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What to Do If Your Child is Slow to Talk

Questioner

Anonymous

Reply Date

Dec 07, 2017

Question

My son is 2.8-year-old. He doesn’t talk much. It frustrates both him and us. He understands a lot of what we say and he wants to communicate, he just gets so frustrated when we don’t understand him if he wants a specific thing if something is bothering him etc. He gets either very physically or loud, he usually just yells and. We took him to the doctor and a speak/language therapist, and nothing is wrong with him, he is just a bit slow to learn how to speak. He does know a lot of words, but mostly words like food/drink and objects. So the problem is when he wants to express something a bit more complex, like emotions, feelings etc. Any advice to handle this mutual frustration?

Counselor

Answer


What to Do If Your Child is Slow to Talk

In this counseling answer:

“Children grow so fast and by the time you implement these techniques he very well may have acquired more skills for verbal expression.  However, you still may have to break him out of his tantrums as they can develop into habits.  He sounds like a bright little boy and in a few more months I am sure you will be on to the next phase in his life! ”


As-Salaam Alaykum,

Thank you for writing us. I am sorry to hear about your son’s frustrations with communication and expressing himself. By this age, your son should know about 300 words and be able to put together very short sentences. Regarding children and talking, TalkingPoints states that, “Children will sometimes sound as if they are stammering or stuttering.  They are usually trying to share their ideas before their language skills are ready. This is perfectly normal, just show you are listening and give them plenty of time”.

Based on this developmental model, it appears your son is right on target with his skills. As you have had him checked out by his pediatrician as well as a speech therapist, you can pretty well rest assured that he is developing at an appropriate rate. This is a big relief, I know! On the other hand, it seems your little guy has a lot to say but does not possess the ability yet to verbalize it is leading to frustration and outbursts.

I would kindly suggest that you implement art. Perhaps sit with him when things are calm and color simple symbols for emotions. A smiley face, a heart, a sad face, and so on. You can tell him “I love you” and point to the heart. Or “I am sad” and point to the sad face. You can create cards with basic things that he may want but cannot yet verbalize such as “grapes, banana, cereal”, etc. You can utilize art therapy with him when he wants to express something he cannot verbalize. He can point to the heart, the sad face, the bunch of grapes to illustrate what he is feeling or desires.  Perhaps you can even buy pre-made age-appropriate art cards that he can use to show you what he is feeling or what he wants. While this may be advanced for his age, it doesn’t hurt to try and if he knows what he feels but cannot find the words, these short, simple art cards may help.

You may also wish to use other creative techniques to help him convey his feelings such as charades – acting out an emotion -wherein you feel he is trying to convey he is sad so you make a sad face and put your head down and repeat “sad” a few times. This can often turn into a fun game for children, especially those who enjoy being at the center of attention and acting. There are many creative ways to help children express themselves, sister. If these don’t work, please do ask his speech therapist. I am sure she will have lots of ideas as this is her field of study.

Regarding his yelling and getting physical, boundaries need to be set and behaviors that are negative need to be addressed by not feeding into them. If he starts to yell, tell him “no yelling” and walk away, or turn your back. When he stops, come back to him and ask him what he wants. If you do utilize the art cards, you can come back with these, but only after he has calmed down. Reacting in the way he wants you to only re-enforces the fact in his mind that if he yells or gets physical, it is okay. This has to be broken as a mode of communication as well as a mode of a power play.

Children know when they are frustrating their parents and will continue to do so until they get what they want after the parent has had enough. In this case, as he is frustrated too, you will not only have to have the patience and consistency to stop re-enforcing this behavior, but you will insha’Allah begin to reward his good behavior. You will also replace this negative behavior with something positive. For instance, your son cannot verbalize that he wants cereal so he begins to kick the counter and yells. Instead of asking him what he wants or trying to get him to stop, you tell him calmly “we don’t yell or kick” and remove him from the scene, put him in another room and walk away. The first few times may be difficult as you may have to do it over and over but eventually, he will learn. When he does “get it” you reward him with something that he likes while verbally praising him for his good behavior. You replace the kicking and yelling with the art cards or with another way for him to communicate.

Sister, I do not think this will last long, insha’Allah. Children grow so fast and by the time you implement these techniques he very well may have acquired more skills for verbal expression.  However, you still may have to break him out of his tantrums as they can develop into habits.  He sounds like a bright little boy and in a few more months I am sure you will be on to the next phase in his life!

We wish you the best!

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Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Aisha Mohammad-Swan

Aisha Mohammad-Swan received her PhD in psychology in 2000. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York with a focus on PTSD, OCD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, and Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. She is currently studying for her certification in Islamic Chaplaincy, and takes Islamic courses at SHC. Aisha works at a Women's Daytime Drop in Center, and has her own part-time practice in which she integrates counseling and holistic health. Aisha also received an MA in Public Health/Community Development in 2009 and plans to open a community counseling/resource center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah.

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