Parents often ask about setting up playdates when their child has a speech-language delay. Playing with others is one way children learn, practice and demonstrate new skills but it can be frustrating if your child isn’t able to communicate with others.
If your child attends daycare or pre-school, then ask the teachers which child/ren your child enjoys spending time with and what they enjoy doing together. This can give you an idea of which parents to contact for possible playdates.
Children, especially those you meet at a park or a playground whom you may not already know, may ask if your child can talk, what’s wrong with your child, and/or if your child is a baby. They typically ask from honest curiosity and not to be mean. Use this opportunity to explain to the child and their grownup that your child is still learning to talk, working on saying sounds correctly, or whatever it is your child is working on. No need to provide your child’s complete medical and therapy history. Usually a short and polite explanation to the child and their grown-up will usually suffice.
Play with children of similar language ability
This might mean that your child will play with children of a younger chronological age and that’s okay. Your child will have a ‘conversation partner’ who has similar verbal skills.
If your child’s physical skills are higher than this playmate’s, then your child will provide modeling and examples for the other children to learn from.
Play with children of higher language ability
Depending on your child’s speech-language skills, this could mean playing with those of similar chronological age. The children with speech-language skills that are just above your child’s will serve as a peer model, providing examples of what is expected.
Play with children of similar physical ability
It can be helpful to find playmates of similar physical ability, even if they have different speech-language skills. This is especially true if you’ll be playing outside.
Play with siblings
Get together with families with siblings because these children may have the same or different speech-language and physical skills as your child.
Find some playmates so your child can have fun, make new friends, and gain some speech-language peer models.
Jann Fujimoto, MS CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and owner of SpeechWorks LLC, a provider of on-site speech therapy in Pewaukee, Hartland, Dousman, Delafield, Watertown, Oconomowoc and Ixonia. SpeechWorks helps children become confident communicators and empowers parents to be advocates for their children.