Have we forgotten the art of talking to our children at home?
A trend nowadays in Bengaluru seems to be young children who are slow to learn to speak, even simple words in their mother tongue. While a severe developmental delay requires therapy and other interventions, this trend seems more the result of a drastic change in the family setup and the available support from grandparents and family.
Simple Sanskrit shlokas are the best form of speech therapy we have had for generations
The Primary auditory input, based on which a toddler processes sounds and learns to reproduce them, is the language spoken around them between 8 months to 1.6 years of age.
They hear what is being said and try to say the sounds by imitating these words.
Simple sounds and words are said, mostly to indicate their needs and calling out to people around them. Typically the first few words learnt are amma, appa, thatha, nini, picking up syllables from what they hear and saying them without much clarity at first.
The Language dilemma
With language diverse parents, the first words the child is exposed to may be in english as opposed to either of the mother tongues. As a culture we are wired to easily pick up words Indian languages, most of which are based on phonetics and sounds. Exposing a child to multiple languages in the initial years is good, and need not be avoided.
We ask parents to speak simple words in their mother tongue to the child, so they learn to say amma, appa, ask for water etc in a simple way. Also where family is around, we ask the family to talk to the child in the mother tongue.
Asking for what they want is redundant
Speech in a child develops as their needs become complex, they want to communicate specific needs and wants. In today's nuclear family, with one or both parents away at work, and an over compensation by caretakers, whether family or hired help, the child is offered everything before he/ she asks for it. Pointing to water, or a cupboard with biscuits, gets the child what they want without saying anything. A loud cry or tantrum gets them what they want, and the need to say words is unnecessary, and the learning doesn't happen.
A way we ask parents to change this, is to encourage the child to verbally ask for what they want, and insisting that they will get it once they at least attempt to say the word.
Looking at the child and saying the word clearly with clear lip movements helps the child imitate and repeat what is being said.
Only child and no one to talk to...
A typical work day of the parents ends with a lot of screen time for the parents who are on the phone and the child who is given an iPad to keep them occupied. Family conversation time is minimal and the child has not enough conversation he/ she hears and reacts to.
Family time talking to the child is a way to change this. With no devices around, encouraging the child to talk about their day, and having fun conversations can change the way the child tries to communicate.