• Chattykiddo

STRATEGIES TO HELP WITH LEARNING FIRST WORDS


  • Follow your child's lead and natural interests

  • Speak s-l-o-w-e-r singing out all vowels and consonants

  • When the child wants an object or action provide a choice of two (what is likely desired and what is unpreferred)- name both and pause for an answer

  • When the child is choosing an object out of two, provide the verbal model for each item a few times, hold a short delay to wait for a response (pointing is a start!), then hand the desired object over

  • Provide "auditory bombardment" by naming the target object/ action/ location over and over, especially while the child has it in possession

  • Model the initial sound/ syllable and encourage that the child attempts to imitate

  • With emerging words, always praise all attempts at verbalization (this is SO important)

  • Withhold desired items often but do so playfully to create opportunities for verbal requesting or maybe even protesting! NO is a great word and it’s certainly better than hitting or throwing

  • Ask “what do you WANT?” often while offering and naming possible choices

  • During play create playful obstructions (e.g. cover the top of the tower you both are building when it’s the child’s turn to place the next piece on top)

  • Ask “What should we do?” a lot and pause, allowing the child to make sense of the question and, perhaps, think of a word to answer. If no answer is offered- model it and pause again (e.g. open? Close? Up? Down? In or out?)

  • Always offer functional choices and avoid too many Yes/No questions

  • Play repetitive games that naturally provide numerous opportunities to practice sounds or words your child is already successful producing; feeling successful is key to wanting to learn more

  • Imitate the child’s actions, sounds, words- this will teach copying us back

  • Always acknowledge gesture use but be ready to provide immediate and specific reward (e.g. verbal praise and/or bubbles) once the child is attempting actual words

  • Avoid doing speech therapy ALL day; instead focus on 3-5 functional simple words that occur across naturalistic contexts, which will make it easy to practice

  • Finally, avoid correcting every production to minimize pressure to speak; speaking should be a fun communicative experience and it should feel like a game for which the highest possible reward is being able to communicate with others and, of course, being understood!

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