As children participate in day-to-day interactions with the people in their environment, they are constantly learning and developing language skills. Children who have difficulties with their language skills (including language comprehension skills and use of expressive language during spontaneous interactions) may benefit from examples of language through simplified exercised with you. Below are a list of language strategies that can be used to help promote your child’s communication development.
- When you know what your child is interested in, label the object or the action to teach your child the word.
- Use the same word for the same thing each time (e.g., if using ‘cat’ don’t use ‘kitty’ or ‘kitty-cat’).
- Use specific words to label rather than ‘this’, ‘it’, ‘that’.
- Use a variety of words related to the object or action that interests your child (e.g., if your child is interested in ‘car’ you may add different meanings such as “red car, ride car, in car, my car, go car, etc.”)
- Expand your child’s message (if child says “Mommy apple” when you are eating an apple, expand it to “Mommy likes apple”)
- Say less: Use short and simple sentences when you talk to your child.
- Stress: Make important words stand out by changing the pitch of your voice, saying the word louder and longer. If your child is missing a sound in a word, stress the missing sound in your model and repeat the words two or three times in a natural way to emphasize.
- Always try to show the object or action that you are talking about with your child, to promote learning. You may the object close to your face to draw your child’s attention to your correct modeling of the word.
Once your child has a few words he/she uses consistently with meaning, you may set up situations to promote him/her to spontaneously use his/her language skills:
- “Sabotage” situations to promote the need for communication. (e.g., tighten the lid to a toy box or cookie jar extra tight, and give to your child or give your something unexpected such as a shoe when he/she is pointing at the cookies).
- Remember to get down to your child’s level and use eye contact during your interaction.
- Wait: This is very important. When you know your child wants something, give him/her time to find the word and use it on his/her own. Sometimes counting to five silently to yourself may remind you to wait when first using this technique. This gives your child the opportunity to use language more independently.
- When you’ve given your child time to communicate, and he/she does not use speech, give him/her options to choose from. (e.g., “Do you want the cookie or the banana?”). If your child still does not use the word, give him/her the word (e.g., “oh, you want the cookie!), and pair it with the object/ action (give your child the cookie while you say the word).
- Have fun!!
As with vision or dental concerns, prevention and early intervention is the best approach toward detecting and treating speech-language problems. If you would like more information regarding our therapy programs, please contact one of our offices today.
A special thanks to SLP Jennifer Arenz for putting this piece together!