On occasion, an SLP will see a young child who has no interest in producing sounds. Often, these child have other developmental disorders (ie: Down Syndrome, Autism, etc), but occasionally the child simply has difficulty with and no interest in talking. So, as a parent, what do you do? One trick I like to use is to start by teaching children to imitate different noises. For example, with a child who refuses or shows no interest in imitating phonemes, I like to start by teaching them to imitate animal or machine (cars, airplanes, etc) sounds. Most children are interested in either animals or machines, so they are motivated to learn the sounds. Start by playing with the child. Pick several different animals and begin by producing the sounds yourself. DO NOT force or strongly encourage the child to produce the sounds. The idea is to get them interested in the activity. Eventually, the child will attempt to copy the sounds himself. Once this happens, make a big deal out of it, and encourage the child to repeat the sound again. Once the child has attempted a few sounds on his own, you can begin to encourage and/or request the child to produce more. For instance, if you are playing with animals and the child has shown interest in a cow, you can say, “Look, this is a cow! The cow says moo. Can you say moo?” Do not scold the child if they do not choose to respond initially. Eventually, they will respond on their own. And guess what? Now you have a great /m/ sound coming from a child who previously refused to imitate sounds! From there, you can encourage the child to attempt simple words that begin with /m/, such as mom, more, etc.
Until next time,