What to Expect from Your Toddler’s Speech Therapy

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When your child has been diagnosed with a toddler speech delay, chances are your doctor is going to recommend some type of therapy.  My son started his therapy when he was just under two. Up until my experience with my son, I really never knew anyone with a speech delay, so I had no idea what to expect. I was really skeptical at first because I couldn’t imagine how a toddler could possibly relate to a therapist. I was kind of picturing someone sitting a desk making sounds and telling him to mimic them. Still, I went into it with an open mind, mostly because the services were free and I was at my wits end trying to help my son learn to talk.

If you’re in the same boat with a toddler speech delay and just getting set up with therapy, you may be wondering the same thing I did: how on earth do you give speech therapy to a toddler? I’m going to share my experiences with you to give you an idea of what to expect. Keep in mind, though, that every therapist has his or her own way of doing things, so your experiences may be a bit different.

What to expect from therapy for a toddler speech delay

The initial evaluation: I went through the Easter Seals, a free resource that help parents cope with a toddler speech delay, among many other things. I honestly don’t remember much about the first evaluation. Someone from the organization came out and talked to me and my mom (since we lived with her). Then they spent time playing with Jacob, watching him play with his toys and just getting an overall idea of what he was like as a whole little being.

We also had a similar evaluation from the actual language therapist, Lucy. I don’t think she was called a “speech therapist,” she had a different title. It had something to do with her degree, but she had years of experience working with toddler speech delays. Again, she wanted to learn about Jacob as a whole being and not just as a toddler who couldn’t talk.

Building trust and a relationship: Lucy spent the next couple of session building a bond with Jacob. With toddlers, you need to earn their trust and respect. It’s one of the things I love about them, because when our kids get older, we tell them “you have to respect so and so” and it’s just so fake. With a toddler, it’s all earned. But I digress. When your therapist is working on building that bond, you’ll find yourself wondering what to do. Should you sit right there next to your tot? Should you stand in the next room? Hover or split?

I sat on the couch, paying attention but not interacting unless I was included. There were many times that I was included, but also many times that it was clear my presence was a distraction. You HAVE to know when to back off and let the therapist do her work.

Learning sign language: It sounds counterproductive when you’re trying to get your toddler to speak, but the first thing Lucy did was teach Jacob and I some basic signs. Things like “more,” “eat,” “drink” and a few others. That way, he was able to communicate with me better while he was working on his speech skills. This went a LONG way to stopping those toddler speech delay tantrums!

Playing a lot of fun and silly games: To the untrained eye, much of a toddler speech delay therapy session looks like playtime. Lucy and Jake played all sorts of different games that incorporated sounds and words into them.  Watch these games closely (while you’re NOT hovering) because you can play them with your toddler too in between therapy sessions.

Doing “homework”: Your therapist is only with you for about an hour or so a week. The rest of the time, YOU are the therapist. Lucy gave me plenty of handouts and homework assignments to help me during the rest of the week so I could continue to build on everything Jacob learned during his time with her. It is IMPERATIVE that you follow through. Consistency is so important!

Therapy for a toddler speech delay really does help. It’s not the stuffy kind of therapy that I thought it would be. Jacob really bonded with Lucy, and later with his other speech therapist. They made a lasting impact on him that went beyond just helping him learn to talk. If you’re considering speech therapy, I urge you to take the next step and give it a try.

If you have any questions about dealing with a toddler speech delay, feel free to ask. I’ll do my best to answer.

18 thoughts on “What to Expect from Your Toddler’s Speech Therapy”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing. My almost 2 yr old starts therapy next month and I’ve gone through the complete spectrum of emotions during everything leading up to this. I was nervous about what to expect, but this helps put me more at ease.

  2. Chrissy Mazzocchi

    Thanks for sharing these tips! I have a 3 year old daughter and this is very helpful so I know what to expect.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this. I have my nephew who has this, we just trained him through books and we always talk to him, so far he’s improving. Will share this to his parents too.

  4. I remember my nephew had a really hard time with a few letters when he was really young. I want to say it was the letter ‘C’, but can’t quite remember. We had the hardest time trying to understand him, but he outgrew it without any assistance. He used to get soooo frustrated.

  5. I think it’s really nice that there’s a phase to understand the situation and to discuss the program. This would help give comfort to parents and be able to guide their toddler better.

  6. These are great things for parents for what to expect from their child’s speech therapy. I do know the silly games are so important for them when they are in speech therapy because they do help a lot. Thanks for sharing.

  7. My toddler is going to speech therapy. We love his speech therapist. She is so great with him, even when he throws a fit. She is amazing and I’m learning so much from her on how to interact with him.

  8. Some kids need it. I know with our second son, we were a little concerned about his speech, but we were also comparing him to his big brother and it’s often hard not to compare when you have more than one child. We discovered most of Braidy’s speech problems stemmed from his pacifier use. He had about five words at 18 months , then his language exploded from there. He’s now three and can pretty much say anything.

  9. This was such a great post because I know so many parents are so incredibly nervous about their child receiving services. As a Reading Specialist, I know a lot about what speech therapists do and work in collaboration with them often. It is amazing what a team of specialists and dedicated parents can do!

  10. I think if my doctor were to recommend speech therapy under the age of two, they must know that something else is going wrong or its in relation to something else. I cant imagine it being just because they were not ‘speaking’ as I know so many kids are at different stages during those years. Either way, I am glad therapy helped you!

  11. I’m surprised your doctor recommended speech therapy since your son was under 2. My daughter also didn’t start talking until 2 years old, and is now a chatterbox. 😉

    It sounds like the therapy has helped quite a bit and your therapist did a fantastic job. Jacob is a very handsome little boy!

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