Speech Delay Toddler Tantrums? Here’s What to Do.


Speech Delay Toddler Tantrums? Here’s What to Do.

Research has shown that toddlers who have fewer than 50 words by age 2 are twice as likely to have severe and frequent temper tantrums. A Speech delayed toddler tantrum is more difficult because parents are not sure what they can do to help a child understand their emotions. That’s some difficult news for parents of young children. So what are parents to do?
We all tantrum.  when I am angry and a calm person comes to me and says “use your words,” I sometimes get very annoyed at them. And if I didn’t have the words that would frustrate me even more.  So remember this is normal, for people who’re words and those that don’t.

Know Your Toddler’s Sensory Preferences


Do they need sensory input or to be left alone?

    • Sensory input? Give a bear hug, eye contact, pet them, wrap them in a blanket and hug
    • Sensory overload and need to chill? Focus on modeling deep breaths, being quiet,  removing any intense sensory stimulation like noise from a TV or other kids in the room if possible

Parents, Take Care of Yourself First

Are you feeling angry frustrated that you have to deal with this? Or are you sad for your child that they don’t have the words to express themselves? Consider taking care of yourself first so that you can attend to your child in the most calm and present manner. They will pick up on your mood and temperament and if they sense that you are just trying to get out of the situation, that will only frustrate them more.

To take care of yourself and prepare to take care of your child who is having a tantrum:

  • If you are angry you can’t help your child; take 3 deep breaths
  • Put aside what you were doing
  • Tell yourself that you are now dealing with this for the next 10 minutes; this way you are not trying to escape the situation

1 Speech Therapy Strategy to Decrease Speech Delayed Toddler Tantrums


This is where our speech therapists recommend using only one strategy to decrease a speech delayed toddler tantrum. Instead of asking everyone you know what their strategy is, pick on, and stick to it for a while. Commit to just one thing for the next two weeks to see how it works. Even speech therapists pick one strategy and stick to it for a while to try to improve a child’s speech skills.


So you can be present and go down to your child’s level, make eye contact if they like that,  give a hug or rock them  if they like that, squeeze a child that wants touch, turn lights off to a child who gets overwhelmed with too much sensory input.


Give 2 Choices and Use Simple Language


ASHA recommends giving children 2 choices for kids who are toddlers. There are several options for 2 choices depending on what the situation is of what your child likes:

  • “Yellow trucks or red ball:” Redirect from an object another child took, or to a toy they like; use simple language that they already know. Use just a few words.
  • “Read a book or go up to your room:” Offer another activity or place they can relax; this is great for kids that cant deal with the sensory overload and need a gentle time out.
  • “Sit with mommy or watch a show:” Yes parents, its OK to watch a show; this won’t be the thing that ruins your child and its not the time to shame yourself for giving your child a break with a quick show.

RELATED: Wondering if your child needs speech therapy?

Teach Your Child the Language of Emotions


Another Speech therapy strategy to decrease a speech delayed toddler tantrum for families of kids who have a speech delay is to teach them the language they need to understand or use when they are feeling upset.

The time to teach it to them is not when they are actually having a tantrum. Parents can basically model what to do or what happens during a tantrum moment when they are playing with their child:

  1. Pick 2 words or phrases you want to teach them, simple ones like: Sad, angry,
  2. Use a teddy bear or doll to model what happens during the tantrum moment. The doll is having the tantrum and you are helping them.
  3. The bear can be getting angry or behaving in the same way that your child behaves when they are having a tantrum.
  4. Model using the bear what you would do to calm your child you down. Use the same language, give hugs, pet the bear, give choices
  5. Model simple language at your child’s level with the bear. For example: “You’re angry, crying, mommy’s here, I love you.”
  6. Give the bear to your child and say, “your turn” or “you try.”


What you are doing is modeling a future situation when your child will get angry and tantrum and what you will do with them in that moment to calm them down. Play out the situation using the same language and actions over several days and even weeks. try using the 2 choices method that speech therapists use all the time. Or if you have a method you want to try other than two choices, then try that. It is crucial for parents to be the ones with the strategies to help their speech delayed child learn communication. Speech therapists online focus on parent coaching to teach parents how to use these strategies to decrease the frequency of  a speech delayed toddler tantrum.


Your child will understand what will happen the next time they are having a tantrum moment and what you will do to help them get over being upset. While the tantrum moment is happening, you can even bring the bear you used to remind the child that you will use the calming techniques you were practicing.



Hi there this is Michelle from Therapy Works Together and I wanted to talk today about a subject that comes up often when I’m taking you know listening to parents or hearing know what our clients talk about as they come in for speech therapy or what I’m seeing people post on social media that a lot of parents who have young toddlers who are speech delayed or late talkers have a really big issue with their child tantruming and not knowing what to do because their child is not using the language that they perhaps should be at that age or they might not understand what their parent is saying to them so if the parent is trying to use you know calming strategies or tell them you know it’s OK or calm down or things like that the child might actually not understand this really hurts parents and frustrates them and they’re kind of left feeling very helpless and not understanding what to do.


So I wanted to put together a video that talks a little bit about this and the strategies both that I’ve learned as among and also the strategies that I’ve learned as a speech therapist and kind of put those things together and I think that a lot of what you’re hearing is perhaps very intuitive but I think that it’s really important for parents to start to understand that they need to hopefully focus on one strategy just one thing at a time you know focus on that and and go with it for a certain amount of time and see how it works and and give it some time to kind of take root and take hold in how you interact with your child and how your child understands you’re going to be interacting with them.


