• User AvatarMiriam
  • 02 Sep, 2023
  • 4 Mins Read

I’m a mother too.

I have two teenage boys. The eldest, Jacob,  is 19 and the next one, Luka, is 17. They are both completely different as children and they continue to be different as teens.

The eldest of my children is Jacob, 19 and the next one, Luka, is 17. They are both completely different as children and they continue to be different as teens.

When they were 3 and 5 I was coaching speech lessons to groups of children at home. I made Jacob join one of these groups, all boys he knew from school so I thought it would be great! Not so much. He put no effort in to during the lesson and he point-blank refused to practise during the week.

But he always did well in exams and I think that perhaps that was because he was polite, he looked at you when you spoke to him, he gave more than one word answers and you could understand what he was saying. Note – this was until he was 11 or 12.

I should’ve been happy that he was able to hold a conversation, to be able to communicate with adults and just leave it at that.. Reciting a poem from heart, performing a short character recital isn’t that important at all for those children who don’t want to do it. I have had parents force their children into speech and drama lessons (me included) because we think they are important, and they are for children who want to do it but certainly not for those who don’t.

The tween and teenage years and Jacob’s speech is a whole other topic and too exhausting to even think about at the moment. So we’ll move onto Luka! He’s the 17 year old.

I talked to him, chatted with him, used all the things I know about children and speech with Luka as much as I did with Jacob but with very different results. As Luka has Down syndrome his speech journey has always been challenging for me.  We’ve worked with a speech language therapist since early childhood and he still only really speaks in 2 or 3 word sentences. He gets his message across to those who know him well so that’s all he needs to do, in his mind but I do worry for him as he gets older as he will need clearer speech to navigate his way in the world.

When I coach children now it’s more about articulation of sounds, clear diction, and learning the ability to breathe properly. Luka’s diction is only clear to those of us who know him and getting him to enunciate sounds correctly is very difficult because tongue placement is crucial for clear speech. Low muscle tone is one aspect that goes with Down syndrome and the muscles in the tone need to be exercised to help with the correct placement and this is what Luka struggles with.

The exercises we do are daily and only take 5 or so minutes, he is getting there and the progress is quite slow. This isn’t the same for all children with Down syndrome, it’s just not something Luka really cares about at the moment. Gentle exercises that he finds fun and funny are key.

Slow progress is better than none so if you coach your reluctant children in speech exercises yourself, make it as fun as you can with short, sharp segments of time.


My next public speaking gig & lessons learned from the past.


On Wednesday night I’m speaking at a local event on communication with children aged 0-6.


These are the tips I pass onto my coaching clients that I use too because even with a few presentations under my belt, I always go back to the 4 key aspects of presenting – preparation, practise, get feedback, practise some more.


Before the event I have to tidy up the order of what I’m going to discuss,  is this info going to overwhelm them (probably). How can I leave a summary so they remember what they can do once home. The key thing is they have ideas, strategies and techniques to use at home with their children.  


I’ll probably think of more to add when I’m standing up speaking. Or go completely off-track on the night and cover one thing and then segue into something that might be relevant but not age appropriate, as I have done once before. 


These days, I give the person organising the event a copy of my notes, they have to sit in the front and give me a signal if I’ve gone off-piste and to get back on topic. Plus they have a stopwatch to keep me on track time wise too. 


I have a series of my favourite preparation exercises (also used in coaching sessions), because I will be nervous. Nerves are good, it helps to keep you focussed on doing the best job you can. 


Before speaking in public or presenting you want to be confident but not so arrogant that you think you don’t have to warm up. 


Here’s to a great week, Miriam.

PS – If you would like help with your child’s speech take a look at my course – Clear Speech for Children.

If you would like help with public speaking or presenting click here to preview my course – Pitches, Presentations and Public Speaking. 


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