Techniques to Encourage Language Development

Language learning is a process that begins at birth. Between the age of one and four months infants can distinguish different speech sounds in isolation, by seven months infants can identify familiar words within sentences and between six to twelve months of age babies can perceptually tune in to language specific to their environment. This all means that infants, toddlers and young children, learn language from the people they spend their time with.

When working with young children I often use language facilitation techniques such as expansion, self talk and parallel talk to encourage language development. I often find parents ask me what they can do at home to continue with therapy and I often find myself suggesting these methods.

Self-Talk and Parallel-Talk are very simple language facilitation techniques. When using self-talk you essentially talk about what you are doing as the child watches. For example when you are at the grocery store with your child you say “Mommy is going to make dinner tonight, what do I need? First we need to by the pasta then we need to tomatoes, I want to grab this tomato because it looks big and red and juicy” Although this may feel a little silly when your child doesn’t talk back I promise it gets easier as you practice and you will become a pro at narrating your day to day activities to your little one!

Parallel-Talk is similar to Self-Talk but instead of talking about what you are doing you are talking about what your child is doing or seeing by modeling language. If your child is playing with bubbles you would say “Oh look you just blew bubbles they are so big, you blew one, two, three big bubbles, hooray you popped them!”. Or if your child is playing with a toy barn you could say” oh look at that pink pig he is dirty. Oh you have a cow your cow is brown and she is wearing a yellow bell”

If your child is speaking techniques such as expansion is a great way to respond to your child while providing them with a more complex language model. Expansion can be used when the child initiates communication. An example of this would be if your child says “Daddy Home” you can say “Daddy Is Home” which increases the syntactic complexity of the utterance but does not change the child’s initial meaning. I try to only expand a child’s utterance by one or two words so that the child is still benefiting from the more complex language model without the messaging becoming too confusing.

Hope you find this helpful ☺



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