If you have a child aged 0-5 who has difficulties communicating, such as not using many words or difficulties understanding your instructions, they may need additional support at home to help them develop these skills. These skills will allow them to request their needs (e.g., if they are hungry or tired) and engage socially with family members and children their age.
The strategies below are used to help create a “language-rich environment”. This involves taking every opportunity to use language in your child’s day-to-day activities. This will help them develop their speech, language, and social skills:
Get down to your child’s level: Position yourself so that you are at eye level with your child when you are talking to them. This allows them to see and hear what you are saying.
Observe, wait, and listen (OWLs):
Observe: Notice what your child is interested in by looking at their body language (e.g., pointing, reaching, eye contact).
Wait: Stop talking, lean forward and look at your child expectantly.
Listen: Listen to what they are trying to tell you.
For example, you may see your child pointing to a duck swimming in the pond. You lean forward and wait to see if they comment. You listen to what they say and interpret it (e.g., If your child says “duck!”. You can say “Yes, the duck is swimming!”).
Ask questions: Ask open-ended questions (e.g., If you are reading a book, you could ask questions about the pictures: “What is Spot doing?”). You can also ask questions with options (e.g., “apple or banana?”). This encourages them to use their words. This encourages them to use their words.
Use language during play: When your child is playing, join in and add language into it. For example, if your child is playing with cars, grab your own and start playing with it. You could make car noises (e.g., Broom!) or make comments (e.g., “drive car”).
In addition to creating a “language-rich environment”, you can also use specific language stimulation techniques. These are designed to help your child directly learn language in their everyday environments, such as at the park or in the supermarket:
Self-talk: Comment on your own actions in the presence of your child.
If you are throwing a ball outside with your child, you could say “throw ball”.
If you are at the supermarket and you are putting items in your trolley, you could say “in the trolley”.
Parallel talk: Commenting on your child’s actions
If your child is eating an orange, you could say “eat orange”
If your child opens the door to go outside, you could say “open door”.
Recasting: Repeating back what your child has said in a way that is grammatically correct.
If your child says, “want gapes”, you could say “you want grapes?”
If your child points to their toy and says “fire duck”, you could say “a fire truck!”.
Sabotage: Creating a situation to encourage your child to use their words
If your child wants to open their toy box, you might hold the lid down, look at your child and say “open”. See if your child says the word, then you can open the box.
If you are pushing your child on a swing, you might stop pushing, look at your child and say “more”. See if your child says the word, then you can continue pushing.
If you would like more information, you can ask the team at Capable Kids, or you could also access the resources below:
- Victoria State Government-Language stimulation: https://www.education.vic.gov.au/childhood/professionals/learning/ecliteracy/interactingwithothers/Pages/languagesimulations.aspx#link6
- HNEkidshealth-Language strategies: Build your child’s use of words:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oD-87_VHg_U&ab_channel=HNEkidshealth