“My child isn’t speaking”
“My child gets so frustrated when we don’t understand him!”
” My child starts to get violent or self injurious when we don’t get her what she wants”
These are just a few statements that we frequently hear from parents with children with expressive language delays. Many times, a child can become overwhelmed when they are not understood, and potential negative behaviors may occur. Many parents will attempt to become a “speech detective” and attempt to guess what their child needs ( constantly pointing to different foods, drinks, toys, etc…). Sometimes, they can guess what the child needs, sometimes they can’t until it is too late.
How can we help? Sometimes a simple communication page set can help. By making a page of preferred items ( food, drinks, toys) , a parent can direct their child to “show me” specifically what the item is, rather than bringing each item to the child. This can also be used as a way to build their receptive and expressive language skills.
Most children love praise when they answer a question right 🙂 We instruct parents to print out a page with 6-8 pictures reinforcer pictures on it. Have the child ( prior to them asking) find the pictures you name. See if they can point to it, and then attempt to vocalize the word ( “great finding the cookie, can you say “”cookie””). You can do this for all of the pictures on the page. You can make pictures pages for items in the refrigerator, pantry, toy room in specific locations. It is optimal to have these pages on the actual item if possible (on the refrigerator, a wall where their toys are, etc…)
If during the day, they start to get upset, and you are unable to understand what they want, attempt to use the picture card(s). If they are able to show you what they want or need, encourage them to try and say the word. Try and get eye level with the child, while picking up the page and placing it near your mouth, and vocalize the word , slowly. Praise any type of vocalizations. Give verbal praise they were able to show you what they wanted ( great job showing Mommy you wanted your cookies).
But what happens when a child points to a picture and they cannot have the item? This happens quite a lot. Lets say the child points to a picture of “ice cream”. Realistically, you won’t be giving ice cream to your child every time they walk over the refrigerator and point to the picture 🙂 Acknowledge their request ,”I see you pointed to ice cream! Great job showing Mommy what you want! We can have ice cream after dinner, tomorrow, etc..” Don’t always give in to child when they point to a picture , because they will catch on rather quickly that if “I press something, I get it” . Imagine if it was that easy for us – I personally would be pressing ice cream and cookies all day long if someone was going to get it for me 🙂
“But I’m afraid that if they use a board, they won’t talk”… This is another common statement we hear from parents. Imagine yourself if someone said to you as a parent “tell me what you want, in Latin, and you can have it”. You would mostly likely become very frustrated, as you might not able to speak Latin ( and if you can, that’s amazing)! If you were to point to what you wanted on a page with pictures, and the person said ” oh you wanted ____ this is how we say it”. You might be more willing to say the word, now that your frustration has been lowered because you are now finally understood. This is the same with children.
Most children start to become more frustrated when they realize you are not understanding their vocalizations. By having a simple communication page nearby, you can attempt to lower their frustration, while increasing their language skills 🙂