Why isn’t my child’s speech therapist teaching my child to say words?

As parents, we are always excited when our child develops a new skill. The first time they look to us and smile, our hearts melt.  When they start sitting, crawling, and walking we cheer as if they scored the winning point at a state championship game. When our children start talking, we are excited about hearing words and are always hoping for more to come.  It makes sense that when a child isn’t saying as many words as expected for their age, parents’ therapy goals are to get more words.


The job of a speech-language pathologist is to become a coach for the family and help them reach the end goal: getting more words.  The thing that is not realized is that prior to adding more vocabulary words, children have a lot of preverbal skills they must master.  Speech language pathologist consider these preverbal skills, a precursor to speech. If skills are not present, we go back and help the child master all prerequisite steps, that sometimes do not require making any sounds at all.

List of preverbal skills.  These are skills your child must master before they will talk!
1-Action with objects: shake a rattle, bang two blocks, knock on a door, feed a doll
2-Communicative gestures: stomp, wave, clap, give me 5, blow kisses, shake head
3-Nonverbal Actions with your face/mouth: Open/close mouth, pucker lips, blow
4-Vocalizations in Play: say “ah” in bucket, pant like dog, fake sneeze, Sh for quiet
5-Exclamatory Words: yay, ow, uh oh, boo boo, icky, woo hoo, no way, hooray
6-Automatic Speech in Verbal Routines: such as Ready, set, go; 1, 2, 3
7-Social Games: Peek-a-boo, Give me 5, Ride Little Horsie, Row Your Boat
8-Early Songs: Twinkle Twinkle, Itsy, Bitsy Spider, Wheels on the Bus, If You’re Happy
9-LAST BUT NOT LEAST! Functional Words: All done/all gone, baby, ball, banana, no, more, shoe, hi, dog, cat
*Additional examples can be found at Laura Mize, teachmetalk.com


If you have ever observed a therapy session in early intervention or with early talkers in general, you may wonder, “What in the world are they doing?  Why isn’t my child saying words? Why isn’t she encouraging my child to talk?” This is because we are working on building skills necessary to talk. Young children learn best through play-based movements because they learn via multisensory experiences (they learn by doing and experiencing).  When therapy is provided under the veil of play, children are able to learn in the context of naturally occurring routines and activities. This is where progress happens, therapists meet children where they are and build foundational skills that lead to success! The sillier we look doing it, the better! If we have won their attention than we are on our way to building the preverbal skills required to get more speech!

About the author:  Danielle Carey, M.S., CCC-SLP, became a licensed speech-language pathologist in 2012, treating patients mainly in hospitals and subacute rehab centers with clinical time spent in the public school and at a private practice treating patients ages 2-60+.  She received her bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders with a minor in child development and family relations from East Carolina University.  Danielle received her master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Old Dominion University.  She is a member of American Speech


-Language-Hearing Association.  Danielle received VitalStim certification (neuromuscular electrical stimulation) in 2014 to use for adults with dysphagia (swallowing impairment).  She enjoys treating patients ranging from early intervention age through our older adults.   Danielle has been a part of The Therapy SPOT team since 2015.  She is passionate about speech-language pathology and enjoys completing continuing education courses and sharing knowledge with colleagues.  Danielle and her husband Jared have a 3 year old daughter and infant son, and love to travel and take go on adventures.  In her free time, Danielle enjoys reading, riding horses, cooking, and spending time at the beach.


The Therapy S.P.O.T. – Speech, Physical, and Occupational Therapy

www.jasonhurstphotography.com ©Jason Hurst Photography 2014-2015
http://www.jasonhurstphotography.com ©Jason Hurst Photography 2014-2015

Our multidisciplinary therapy center was established in 2007, and is committed to providing quality therapy services in a fun, family and child centered environment. We provide pediatric speech, feeding, physical, and occupational therapy as well as adult speech and swallowing therapy.  Our therapists have unique and specialized skills and training, and we strive to pair our patients with the therapists who will best meet their specific needs.  You can learn more about our services at http://www.therapyspotstatesboro.com.  Questions or concerns?  Call us at (912) 681-7768 for a free consultation.


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