Delayed Speech:
What to Do at Home?

Speech Vs Language

Before we get to delayed speech and what you can do at home, let's do a quick review...

People tend to use speech and language interchangeably but they are quite different!

  • Speech refers to the sounds a child can say in a language. For example, can a child say his/her /s/ sound correctly or does it sound like a "th?"
  • Language refers to what a child understands (receptive language), what a child is able to say (expressive language/vocabulary/grammar).

This is a very SIMPLE explanation for a complicated process; however, it is important to know if your child has difficulty with speech or language. For more information, you can check out our speech and language page.

On this page, we are going to discuss speech.

Should I be concerned about delayed speech?

If you are asking yourself this question, the best advice I can give is to seek out an evaluation. Why not? There is no harm and it is ALWAYS better to know that not to know! You can start by asking:

  1. Your child's pediatrician for a referral. If you take this route, remember to check with your insurance first
  2. Early Intervention (state run program) if under 3 years old
  3. Early Childhood Program (through your public school district) if between ages 3-5
  4. Your child's teacher and request a screening/evaluation from the speech therapist if your child is 5 years or older

An evaluation is also critical because if your child does has delayed speech, your speech therapist with methodically choose what sounds to work on first and give you the best verbal, tactile, and/or visual cues to work on such sounds at home. Therapy always goes much faster when you use your child's own strategies at home. 

For more information on what your child should be able to say, review child speech development

My child is in therapy. What can I do at home now?

If your child is already in therapy for delayed speech, then it is your job to practice their sounds at home daily!!!! This may sound like a lot but it can be simple. These are my favorite tips that I give all parents:

  1. Practice speech sounds 3 times a day for 5 minutes at a time
  2. Schedule practices around a daily activity so you don't forget. My favorites are breakfast, lunch, dinner, car rides, walks, bath time, etc...
  3. Make practice fun and encourage all speech attempts
  4. Check in regularly with your speech therapist for what sounds to work on, current word lists, and how to practice a sound

How to practice at home

Again, check with your speech therapist for tips! Usually, speech practices follows this order:

  1. Drill practice: Repeating words over and over to practice muscle patterns
  2. Naming pictures/words: No direct verbal model
  3. Using word in a sentence
  4. Using word in a game 
  5. Using word in conversation

For most of my students, I suggest lots of drill practice at first. This is necessary to learn how to say a sound.

Next, I have parents jump down to practicing target sounds which their child has already mastered in therapy during games and/or conversation. This way, he/she can carry over progress.

It is proven that a child needs to practice their new sounds across different environments before it will become a automatic/habit...aka no more speech therapy!

More specific ideas:

Here at speech therapy talk, we have a membership program that is designed specifically for children with delayed speech. It reviews how to say each sound, how to teach your child each sound, and then walks you though each practice stage. For more information, click Speech Therapy Talk Membership!

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Bridget is an ASHA certified, practicing speech language pathologist. She is passionate about providing parents with information on child speech and language development as well as provide functional, easy activities to do at home! Parents have the power to make a real difference.

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