This guest post is by Sandra Williams, a licensed speech-language pathologist and the author of Lullabelle & Friends’ Parent Guide: Enhancing Your Child’s Speech-Language Development From Birth to Three Years and Beyond…
Grandparents, where do you fit? The love, joy, and unadulterated admiration you feel for your first, second, or ninth grandchild are unmatched. You play a key role in your grandchild’s social and emotional development. You can also help develop your grandchild’s speech and language.
How many times have you read a favorite story to your grandchild with sound effects and hand movements? When you do that, you’re building your grandchild’s vocabulary and understanding of how words tell a compelling story. How many times have you sung nursery rhymes and played games of hide-and-seek? You’re creating valuable building blocks for functional communication. And when you teach your grandchild how to make cookies or a jelly sandwich, you’re helping the child understand that tasks are completed in a specific order. You’re giving the child building blocks for grasping future mathematical operations.
As a speech-language pathologist working with children, I’ve witnessed the vital role grandparents play in facilitating their grandchild’s speech-language development. Grandparents are eager to establish loving connections with their grandchildren. These bonds are foundational in creating a language-rich environment. Even before the child is producing sounds or establishing direct eye-contact, grandparents can be key partners with the parents in planting the seeds necessary for the child’s speech-language skills to flourish. Singing lullabies soothe the baby. Reading to your grandchild, well before he begins to speak stimulates, informs, and nurtures the baby’s natural curiosity. As your grandchild gets older, engaging in direct play can ignite the child’s problem-solving skills.
Watch for Developmental Goals
Sometimes grandparents may be the first to notice when their grandchild has not met specific developmental goals. They may be able to identify challenges their grandchild is facing. Grandparents working with the parents can suggest a consultation with the child’s pediatrician and a certified speech-language pathologist to determine whether testing and intervention are necessary. For further information, The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has created free colorful hand-outs, Identifying the Signs of Communication Disorders, outlining developmental benchmarks for babies from birth to five years of age.
If your grandchild has been identified as having speech-language delays, you can play an important role in helping your grandchild achieve therapeutic goals. You can work with the therapists and parents as a valuable support system for the parent. Keep informed so that you’re all working towards the same objectives.
If you feel like you’ve been asked to do more than you can handle, let the parent and therapist know. Ask them to create a shortlist of very specific doable suggestions for you to implement to further the child’s progress.
As your grandchild discovers new words, learns new concepts, and shows an insatiable curiosity about all she sees around her, it may seem impossible to keep up with these rapid developmental changes. By creating a loving environment, emphasizing genuine connections, and consistently responding with words and actions to your grandchild’s sounds and words, you’ll create fertile ground for your grandchild to blossom and maximize their full speech-language potential.
If you have specific questions about your grandchild’s speech and language development, you can email Sandra Williams at [email protected]