How to encourage your late talker



I made a post some time ago about how my oldest child was a silent toddler. Recently, there has been a lot of discussion on a birth month board that I’m a part of about what to do if you have a late talker and how do you encourage speech in your toddler. So I’m going to share my experience with Early Intervention, the Infants and Toddlers program and teaching a late talking toddler how to speak.

When my oldest child had only 5 words at his 24 month appointment, we were referred by our pediatritian to the Infants and Toddlers program. She was the one that gave me their contact information. I realize, however, that this won’t always be the case. If you need to contact your local Early Intervention program, you do not need a referral from your pediatrician. Google search “Early Intervention” followed the name of your state (if you are in the US) and it should be easy enough to find. When you call Early Intervention, explain to them your reason for calling and they will ask you a few questions over the phone. If it seems like your child needs an evaluation, an evaluation will be scheduled.

Our first evaluation occured at a school. My mother in law and I took J to the school and there was a room with lots of toys and two evaluators. The evaluators tried to get him to do things like stack blocks, label objects, make a face, play with a puppet. Just games. J spent most of his time screaming in the corner.

It was determined that he needed a second evaulation and that it should likely occur in our house since the unfamiliar environment of the school made him shut down completely. An evaluator came to our house and was able to evaluate J properly, it was then determined that he had a speech and cognative delay. We were assigned a Speech Language Pathologist who came to our house once a week for therapy. J also attended a therapy pre-preschool environment with 3 other little boys twice a week.

All of this was at no cost to us as it fell under the umbrella of the public school system.

J did this routine until he was 3, then he qualified for an EI preschool program. We visited the preschool and I decided that it wasn’t a good fit because J seemed to do better in an environment where other children were talking. He was also toilet trained by that time. Most of the kids in the preschool were not speaking, most were in diapers. I decided instead to put him in a private preschool for “typical” kids. He had a hard year, but being around speaking children did him a lot of good as well.

Here are some techniques that I learned from his time in therapy. If you have a toddler who isn’t speaking or only has a couple of words, here are some things you can try to encourage speech with your child:

– In order to get your child to look at you when you speak, take his hands and put them on either side of your face.

– Speak very deliberately, make your words slowly with exaggerated mouth shapes.

– Praise any attempt at speaking, even if it’s incorrect. Always correct it, however. So if you hold an apple up and your child says “aaahhll” say “Good! Ap-ple” .

– The SLP used to tap syllables on J’s shoulder. So, again, using the apple example. He’d say “aaahhll” and the SLP would say “ap-ple” and tap twice on his shoulder as she said it.

– Use games to reward for speaking. Like get a ball run, hold the balls and let your child put one down the run. Then encourage your child to say “more” or “ball” before you give him another.

– Another good one is tickle your child then stop and holds your hands up. If your child wants more tickles he has to say “more” first. Once he’s saying more, move to “more tickle”, once he’s saying “more tickle” move to “more tickle please” and build like that.

– Play blowing games. Like blowing bubbles or blowing a cotton ball across the table. Kazoos are also good. The blowing shape helps with word formation.

– Have your child use a straw to drink with. Again, the sucking through a straw is good for word formation.

– Narrate constantly. It may sound silly but it does help. So as you’re going about your day say stuff like “We’re going upstairs, up-up-up-up!” and raise your voice with each “up”. Or “We’re going down stairs down-down-down-down” and lower your voice with each “down”. Or whatever. Putting on your child’s shoes say “Let’s put your shoes on, first right foot! Put shoe on right foot! Put shoe on! Now left foot! Put shoe on left foot! Put shoe on!” It seems like a lot of repetition but the hope here is that your child will pick up on it and join in the repetition.

– Make sound effects for everything. Your child might not be able to say “cow”, but “moo” is a bit easier. Your child might not be able to say “car” but “vroom” is easier. So every time you see something that makes a sound, make the sound. “Look! It’s a dog! Woof!” “Look! It’s a train! Choo-choo!”

– Even some things that don’t make sounds can have action words associated with them. Like “Bunny! Hop hop!” or “Ball! Bounce bounce!” or “Bubble! Pop pop!”

– Try not to give your child what he wants until he asks for it. So if you know he wants some milk because he’s pointing and grunting at the fridge, say “Do you want milk?” and try to get him to say “milk”. Then you build like the tickle game. “Milk please” etc.


I actually still use all of these. I used them with my “typical” middle son and I use them with my “typical” youngest son. My youngest really likes the tickle game.

I hope that this post helps you if you have a toddler who is struggling with speech.