Monday, June 15, 2015

How to get my infant to talk: Tip #1!

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).

So here's Tip #1.  It's probably the easiest to do and possibly the most obvious of them all but research will show you time and time again that it works.

What do you have to do to get your infant talking?

Talk to them.  Yes, it really is that simple sometimes!  Talk to your newborn!  Of course they cannot understand you, yet but how else will they learn?  Sometimes, as parents, we have so much going on in our heads, so much planning and organizing that we don't realize just how quiet we really are with our babies.  We tend to have conversations in our heads while our infants watch on, and we may in fact, be quieter than we thought we were.  I'm not pointing fingers here, as I have caught myself doing this very same thing.  However, the question we need to really ask ourselves is "How will my child see the value in making any sounds, if I don't model it first?".

You may be asking yourself, "So what do we talk to them about?".  Well talk about anything and EVERYTHING.  Talk about what you are doing (in the speech world this is called "self-talk"), what they are doing (in the speech world we call this "parallel talk"), what they are wearing, where you are going.  Share with them your grocery list.  Explain to them how you separate white from dark clothes prior to washing them.  Illustrate how you match up the same colored socks when folding the laundry. Show them how you crack an egg and whisk cake batter together before you pour it. Talk to them at home, in the car, in the grocery store.  Talk to them in your smooth loving way, and be sure to use your "motherese"/"parentese" (what experts call the sing-song way parents naturally speak to young children to capture their attention).  I understand talking to a baby that cannot or does not respond (yet), may not be a comfortable thing for all parents to do, but it is necessary.  I promise once you start doing this, it will become more and more natural within a few days.  Just remember, it really doesn't matter what you talk about, it just matters that you talk and talk often!

Why does it work?  You are your child's first communication partner so you are their model and their closest social connection to the world outside of themselves.  By your model, you are showing them there is a purpose to verbal communication.

If your baby is very quiet, simply ask yourself, "How much am I talking to (child name)?".  Remember talking in the presence of your child is not the same thing as talking to your child.  You may be talking to your spouse or your other children often but if you are not talking to your infant, your infant will not realize there is an expectation that he/she eventually use vocalizations (i.e. sounds, noises) to communicate.

Check out Tip #2 here!

Happy Talking!

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