How can we support babbling and early speech development? SLT tricks and tips
· ·

How can we support babbling and early speech development? SLT tricks and tips

My baby isn’t babbling and developing speech – what can I do to support?

While every baby develops at their own pace, if your child isn’t babbling by nine months, it’s worth seeking help from an Early Intervention Health Professional, such as a doctor and a speech therapist. Don’t panic! There are many reasons for delayed babbling, and early intervention is key.

In the meantime, it is highly recommended that we talk, sing, and read to our baby often. Exaggerate sounds and expressions, and respond to their coos and smiles. This playful interaction helps stimulate their communication skills.

Below are some tips and tricks from my experience of working with babies and toddlers who need a little bit of help and support to develop.

The benefits of imitating your baby

Copying your baby’s sounds and gestures isn’t just silly fun, it’s a powerful learning tool! By mimicking their babbles and actions, you activate “mirror neurons” in their brain that help them connect sounds with meaning. This playful back-and-forth teaches turn-taking, a foundation for conversation. Plus, it encourages them to copy you, building their own language skills and social interaction abilities.

This is a nice clip on youtube showing how copying/imitating your baby looks like:

Here are some fun ways to imitate your baby:

  • Matchmaker: Grab two of the same, or two similar toys your child loves, like rainmakers or shakers. Give one to your baby and keep the other for yourself. When your child plays with his/her toy, mirror his/her actions with yours! This creates a fun, interactive game.
  • Face Time: Get down to your baby’s level, sitting opposite him/her on the floor or kneeling. This makes eye contact easy and encourages him/her to look at you during your playful imitation.
  • Be the Funniest You: Go all out with silly faces, exaggerated sounds, and big gestures. The goal is to capture your baby’s attention and make you irresistible to watch. This playful energy encourages him/her to interact and potentially imitate you back!

By incorporating these tips, you can turn imitation into a fun and engaging way to boost your baby’s communication skills. I have seen this happen numerous times over the past decades. It is very powerful, go ahead and try it! You cannot be silly and goofy enough!

Great toy ideas:

Did you know that speech and language development starts with how we talk to our babies?

Adults naturally use a special way of speaking called motherese. It involves a higher pitch, slower pace, and exaggerated sounds compared to regular conversation. Sentences are simpler, with shorter words and repetition. This grabs babies’ attention, helps them distinguish sounds, and reinforces word meaning.

Imitation is a key part of motherese. We wait for our baby to make a sound or gesture, then playfully imitate it with exaggeration. Babies notice this right away and often respond with more vocalisations, creating a mini conversation. This back-and-forth teaches turn-taking, a foundation for future conversations.

By responding warmly and engaging in these playful interactions, we encourage our babies to keep exploring the world of communication. Talking, singing, reading and, of course, imitating, these simple actions can have a big impact on a baby’s language development.

Once your conversation is underway then try and keep it going for as long as possible. It’s a beautiful dance of turn-taking, even without words!

A last word on oxytocin

There’s evidence suggesting early non-verbal communication with your baby can increase a mother’s oxytocin levels, often called the ‘love hormone’. This hormone plays a key role in bonding and social connection. Positive interactions, touch, and stress reduction all contribute to oxytocin release, strengthening the mother–baby bond.

For parents of babies with extra needs

The stress of caring for a child with medical needs or developmental delays can be difficult. Stress can lower oxytocin levels, creating a cycle of sadness for both parent and child.

Breaking the cycle:

  1. Knowledge is Power: Understanding the importance of communication can empower parents.
  2. Seek Support: Speech therapists and other healthcare professionals can provide valuable guidance on communication strategies.
  3. Start Small, Celebrate Big: Even small interactions can boost oxytocin. Focus on playful imitation and positive reinforcement. Remember, friends, family and healthcare professionals are there to encourage you.

This approach can help reverse the negative cycle and create a more positive and connected relationship between parent and child.

I hope this is helpful! Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.

