By Sue Jaeger, MS/CCC-SLP
Adapted from "It Takes Two To Talk", by the Hanen Centre
1. Imitate your child's actions and sounds. This lets them know that their sounds have meaning.
2. Model correct use of language. Children are bound to make grammatical and vocabulary errors as they are learning. It is important to reward their communication efforts while encouraging language growth. If your child says "me train" you can model "I want the train".
3. Wait! Rather than anticipating all your child's wants and needs, give them a chance to request. For example, if your child likes to have a cookie after dinner each night, rather than atomatically giving them their cookie after their finished with their meal, encourage them to ask for it (albeit sign language, verbal approximation, sentence, picture exchange).
4. Follow their lead. If your child crawls under the table to do a puzzle, crawl under there with them. If your child hides her chip under her plate to be goofy, play along. By following your child's interests you learn their level of communication, their interests, and teaches them that that he/she is an active participant in communication.
5. Interpret your child's intentions. At first you may have to translate your child's communicative attempts (e.g. gestures, grunts, tapping). If your child bangs on a toy, you can guess that they are asking a question . You can then model how the toy is played. If your child's initiations are difficult to understand you can imitate what they are saying/doing and make some educated guesses. If they are saying 'du, du" you may say "du-duh, are you asking for the doll?" and show them what they are asking for. Its important to label and model a request rather than just handing them the desired object.