Supporting Better Hearing & Speech Month

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Communication is a key skill and something we begin learning from the moment we are born. For many of us, the skill comes naturally. We cry when we’re hungry or need a diaper change to draw attention to the need we need met. As we grow, however, effective communication can become difficult, especially if our speech and/or hearing is affected by medical complications.

“There are a lot of things families can do to help little ones learn to communicate,” said Tess Faber, Speech and Language Pathologist in San Diego County, California. “Things as simple as responding to your child when they make noises can make a big difference in their learning process.”

Responding to a child’s noises lets them know they are heard and they can begin to correlate their noises with our responses. Likewise, there are things we can look for in our little ones to help ensure their success as they learn to use their new found noises to get what they need.

Faber, who works specifically with children ages 0-3, often refers families to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association‘s (ASHA) website for some developmental milestones to keep their eyes open for.

“This is a great way to keep track of speech and language development, and conversely, alert you that there may be something going on if you don’t see this development happening,” Faber said. “It’s important to remember that there is a range of ages in which milestones happen, so it is helpful to consult with a SLP [Speech Language Pathologist] or your pediatrician if something doesn’t seem right.”

There are a range of ages in which milestones happen. If your child doesn’t seem to be hitting them exactly when you expect them to, that doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong. There are small adjustments we can make to our daily routines to help support their learning. These suggestions are for children ages birth to one year old and come directly from ASHA’s website. If you have older children, more suggestions can be found under the tabs for other age ranges.
  • Check if your child can hear. See if she turns to noises or looks at you when you talk. Pay attention to ear problems and infections, and see your doctor.
  • Respond to your child. Look at him when he makes noises. Talk to him. Imitate the sounds he makes.
  • Laugh when she does. Imitate the faces she makes.
  • Teach your baby to imitate actions, like peek-a-boo, clapping, blowing kisses, and waving bye-bye. This teaches him how to take turns. We take turns when we talk.
  • Talk about what you do during the day. Say things like “Mommy is washing your hair”; “You are eating peas”; and “Oh, these peas are good!”
  • Talk about where you go, what you do there, and who and what you see. Say things like, “We are going to Grandma’s house. Grandma has a dog. You can pet the dog.”
  • Teach animal sounds, like “A cow says ‘moo.’”
  • Read to your child every day.
  • Talk to your child in the language you are most comfortable using.

“People don’t always realize that imitation not only helps to teach a child to speak, it also shows them how to take turns,” Faber continues. “We take turns when we talk to each other so learning that skill is also important.”

So what do you do if your child is in school and you or their teacher suspect they may have speech and/or hearing issues?

“If a child is school-aged, the family can contact the child’s teacher and request an assessment through the school district,” Faber said. “Also, I don’t believe it is ever too late. I have worked with teenagers and adults who are still working on speech and language skills. If you have the desire and motivation to work on things like a lisp or a stutter, there are always strategies SLPs can work on with you to support you. It is also important to remember that SLPs work with people across the lifespan. Life events such as Traumatic Brain Injuries and Strokes can cause difficulties with speech and language, and an SLP is vital in the rehabilitation of speech and language skills in these instances.”To help support those who struggle to communicate, Faber offered two key things you can do now:

  1. If you interact with a non-speaking person, please don’t assume they cannot communicate with you. Talk directly to them and let them tell you how you can best communicate with them.
  2. Practice understanding and compassion without pity. Offer to help without assuming it’s needed.
Additional information regarding Better Hearing and Speech Month can be found on ASHA’s website, including more ways to get involved and help raise awareness.

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