Promoting Language in a Toddler with an Expressive Language Delay

My toddler was referred for speech/language therapy to address his expressive (what he says) language delay. What is the therapist going to do? How can I help? Below are common strategies used in therapy and at home to encourage “late-talkers” to start using verbal language.

Speech Strategies For Late Talkers:


The most important concept to remember when modeling language, is to model AT THE LEVEL EXPECTED of the child. We boy with megaphonedo not expect toddlers with an expressive language delay to speak in phrases or sentences. So, we must model the level of language we want them to use. Speak in one-word utterances. For example, rather than reading each word in a book, label items and actions one word at a time.


Pick a specified time each day to model language during play time with your child. Choose around ten words to focus on, so your child is exposed to a consistent vocabulary. These words should be paired with objects (e.g. ball, pig, nose), motions (e.g. up, hop), and requests (e.g. more).


Parents often encourage their toddlers to imitate their speech (e.g. say, “dada”). It may be just as important to imitate your child. Even if your child is babbling (e.g. “baba”, “badaba”) and not yet using true words, try imitating his babbles, inflection, and facial expressions. This will, in-turn, help him understand imitation, learn turn-taking, and promote joint-attention.


Teaching a child the power of communication often facilitates expressive language. In order to encourage children to use any form of communication, they need to have an experience that demonstrates this “power”. Therapists often begin by using sign language. For example, the parent blows bubbles. When the child wants more bubbles, he imitates (or independently uses) the sign for “more” and receives more bubbles. This teaches the child that using communication (sign or verbal) will accomplish a goal with much more ease than crying, pointing, or grunting! Hence, the power of communication!

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