Have You Worked with Children with Speech or Language Delays?
Last week we began discussing speech and language development in children. The discussion included baby sign language and Dunstan Baby Language. We also reviewed the book How to Talk to Your Baby by Dorothy Dougherty.
Today we start the most difficult discussion of all -- what if the child you care for has a delayed speech or language development?
The biggest hurdle for a nanny or au pair that believes a child in their care has delayed speech or language development is talking about the topic with the parents. The best scenario is when the parents will already recognize their child's speech is delayed and be willing to tell their caregiver how she can help. The worst scenario would be that the parents become offended or defensive if you bring up the topic. Sometimes the parents simply aren't aware of the speech or language delays. They believe their child is a late bloomer and not delayed in development.
If you are concerned that the parents are unaware of the problem you need to find an appropriate time and manner to talk to the parents about your concerns. Prepare what you want to say. Be sure to reference the November, 2009 Be the Best Nanny Newsletter which lists typical speech and language development milestones in children.
Present the facts and your concerns in a professional and respectful manner. Approach the parents with love and concern for their child, but do not become too emotional. Bring it to the attention of the parents at a time when neither of you is tired. Talk in a polite and helpful manner. Don't blame the parents, instead phrase your comments positively and ask for the parent's help and advice. It will also be easier for the parents to accept your comments if they know that you see their child's good points too. The worst reaction would be to sound aggressive or defensive during the conversation.
Hopefully, the parents will speak to the family doctor. The doctor may decide to refer the parents and child to a speech-language pathologist. A speech-language pathologist is a health professional trained to evaluate and treat people who have speech, language, voice, or swallowing disorders, or hearing impairment that affect their ability to communicate.
The speech-language pathologist will talk to the parents about their child's communication and general development. The pathologist can perform speech and language tests. A hearing test is often included in the evaluation because a hearing problem can affect speech and language development.
Depending upon the test results, the speech-language pathologist may suggest activities for home to stimulate speech and language development. Nannies and au pairs can help perform these activities which may include reading to the child regularly; speaking in short sentences using simple words so that the child can successfully imitate you; or repeating what the child says, using correct grammar or pronunciation. For example, if your child says, "Ball baybo" you can respond with, "Yes, the ball is under the table." This allows you to demonstrate more accurate speech and language without actually "correcting" the child which can eventually make speaking unpleasant for him or her.
The speech-language pathologist may also recommend group or individual therapy or suggest further evaluation by other health professionals such as an audiologist, a health care professional who is trained to identify and measure hearing loss, or a developmental psychologist.
Whenever you suspect a child in your care may be delayed in development you should share your concerns with the parents. Take the time to prepare what you will say. Always speak to the parents in a professional and respectful manner to ensure the child is receiving the best care available.
Have you worked with children with speech or language delays? How was the child treated? How did you talk about it with the parents?