Working with a slow talker
Posted by iChild, January 17, 2018 1:09 PM
I have had quite a lot of experience working with children who have a speech delay or disorder.
Firstly all three of my own boys were slow to talk and required the help of a speech and language therapist. My eldest had developed his "own language" which only I, as his mother, could understand. For example, he referred to a biscuit as "mum-mum" and if he wanted a drink of orange juice, he would ask for "annie".
I mentioned this to my health visitor at his development checks, who said that he would talk when he was ready and not to worry. But I did worry, and will admit to pestering her into doing something. Eventually we were seen by an amazing speech therapist, who did wonders for him and my other two sons, who also required support.
As a child minder, I have worked with several children who were slow to communicate; they tended to be boys, but I did also have one girl.
One child, Harry, seemed exceptionally slow to me, so I asked his mother if he had been for a hearing test, as a hearing impairment will almost always delay the development of speech. She admitted that she hadn't taken him for the appointment due to work commitments. Harry's mum gave me permission to take him to the drop-in at the centre, which was run by a speech therapist whom I knew well as I was also employed by the centre as a support childminder.
When I took Harry to the group, I had already spoken to the speech therapist about my concerns. While he was playing, she joined him and started chatting to him. Unfortunately, Harry was too shy to respond, so she stood back and observed him interacting with the other children. She spoke to me afterwards on the phone and suggested that she thought the boy would benefit from some speech therapy sessions and suggested his mum contact her. Harry did go to see the speech therapist and his communication skills came on in leaps and bounds. I have written more about Harry and his speech problems in my blog post, Childminding Tales, Double Dutch.
I attended a training course some time later and I was still thinking that there must be something else I could do to help Harry’s situation. I spoke, in confidence, to the special education needs co-originator ( Senco) about him and explained to her that I had written consent from his parent to seek help. She told me that she was going to be working close to my house soon and so would pop in for a coffee and take a look at Harry at the same time.
During her visit, she sat next to Harry as he was cutting out the shape of a pig.
“Is that a pig, Harry?” she asked.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, Karn’s a oink, oink,” he replied.
I told her, that Karn was how he referred to me.
“Oh, is Karen a pig?” she queried. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” came his reply, as he bounced excitedly on his chair. I very quickly explained that I had recently taken the children to see some pigs! She laughed and said that she hadn’t actually thought that the boy had really meant that I was a pig!
The Senco couldn’t see a particular problem with Harry, other than a common speech delay and therefore suggested some listening games that I could play with all the children and that he could also play at home. iChild also have some fun activities in their 0-12 months Communication & Languages and 1-3 years Communication & Language sections. Harry is a few years older now and is doing very well at school.
Jane was the only female child that I have child-minded who was slow to talk. When her mum enquired about childminding places, she told me that she was very quiet and didn't talk well. When I explained that I had experience of children with similar problems she was keen to meet me.
When Jane first came into my playroom with her mum and brother, she was holding onto a comfort cloth which had a picture of a fun fair on it. I asked Jane if she would like to show it to me, and she immediately spread it on my lap and started to chat in her own way. I think that because I had previously worked with children with speech disorders, I understand them more easily than most people. Jane's mum was amazed and told me that her daughter was usually very shy and would never approach someone she didn't know, let alone talk to them. She booked child-minding places for Jane and her brother straight away, saying that she didn't want to risk losing the places, and cancelled all the other appointments she had made to visit other child-minders.
My advice to anyone working with a slow talker is to have patience with the child, and to discuss any concerns with the child's parents. It is vital that early years practitioners and parents work in partnership together. I have also written a post on the topic of working with parents in an early years setting.