12 Feb 2015
February 12, 2015

Strategies to facilitate communication

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  • Find an activity or an object that your child really enjoys. Look for activities that can be easily stopped and started (e.g., wind up toy, bubbles) or an object that has multiple parts that you can hand to your child (e.g., animal crackers that he loves to eat, balls for a ball toy).
  • Start an activity, have fun and then STOP (e.g., put the lid on the bubbles) or give him ONE item (e.g., give him one cracker) and then wait for a response from your child
  • Practice sabotaging a situation (creating a situation or a problem that the child has to solve in order to get what he wants). This means not solving the problem for your child or giving them what they need until they ask. For example, put your child’s favorite crackers up on a shelf that he can’t reach. Or, put balls in a clear container he can’t open.
  • Practice planned stupidity (the parent or caregiver pretends that he/she doesn’t know what word to say or understand what to do in a given situation). For example, the caregiver puts a shoe on his/her head or pretends to eat a car.
  • Practice choice making (give the child options during activities). For example, “do you want a banana or an apple?”
  • Practice withholding items (purposely keep an item or activity from the child until he communicates with you).
  • Repetition and expansion – when the child makes a communication attempt (pointing, grunting, signing, saying a single word, or using a word approximation), repeat what the child says and expand on it. For example, if the child looks at a closed container of bubbles and says, “bubbles” then the caregiver would model “open bubbles” and encourage the child to imitate the caregiver’s model.
  • When you have set up a situation where your child needs to communicate:
    o Give your child a chance to say or sign the word on their own
    o Model the word for the child to imitate
    o Use direct prompts “tell me..” or “say …”
    o Wait for a response
    o If they attempt the word give them the item and praise their efforts
    o If the attempt is not clear model it clearly for them but still give them the item
    o If they do not attempt, model it again (2 more times) and give them the item.
    o If your child gets frustrated you may need to do fewer attempts.
    o Remember that communication should be rewarding and your child needs to feel successful to keep on trying. Using these techniques in fun supportive way can help your child to develop effective communication, independence and assertiveness.

If your child is not responding to these communication strategies, seek the help of a pediatric speech language pathologist.