Kind regards

Sonja McGeachie

Early Intervention Speech and Language Therapist

Feeding and Dysphagia (Swallowing) Specialist The London Speech and Feeding Practice

The London Speech and Feeding Practice

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.

Teletherapy: A fun and convenient way to help your child master those sounds!

Teletherapy: A fun and convenient way to help your child master those sounds!

It can be hard to get your child to come to the clinic on a weekly basis to work on those tricky sounds. Perhaps the car isn’t working, you have had a lot on, or our student has a bit of a cold but is still able to do a little bit of sound practice?

The good news is that Teletherapy can be a fantastic option to continue your child’s speech journey from the comfort of your own home!

Even when your wifi is not working and your laptop is broken, as you can see on this clip I was able to stretch into running the session on WhatsApp video, but that is less then ideal I will say.

What is Teletherapy?

Teletherapy is speech therapy delivered virtually, through a secure video platform. I use Zoom for example, but I have also used WhatsApp Video Call on occasions where parents’ zoom was not working.

When is Teletherapy perfect?

Here’s why teletherapy can be a great fit for helping your child solidify those learned sounds:

  • Basic sound patterns have been established in clinic: Your child is now able to say those tricky sounds BUT they are not saying them in daily life yet; they are not ‘generalising’ those new sounds into the normal speech.
  • You just can’t make it today: No more fighting traffic or fitting appointments into busy schedules. Teletherapy sessions happen at home, on your time. Sometimes even in the attic or the garden shed as in my video clip here ????
  • Your child is about 7 years old or older and is motivated to work on their sounds: I use fun and interactive online tools and games to keep your child engaged during practice sessions. Due to having done teletherapy over the Covid period I have amassed lots of great games and know-how in this area. Our student needs to be mature enough to be able to sit in front of the laptop camera and participate with a minimum of adult help.
  • Your child loves gaming and is best motivated through online games: Sometimes children are best motivated when playing online games in between speech sound/language activities; in this case teletherapy is totally perfect.
  • Focus on Carryover: The familiar environment of your home can actually be an advantage! I can guide my student on practising sounds in everyday situations, like reading a book together or playing with toys, sometimes even talking to their sibling or a.n.other in the room.
  • Parental Involvement: Teletherapy allows you to be directly involved in the sessions just in same way as when I see your child in my clinic. You can learn strategies and techniques from me to continue practising with your child throughout the day. You can also make a note of the online games I have and then use them in your home sessions.

What to Expect During a Teletherapy Session

  • Initial Consultation: We start with a brief chat on how the week has gone, what gains have been made with the home exercises and we settle the student into a good learning mode; sometimes I start off with a very quick game just to set the scene.
  • Working on generalising: When asking my student about how their week has been I will remind them to remember their new sounds and to try and produce them whilst talking to me. This is already the start of therapy.
  • Practising target sounds: We practice our target sounds in different contexts, using games, visuals, and activities.
  • The teletherapy session lasts the same amount of time as do 1:1 sessions, unless I see that a child becomes very fidgety and we are not able to hold out much longer, I will cut short the session and focus on increased home practice.
  • Home Practice: Just like in 1:1 clinic sessions, I will provide you with easy-to-follow tips and activities to continue practising sounds throughout the week.

Getting Started with Teletherapy

  • Technology Check: Ensure you have a reliable internet connection and a device with a camera and microphone.
  • What device is best: Ideally the student needs to be on a laptop or PC because that way the student can actively engage with their mouse, moving game pieces, or participating in online activities using their mouse. Tablets are ok but do not allow active participation of the student as described above. However once in a while we can make it work and I do have some games and activities that do not rely on student participation.

Finally, I would say that Teletherapy is a safe, fun and effective way to continue your child’s speech therapy journey. It’s convenient, engaging, and it is perfect on a rainy day when you don’t want to or can’t come out to bring your child to clinic.

Do get in touch if you would like some in-person or on-line 1:1 support with this. It can be overwhelming to figure it all out alone.

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.