Here are a few questions I ask parents:
1. How much do you understand your child's speech (see ASHA.org for developmental chart, (typical rule of thumb; by 3 yrs old, they should be 80% understood, 4 yrs old= 90% understood, 5 years old 100% understood)
2. How much do others understand your child's speech? (Especially with-out context)?
3. How many words can your child produce? (Rule of thumb; by age two, they should have 50 productive words, and be able to put two words together “mom’s shoes”, Go byebye”.
4. What else affects your child? (hearing issues, tongue tied? Motor issues, sensory issues, attention, or cognitive issues, etc). This is very important to know, so we know what and how to work with your child.
My top suggestions:
A) Get help; Get a full speech and language evaluation. If your child is age 1- 2 ½ call your state (local) Early Intervention program. (Each state calls it my different names; in Utah, it’s called “Kids on the Move”.) If your child is 3-5 years old, you can get testing done free through your school district first. You can also check your local university speech and language clinic- they often need clients. Check your insurance providers for therapists. You can find local therapists through ASHA.org
B). Get "side" issues checked out by physicians and specialists; Get hearing checked, resolve tongue tied issues, motor issues, sensory issues, cognitive issues, etc. (very important to know what to rule out first. Often therapy can’t begin without everything being resolved, as that takes time.)
C) Work on "listening" attending games. (Say “listen”, do you hear (pause) then name something. or animal sounds;, "What says (pause, see if they are listening first, then say the sound "moo?" Try giving 2 step directions to see if they are listening and can follow the instructions in the right order. Have them listen to loud and quiet sounds and they can say it’s loud or it’s quiet, Same thing with high and low sounds.
Try different sequence of sounds; like Simon Says with words (say 2-3 words, have them repeat the sequence, or try actions- clap, touch elbow, shoulder, etc.
D) Provide lots of Auditory Bombardment; Label everything for your child. A child has to hear your speech models often and then they try to imitate you. (Read books, sing songs, and play with your kids; bubble, balloon, blocks- pause for responses for “want more?” “Which color?” label items,)
E) Support your child's expressive language; Try "forced choices" "Tell me what you want for every meal and snack time" "water or milk?" "Cookie or cracker?"
Acknowledge their attempts as good. Model the word again as they reach for it but get them to try to say the word. (Try up to 5 times; with pauses, then give a "free sample" ) Give only one small sample. not the whole item. The idea is to get lots of practice opportunities through out the day. If the food is an incentive stretch out this practice time as much as you can. Do the same with toys and activities.
F) Reduce Frustration; Teach simple sign language (hand movements are easier than mouth movements for some kids early on). (Basic signs are available on the internet) Just start with 1-2, use often, then add one sign per day or week. Before you know it, your child will be talking and signing, then just talking and talking. It will reduce frustration for everyone.