Talking Without Words



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:

  • Ensure
    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
    not achieved.
  • Figure
    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.
  • Play
    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.
  • Play
    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.
  • Assign
    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