It's Tip Tuesday and since I receive questions about facilitating and eliciting language in very young children often from parents all over the world I thought I'd do a series offering tips and techniques I have done (and still do) with my own kiddos to get them talking! You will notice there will be very few speech pathology terms used here as the goal of this series is to speak directly to parents. However this information can be used by SLPs, early interventionists, or early childhood educators as well. These tips are targeted for children 0-3 yrs (or cognitive equivalent).
Here is my final tip in this series! If you missed any previous tips, you can find them all posted here!
Use pictures or baby signs. I know, you have been wondering when I was going to bring this up weren't you? Well there are a number of studies that have been done which support the use of basic early signs to facilitate language development in young children.
I will tell you that my oldest was very adept at making gross motor approximations to a number of basic common signs ("more, done, help", etc.) which supported his speech productions for these basic words. My second child is not interested in looking at, imitating or attending to my models of signs. The reason I share this with you is because as SLPs, we advocate early use of sign often, but as a mother, I also understand that some children will benefit from the use of sign and some babies are just "not that into it" or do not have the motor skills for sign use. You know your child best and sign may or may not be the way to go.
Pictures: Another option is the use of pictures to support communication. Simply take real pictures of objects, foods, etc. your child enjoys and provide him/her with two choices. First, introduce the pictures with the real items. Verbally label the objects as you match up the object with its picture. Present the pictures with real objects several times until you feel your baby understands that the object is represented by the picture.
I know what you are thinking. Can a baby understand that a picture represents an object? Of course they can. Think about the simple words books you have have at home full of photographs of common objects you read to your baby. This is how your baby learns what words mean (we SLPs like to be fancy and call words "object labels").
Once you feel your baby associates the photo with the object you can begin to use these pictures as a means to have your baby make requests. If your child has use of both the left and right hands you can place one picture to the left and one to the right and see which picture your child chooses. I have seen very young children make their preferences known via eye gaze (looking at the picture of the object they want), reaching, slapping on the side of the table that holds the picture of his/her choice and also taking pictures of choice out of parents hands. I'm sure there are other ways a child could make his/her preferences known. Follow your baby's lead and respond to whatever means of communication (verbal or nonverbal) your baby uses. Remember to immediately respond with rewarding your child with the chosen object.
How does it work? How will signs or pictures encourage my baby's speech production? You always pair the word with the sign/picture. Over time when your child is making requests you will expect them to pair a vocalization with sign/picture. This way you are encouraging vocabulary development as well as speech production.
Well this concludes our "How to get my infant to talk" series. If you are looking for more parent friendly language facilitation techniques, please check out Language Facilitation Strategies: Parent Handouts.
Thank you for sticking with this summer series.
Enjoy your babies and remember to just have fun! Happy talking!!!!