So I’m going to say it again I think it’s important to pick just one thing at a time so I’m going to talk about that first of all with regards to tantruming I’d like to say that you know we all have our tantrums you know as an adult we do that also if we’ve had a bad day at work or whatever it is and if somebody came up to you and said just calm down I don’t know to me that that would really accept me so I try not to do that to my child just just calm down why you getting all upset I don’t think that really works so that’s number one is to respect kind of the things that you know would be difficult for you to do the same with your child.


So the second thing is is to know their sensory preferences you have kids who are from a sensory perspective not wanting to be touched not wanting to be hugged or anything like that so perhaps don’t do that perhaps for them you know you might want to turn off the lights or quiet things down in the room right if there’s TV or there’s other kids in the room or whatever it is kind of you know get the mood to be a lot more chill if you have a child who does like sensory input may be the right thing to do is give him a really tight bear hug right or even take their blanket and you know wrap it around them tightly and give them a good hug with some deep input into their sensory system and that calms them down thats one thing about knowing your child you have to know your child I’m sure you do know your child so you need to kind of factor that in and understand that what’s right for another child might not be right for you.


OK another thing that’s really important is to think about your own sensory system and what’s going on with you if you’ve been doing something somewhere else in the house and now all of a sudden you see there’s this meltdown happening or whatever it is and you come in to try to take care of it you’re like Oh my God you know I was just making dinner or whatever it is or doing work or dealing with the other child and now I have to come deal with this and you’re all frustrated and you’re feeling angry something that’s really important is to bring your sensory system you know into a good chill sort of place.


That means for me personally it means taking three breaths OK an understanding also something that’s really important is that I’m going to take now 5 to 10 minutes to deal with this situation what was going on over there if it’s dinner turn off the stove if it’s work put it aside.  I now have to focus 10 minutes worth of my time to this child so that’s very important because when you’re here with your child but your brain is over there in the I have 20,000 other things to do that’s very difficult OK so kind of think about what’s going on inside of you and regulate that so that you can be most present for your child.


OK now let’s go back to the child again be present with them go down to their level maybe kneel or sit on the floor use those sensory system calming strategies that you know are right for your child that I spoke about a couple of minutes ago OK and now here’s the one strategy I’m going to ask you to use give two choices and use simple language OK if your child is hopefully calming down a little bit because you’re with them give two choices you know do you want the ball or the bubbles use that to perhaps redirect if there was a situation where another child took a toy or whatever it is redirect them with choices for two new things.


OK that’s one type of two choices another type of two choices is do you want to read the read a book or do you want to go up to your room OK so offer another activity where they can disconnect from what they were doing before OK and kind of put that on the side and have two choices so you can go up to your room that’s the you know for the kids that need to relax and don’t want more sensory input and just want to be alone do you want to go to your room and then do you want to read a book right here do you want mommy to read you a book right and you simple language.


So I didn’t use it right there but you can use simple language so you can even say book or to your room so you can kind of modify the language depending on wherever your child is language wise right in their development another two options that you can give your child are sit with mommy or watch a show and yes it’s OK to let your kid watch a show this isn’t going to be the thing that breaks them or ruins them or turns them into non functional adults or whatever it is it’s OK to let them watch a show and kind of regulate again think about your own self if you’re feeling frustrated or angry you’ve had a hard day at work sometimes you want to sit down and you know turn on your phone and watch a video on YouTube and that’s OK you know this is this is something just help them regulate and it’s OK this isn’t going to be the thing that ruins your child that’s very important to also stop shaming parents for using it we’re all dealing with lots of things these days and life is complicated enough as it is give them a 5 minute show to watch.


OK so now those are the things that you’re doing in real time now I want to talk about something else that is another you know strategy that’s very important is to teach them the language that you want them to understand for the next time that they’re tangerine right so teach them two words that you want them to know like angry or sad those are important feeling words right and you cannot teach them in the moment that’s never going to happen OK but when they’re calm maybe when you’re playing you can use a teddy bear or right now I’m gonna use a a dog OK a doggy bear to teach them so you know maybe you can show the bear this time this case the dog getting angry and rolling around in her or you know he took my ball right and repeat the things that you see your child tantrum ING about right and model then what you would do OK so you can give him a hug and say I love you you’re angry mommy’s here and give the doll to your child and ask your child to give it a hug.


Say it’s OK it’s OK so model the situation that you anticipate happening next time and it’s going to happen again because that’s completely normal right so model what you would do model the two words that you might bring up then angry or sad model how you’re going to calm down the child right those two choices do you want to go to your room or do you want to stay here with mommy right and let the dog do or let the bear do what you think your child would do play out the situation using the same simple language that you would use at that moment.


OK and model it for them during this play time when things are not heated because you need to understand also that when you are in a disregulated state using adult you as a child whatever the age is doesn’t even matter when you were disregulated when you were angry frustrated it’s sad heard anything negative you are not in a ready to learn state that whole ready to learn part of your brain ready to learn language ready to learn a new strategy ready to listen ready to whatever it’s offline it’s completely offline you need to get the sensory system back to a place where it is chill and relaxed and calm and you were able to take in information whether it’s mommy’s here for me or daddy’s here for me new language a new word whatever it is but you need to be in a ready to learn state.


OK to be able to absorb that so that’s something that’s very important I hope that those strategies make sense you can feel free to contact me if you have any questions we’re always here to answer questions about late talkers or kids who need speech therapy for whatever reason that is or you might think that is and again I want to really encourage you to just pick one thing just one thing ’cause there’s problem that’s that’s happening is that when we feel like we don’t have the tools to do what we need to do we go out there and there’s so much information so much, information on line so many people offering their suggestions so many people posting well this worked for my child or this work for my child or nothing worked for my child or whatever it is and it’s so overwhelming and disregulating to us as adults.


So we need a moment to say you know what I’m going to instead of focusing on these 50 things and trying to do them I’m going to just focus on one just one thing.



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