Today we talk to Courtney of Building Blocks Therapy Services again about how speech delays affect sleep in older babies. It’s a short one, but packed with good information! You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Hello! Welcome to Ask the Doulas. I am Alyssa Veneklase, and I’m here with Courtney again. She is a speech and language pathologist with Building Blocks Therapy Services. Hello!
Alyssa: Today I want to talk to you about sleep because I think communication is huge, and when kids can’t communicate, they throw tantrums, and tantrums don’t only happen during the day, right?
Alyssa: So it can really affect how a kid can fall asleep and how they get themselves back to sleep or their ability to get back to sleep.
Alyssa: So what would you say to parents who are struggling with maybe a speech-delayed child who’s having tantrums during the day and problems or issues at night with sleep?
Courtney: I would say that routine is one of the biggest things to stick to, because that is really going to help the kid understand expectations. A child who has a language delay might have difficulty understanding everything that’s happening around them, because not only are they trying to take in visually what’s happening, but there’s also so much that we provide to children auditorily, and if they’re not able to understand what we’re saying to them, then they tend to get heightened anxiety; they tend to get more tense. As we all know, as we get worked up, it’s harder to fall asleep. And so if routines are established, then a child is able to know what to expect. They start to pick up on these routines, and then they might start to build that confidence and the ability that they want to help complete these routines.
Alyssa: Yeah, kids really thrive on routine, and I always tell parents to start really early, talking to your child. I remember talking to my daughter — like, I would narrate everything to her, everything I was seeing, everything I was doing, and she always knew where we were going. She knew that it was time to change her diaper or time to put PJs on. I guess it’s setting an expectation from the beginning of what to expect, which leads to a level of trust because they know that you are saying what we’re going to do; I’m already telling you. There won’t be any surprises, and I’m going to react accordingly. I don’t know; I just think it’s the basis of this foundation of trust between parent and child.
Courtney: Absolutely, and that follow-through because it pulls at that trust that the child has. We are going to sleep; it’s time for sleep. I also think that children who do have a language delay or disorder tend to take in things more if you support them visually. That helps them build on auditorily what they’re hearing, so even pictures of brushing our teeth; reading —
Alyssa: You’ve sent me those before, and I love that. Explain that a little more. So maybe a 12- or 18-month-old that is speech delayed and isn’t really talking, but wants this routine, and maybe the parents are trying to set this routine. But they can understand pictures?
Courtney: Yes, they can! You know, as we help children develop, we give them picture books and we talk about those books, and as you can probably see, you know, a 12-month-old can open a book and pretend they’re reading the book and point to different things, and so they take those things in visually. They tend to learn better visually, and that’s not going to hinder them learning auditorily in any way; it’s going to help support that. They’ll start to associate, “Time to brush your teeth!” if you show the picture of brushing your teeth. They’re going to go right to the bathroom and know what to do. If they’re thirsty, to get that drink, or oh, now it’s time for bed. They start walking into the bedroom. And they will typically start to complete that routine without you having to say it, and their body will be at a calmer state. In essence, that’s going to help a child be able to fall asleep a little bit easier.
Alyssa: Yeah, having anxiety around the bedtime routine and then waking up — like, then the parents have anxiety because they’re dreading putting this child to bed, and they’re dreading when are they going to wake up? Are they going to wake up at midnight? Are they going to wake up at 3:00 AM? How long will they be awake? And then both child and parents have anxiety, which they feed off each other. It’s a vicious cycle.
Courtney: Exactly, and I’ve brought up before that when you go to a different country and you don’t know the language and you’re trying to communicate, you get so dense and anxiety-ridden, and you just kind of wonder, well, something doesn’t feel right, especially for a 12-month-old. They’re not going to know exactly what doesn’t feel right, and so they tend to act out because that’s how they’re going to release that energy.
Alyssa: Well, for the clients who are working with me on sleep, I’ve recommended some of them to you, so I will continue to do in the future! If anyone has specific questions for you, where do they find you?
Courtney: I have a website. I also have a Facebook page at Building Blocks Therapy Services, and you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alyssa: Perfect! Thanks for joining us again!