Many parents bring their children to speech therapy with the
simple request, “Please just make my child talk”. However, before a child
starts effectively using words he must master non-verbal communication.
Children from 0-18 months are very proficient non-verbal communicators. In
speech and language treatment it is important to focus on solidifying these
skills to ensure a strong foundation for words. When a child learns that his
non-verbal actions impact the world around him, he will later learn that his
words will do the same! Non-verbal
communication may include, but is not limited to: giving looks, facial
expressions, whining, crying, gesturing etc…
Here are some strategies to sharpen your child’s non-verbal
communication skills and lay the foundation for words:
that your child is focused, his body is calm and he is comfortable. Your
child cannot participate in acts of non-verbal communication if this is
out what makes your child “tick”. If your child is most comfortable with
soft noises, and slow gentle movements approach him in this manner. For
instance, dim the lights, speak to him a sweet soothing voice, smile and
show emotions on your face. If he your child gravitates toward loud
noises, big facial expressions and tickle play, engage him in that manner.
games that lend themselves to turn-taking, such as rolling a ball, sharing
a toy, or peek-a-boo. Strive for as many turns as possible in these
interactions by keeping your child “in the moment” with facial
expressions, movements, noises and a tone of voice that capture his
attention and create joy.
dumb! Once your child is exchanging gestures and facial expressions with
you in a back and forth manner, see what he does when you suddenly stop.
Will he grab your hands to indicate he wants more peek-a-boo? Perhaps
he’ll hand you the ball to continue your ball game.
meaning to your child’s actions. If he’s crying or whining, verbalize what
you think he’s trying to communicate. “Hungry?”, “Mad?”, “More
juice?” If he hands you a ball
verbalize, “Play ball!”
By Rachel White, MA, CCC-SLP
Clinic Speech-Language Pathologist – TherapyWorks