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Seven Simple Strategies to Increase Language Skills with Early Communicators.

OBSERVE your child in play. The more you watch what he/she is doing the easier it is for you to follow his/her lead during play and other daily interactions.  Don’t jump in and change what he is doing too soon. Unless, of course, it is unsafe behavior.

WAIT for your child to respond.  Many times we respond TOO SOON. Don’t respond to your child immediately after you ask a question (or if you are trying to increase their vocal play by making a sound). Just give it a second... I suggest counting to ten if you need something to help you get in the habit of using this skill. This is a skill and not an easy one to develop. — When you wait, you can increase a child's anticipation skills which will increase their willingness (and desire) to communicate. One way to do this is to introduce your child to a book,  a song, or activity with repetitive words and/or sounds. Include it in your daily routine. When you are reading or singing pause before you say an anticipated word. For instance, if you read Brown Bear Brown Bear often try reading it by leaving off a word see (such as, "brown bear, brown bear what do you…" ).—

When reading to early communicators (12-24 months) you do not need to read EVERY word in a book. Read based on their interest and developmental level. Most children in this stage of development enjoy hearing you say the sounds of the animal. When the child learns that you always make the specific sound with a specific picture he or she will begin to imitate you. Once this happens, incorporate pauses within your reading time. You might be surprised when your little one makes the noise for you.—

LISTEN to what they are saying and repeat what they are saying back. If an error occurs (e.g. your child says duck for truck or ba for ball) repeat the target word back correctly. Do this in a positive way. You may say, “Truck. That’s right! TRuck, truck, (said slowly) you have a truck.” Repeat the target word (truck) often and stress the pronunciation.

COPY or mirror what the child is doing/saying during your interaction (drive the car the same, hop on one leg, play peek-a-boo, say bababababaaaa- whatever they are doing. It is your excuse to be a kid again.J )— Children learn by imitating. When you imitate your child you are showing them that what they are doing is important and you are teaching them how to imitate you.  

TAKE TURNS during interactions. Don’t take over the exchanges between you and your child during interactions. Your turns should be well balanced.  When trying to increase expressive language skills they should be as close to 1:1 as possible.— Communication is a reciprocal process (e.g., you say- I say) children need to learn how to take turns in order to understand how to communicate.

KEEP QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS EQUAL- By balancing out your comments and questions you are allowing for more opportunity for your child to learn.

EXPAND on what your child is saying to teach more language and increase their vocabulary. One example of expansion may be: Your child hands you a ball and says, “ba”. You respond with “ball. Ball. You have a red ball. Play ball?” 

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