Saturday, January 3, 2015

Repetition and Speech

Being a speech language pathologist working with pediatrics I'm always very aware of milestones and typical development. We started doing sign language with the girls around 6 months and have slowly added more and more signs.

At this point Clara will say two words: "yum-yum" and "hot". Lucy has somewhere between five and ten words she uses consistently. They both use about 10 signs as well. 

I used to give parents strategies to help enhance and improve their child's speech and language. I knew repetition was important and a great strategy, but I've found a new way of implementing it that really seems to help Lucy and Clara try to imitate words. It certainly makes them more willing to try. 

The girls are at the age where they know what it means when you ask them "can you say...". It's hit or miss whether they'll try. Recently I've found that if I repeat the word I'm trying to get them to say (e.g., hot-hot-hot, up-up-up, etc) they're much more likely to try. 

It makes sense if you think about it. When learning a new motor task (speech is a motor task) it takes practice. We aren't exact or precise and getting a little more leeway is expected. The best anology I could think of was coloring. You don't expect a child new to coloring to stay in the lines. Heck, it's good if they can stay just on the paper. As they become better at it you expect more precision. 

The same applies to speech. Expecting a new talker to be able to plan, isolate, and execute something like the word "up" is like trying to get them to color in the lines the first time they do it. Giving them the repetition of the word a few times makes it easier to produce. When babies first start to babble everything is a long string of syllables. They don't just say "ma" they say "mamamamama". 

The more the girls practice words the better they get at them. This new repetition trick seems to be getting them imitating much more frequently. I thought I'd pass this tip along to anyone reading hoping it may work for someone else too. My friend Katie said it was working well for her 14 month old. 


  1. I'll give this a try! M still doesn't have any words and very rarely will repeat sounds I make -- she just hasn't made that speech connection yet. She's been picking up gestures really quickly lately, and her language comprehension is excellent, but I'm so eager for her to start talking!

  2. I will definitely try this. The girls are all about mimicking us now. Paige especially tries to repeat words we say now so I'm hoping we start getting more words soon. Riley doesn't do it as much, but she will get there. Hopefully soon. I feel like we are behind on talking, but kids do things in their own time.