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How To Talk So Toddlers Listen

Here’s an excerpt from Teach Me To Talk: The Therapy Manual reviewing ways to help late talking toddlers pay attention and listen:

Researchers found that labeling, simply stating an object or an event name, is more effective than any other kind of talking to help a child maintain attention to what he is doing.

Many times adults “mindlessly narrate” when a child is playing offering all kinds of words, or descriptions, or directions that make no sense to a child based on what he’s attending to or his language level. Can’t you hear it now A non-verbal two-year-old eyes a rubber ball. His therapist begins her diatribe,

“I think you’ve found something you want to play with. What do you think you’ll do with that right now? Are you going to bounce it high up in the air or will you roll it on the floor? Maybe you want to kick it over here to me. Let’s play a game and take turns.”

Do you recognize the problem? Although the SLP is certainly talking about what’s captured the child’s attention, she didn’t label “ball?” or use a language-level that’s appropriate for him.

A better way would be to say something like,

Ball! There’s ball. Wow! Ball! Let’s play ball!”

By using simpler language and repeating your target word,there’s a much greater chance the toddler will actually make the connection between the object and the word.

Many times we overwhelm late talking toddlers with too many words. They walk away looking disinterested or bored when they’re really trying to say, “I don’t understand a word you’re saying.”

Sounds a lot like common sense to me! Laura


To read the whole article, take a look at Chapter 4, Helping a Child Learn to Attend or Well-Intentioned Ways We Mess It Up in Therapy Session from Teach Me To Talk: The Therapy Manual.

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