Talk to Me! 6 Ways to Promote Communication and Language

Having trouble getting your child to communicate?  The following 6 strategies will help facilitate communication and language in your baby or toddler. The main premise for these is two fold – first tempt, then wait. These strategies take some patience, both from you and your child, but most always stimulate communication, whether it be gestures, signs, words, or simple phrases. Try some of these “communication temptations” at home – and feel free to be creative!

Communication Temptations:

  1. Food: Grab one of your child’s favorite snacks and offer him a few pieces, then wait for your child to indicate he wants more. At the most basic level of communication, you can model a simple gesture, such as a point, to indicate “more.” If your child is already pointing, model a sign, word, or even simple phrase for your child to imitate. If he still grunts or points, do a hand-over-hand sign for “more.” Be sure to give him his reward right away so he makes a communication connection! Read more

How Sign Language, Singing and Reading Help Toddlers Learn to Communicate

Parents often ask if things like singing, sign language and reading will be effective in helping their child learn to communicate. The short sign language answer is, yes, yes and yes! Sign language, singing and reading to a child are all excellent ways to encourage a toddler’s expressive language. This blog will describe why and how each of these activities will benefit toddlers as they develop speech and language.

How sign language can encourage spoken language:

Language is a symbolic system, requiring the exchange of “symbols” that have meaning. For example, the word “ball” is a symbol for a round object that bounces. When children have an expressive language delay, sign language is a very effective (and well-researched) way to reinforce that symbolic system in the temporary absence of words.

Here are a few important things to consider when using basic signs with your child:

  • Pair the sign with the spoken word to ensure your child makes a connection between the two.
  • Keep in mind that communication goes far beyond spoken words; it also includes gestures (e.g. pointing, waving), facial expressions, eye-gaze and tone of voice.
  • reinforce and encourage other methods of intentional communication, while we do want children (if they are able) to eventually use speech, it’s equally important to encourage other ways that they can communicate.

How singing can encourage spoken language:

Children learn language primarily through hearing and imitating. Singing is a fun and engaging way for children to hear and imitate Read more

How Sign-Language Can Help Late Talkers

This hot topic issue has been in the press for some time now. What is the truth? Can the use of sign language really help your toddler start talking? The answer is… yes! Continue reading to discover the truth about late-talking toddlers and sign language.

How Sign-Language Can Help Late Talkers:

  • We learn to use language through three modes: gestures, oral language, and written language. Children develop these skills in that order. For instance, children will wave bye before they say “bye”, before they write it!child and sign language
  • An important developmental skill, symbolic function, is what helps children realize that one thing (gestural or verbal) represents another. For example, the word “pig” represents the pink animal on the farm. Just the same, putting your hands together to sign “more” represents the idea of receiving additional food, toys, turns, etc.
  • We establish symbolic function by using sign first, before verbal language. Why?
    • The physical ability to make a sign using large muscle groups is less complicated than the intricate coordination of our articulators (lips, tongue, teeth, etc) that we use to speak.
    • Sign also helps the child’s ability to learn imitation. Sign, a static, visual event is easier to process and store in long term memory than a fleeting auditory stimuli (e.g. spoken word).
  • Once the ability to imitate sign has been established, the child learns that he has control over his environment. He will continue to use sign (and eventually verbal language) to control his situation with more consistency.
  • *Research shows that children with expressive language delays learned more words across treatment conditions (and did so more quickly) when given sign and verbal models (at the same time) as opposed to verbal models alone.
  • It is important to note that signing requires joint-attention (the adult and child attend to an object at the same time) and eye contact from the child to be as successful as possible!

*Robertson, S. & Weiskerger, K. (2003). The effects of sign on the expressive vocabularies of two late talking toddlers, Poster presented at the Pennsylvania Speech-Language Hearing Association State Convention, Harrisburg, PA.

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