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Speech \ Language Delays

Encouraging Suggestions


    In this issue we will be offering encouragement for the child that generally speaks no words....or at least very little. We hope this column will provide some fun ways to encourage language. Lots of families have been asking for help in this area this Summer. Any family is invited to share the things that have worked for them. Professionals will be offering advice also.

These suggestions are taken from: Natural Language: A Clinician-Guided Program for Language Delayed Children by John T Hattan, Ph.D and Pequetti W Hatten, M.S.

IF YOUR CHILD SPEAKS NO WORDS (or very little) here are some fun ways to encourage them to try.

The most logical words to start with are the words which have the greatest significance to your child. Think about his world and what he does throughout the day and select your own words as starting points. General clues to choosing a word would include:

1. Is the word meaningful to your child?

2. The word should probably be the name of something (at least the first few should be).

3. The word should probably be short and uncomplicated (the word, "ba''" would be better than the word, "jack-in-the-box").

4. The object to be named should be available, and it should be something the child enjoys.



We have selected the word, "Mama," as a demonstration word. Here are some natural suggestions:

A. Set a goal of fifty statements which include the word "Mama" to be spoken by each member every day. You will find that to be quite a task. If you have four people in your family, plus your child, that would amount to 1,400 stimulations of the word "Mama" in a week.

B. Find five snapshots of Mama and tape them in five major doorways throughout the house. These pictures should be at eye level for your child. Now establish the rule that each time anyone in the family goes through that doorway, he must say the word "Mama." A little variety might help so make it legal to put the word in two-word phrases.

"My Mama. Good Mama.

Nice Mama. Pretty Mama. Tommy's Mama. There's Mama."

C. Do you have a musically inclined family? How about substituting the target word in some favorite songs. Like "Old MacDonald had a Farm" becomes "Young Mama had a farm." If this doesn't come naturally, find other ways to use the word.

D. Setting the table is another way: as you place the plates around the table make sure Mama's plate gets special attention. A sample of your monologue would be: "Let's put a plate here, plate here, plate here, MAMA'S PLATE HERE." etc.

Then "Knife here, knife here, knife here MAMA'S KNIFE HERE" etc. Notice that we don't have you name each person's plate as you go around the table. This is the week for emphasizing the word "Mama," and the best way to do that is to make it something special ---make it stand out. Bombard the child with the word --you can't overdo it.



A. We call this the "Great Scott, There's Mama" game, but you can come up with a better one than this. Go through one of your child's favorite books and tape a picture of Mama on several pages. Now sit down with your child to look through the book. When you come to the surprise pages, make a great hoopla over Mama. If you get no reaction, don't pay any attention to the second "planted" picture. Children can't resist, and in most cases your child will make some attempt to point out the picture to you. You may have to prompt a bit by saying, "What do you mean?" or "I don't see anything."


B. Using familiar articles of clothing, favorite toys, kitchen objects, or whatever, see whether people can guess who owns the various objects. Have it prearranged so that when you come to Mama's favorite dress of pair of shoes, none of the people playing can guess the answer. If rewards work well in your house, how about some dime store party prizes?


Activities like these are intended to get your child saying single words. The possibilities are endless and the theme is: have fun while getting the speech process underway. Build a core of as many words as possible. Other common first words include the names of common animals (bow wow, kitty, cow, etc.)

It is a good idea to develop a core of words of a variety of kinds before starting with the two-word level. You will probably find that your child will start two-word statements on his own, but if he does not, there are ways to help get him going.