social activity.
After 3 sessions, the children should already be excited to see her and play with her. After 3 weeks, there should already be progress. Molly asks parents or caregivers to report something new or exciting that the child is doing. After 3 months, they should meet one goal like trying one piece of fruit every meal or using a word instead of a gesture to request something.
Most parents ask for help when they notice their child's behaviors are interfering with their day-to-day life. Some examples are kids with full-blown tantrums or really intense frustrations because they are not able to communicate or feed.
"Pediatricians should have a good eye of what the developmental milestones are and when you're should be doing different things. Also caregivers, and nannies, and daycare providers even preschool teachers are so aware of speech and language issue and they are often the first one to say "hey, you know, there's the thing called early intervention and you can check it out and get some free therapy for your kid"."
The Speech Teacher Handbook. The book is laid out in Molly's 3 big principles that she always goes over with all the families she works with. It also has a huge chunk of milestones so parents or caregivers would know what should be happening at a certain age. There are also a bunch of activities that parents can do at home.
Molly shares about gentle withholding. The idea is if your kids want something, you hold on to it until they do something in order to get it. However, it is important to remember that this technique works best when you start with treats or during play. You really want to work with what is motivating for your child. Most of the time it's toys during play or special snacks and treats.
"It is important to remember that your child learns everything within a context."
Molly's 3 Big Principles
1. Take baby steps. Little things do count. Small milestones are huge for kids especially under five. The slower you go, the faster you're going to see a lot of progress. You have to teach imitation. Let your child imitate an action like arms up, or silly sounds like animal sounds. Sounds imitation will come before words. Once they learn the sound imitation, maybe then you could teach them to imitate words.
2. Create motivating moments. Kids will use their words and language when they are motivated. For example, if a kid points to the cup and you give him the cup, then there is no reason for him to use the word "cup" because he is functionally communicating with gestures. So you should hold onto things until your kids do or say something new in order to request it. That new piece is your job to teach. So if you want your child to say "cup", have him imitate you in order to get it.
3. Consistency. Kids learn best with consistency. Their job is to get away with what they can get away with in the quickest and easiest way. So the more consistent we are in setting expectations and sticking with expectations, the quicker they will realize that they really have to do or say something new.
Molly shares that during the beginning of her career, she thought that one prescription will work for every single kid. But in reality, it doesn't work that way. She learned to start building a relationship with the child first and then work in different strategies.
"Every child, we forget that they are just little people with different personalities. I have to change my natural persona to meet their needs. I think it's really a trial and error game with every kid. The longer you take to build a fun and trusting relationship with the child, the easier it will be to implement strategies that work for them.
Words of Wisdom
It is important to understand the child's incentive and their incentive to learn. If you take the time to understand the child and start to cater to their personality, then you can understand these incentives and have more success with the child.
"You just really have to work with what's gonna be the most exciting for the kid. The more motivated they are, the more likely they'll be engaged and learn from whatever we're working on."
How to learn more about Molly
Book: The Speech Teacher's Handbook