Strategies to help your late toddler to communicate by AB SMITH
Here are 10 effective strategies that encourage communication in young ones (based upon the Hanen Program®):
- OWLing (observing, waiting and listening) for child to initiate. When we “tune in” to toddlers and let them start interactions, they communicate more.
- Reduce “on-demand speech” (e.g., “Say cup”) so a child can enjoy communication. Asking toddlers to say words takes the joy out of communication.
- Take turns to extend interactions. Turn-taking routines can be verbal (conversations) and non-verbal (playing catch, tickle games, patty-cake, etc.).
- Give choices (e.g., “Do you want juice or milk?”) while putting desired items next to the mouth may encourage children to communicate.
- Imitate and comment about child’s message. Imitate the child’s message and then add a comment. For example, imitate your child driving a car and then add language like, “Beep beep! Go car, go!”
- Pause routines and try not to anticipate needs. Stopping and waiting during familiar routines and turn-taking games can encourage a child to initiate communication.
- Change/adjust routines and “play the fool.” For example, only putting one shoe on a child before it’s time to go outside may prompt your child to communicate that he/she needs a shoe.
- Encourage attention to speech by using slow, exaggerated speech that matches a child’s language development. This means that adults use slow, simple sentences with correct grammar that capture a child’s attention.
- Interpret child’s message to help language development. If your toddler uses a gesture or words that are unintelligible, interpret the message with clear, slow speech. Example: Child: “Dow ooh.” Adult: “The cow says moo.”
- Expand the child’s message. When a child has started to use some words, we can expand their understanding of language by turning a child’s word or utterances into a clear sentence. We can also add language by talking about what is happening, what has happened or what will happen. When we expand upon the child’s messages, we add a variety of names, describing words, action words, feeling words, position words, social words, possession words, and question words) to help expand a child’s vocabulary. Example: Child: “ride bike.” Adult: “You ride a blue bike.”