Recently, over the holidays, I was told by a family member that we should not be signing with Ben but, instead, making him use his words. This is a touchy subject with us.

Let me back track.

At Ben’s 18 month well visit, I knew I was going to be asked the dreaded question. “How many words does he say?” At the time, he was saying maybe 3 words consistently: Mama, Dada, and Ball. I knew he would not fall in the range that he “should” be in  and I had already planned to discuss is lack of talking with his pediatrician.

His pediatrician? I love him. We discussed Ben’s lack of words and his doctor assured me that it is very common with younger siblings. He does, after all, have an older brother who likes to do his talking for him. Why should he talk? He asked me a few other questions such as “Does he follow directions?” and “Does he try to imitate sounds?” Both of which I answered yes.

I was then told that Ben has an expressive language delay. Expressive language refers to the use of words and sentences to communicate what we think, need, or want.

So you see, dear family member, he can’t simply use his words. He doesn’t have words to use! By signing, he is communicating his needs to us without getting frustrated. Because, let’s face it, would you rather have him have a meltdown over not being able to tell us what he needs or have him sign to us what he wants, get it, and be his happy self?

That’s not to say that we aren’t trying to help grow his expressive language. I turned to a blogger friend, who happens to be a speech therapist, to pick her brain a little bit. Mindi from Simply Stavish provided me with some great tips to help Ben “use his words.”

Activities for Expressive Language Delay

1. Offer him two choices during everyday situations.  When you are getting him dressed hold up and label pants and then shirt and have him chose which one.  He may not say it but just the act of him selecting it is a choice.  Then restate “Oh good you chose the pants. Let’s put on your pants.”  So this is just repeating and re-highlighting the word pants.

2.  When reading stories to him don’t pay so much attention to all the words but point to and label pictures in the book.  Stories with a few pictures on each page, like Brown Bear Brown Bear {which happens t be one of his favorite books!} are great for this. For more specific ideas and strategies for reading take a look at her post, Sharing Books with Your Toddler.  

3.  Instead of giving him long sentences make your sentences shorter.  This way he has a chance to absorb what you are saying and is more likely to try to repeat.

4.  Her post on how to grow his skills while playing with cars and trucks is awesome! It also has a bunch of info that you could incorporate into other play activities.

Since Ben’s 18 month well visit, his speech has improved! We have a few more words that he says consistently {Mama, Dada, apple, ball, Pop Pop, No, and Sit Down}. We have also worked on animal sounds {his favorite is roaring like a lion}. My concern level for his developing language skills have lessened, although, it can get frustrating for everyone when he can’t quite say what he wants.

expressive language delay

But we are working on it!

Thank you, Mindi, for giving me some great tools to help my son and for easing my concern with his speech! It was a big help. If you want more information on Expressive Language Delay, Mindi will be featuring my questions next month in her “What Every Parent Should Know about...” series.



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