#278 11 Skills Toddlers Use BEFORE Words Emerge. Skill #1 Responds to Things in the Environment
In this fourth show in my series “11 Skills Toddlers Use Before Words Emerge” we’ll be discussing skill #1 which is…
RESPONDS AND INTERACTS WITH THINGS IN HIS ENVIRONMENT
Remember that this skill refers to a child’s ability to react to sensory information – or things he can see, hear, touch, hold, and manipulate. The kinds of skills we want to facilitate at this phase are:
alerting, looking, calming, attending, reaching, grasping, holding, mouthing, waving objects, banging, and then…
Here’s where we should begin to work with toddlers with severe developmental disabilities and not on teaching them to talk.
Because a child who can’t do these kinds of things consistently, chiefly alert, react, and interact with things in his or her environment, is not developmentally ready to learn to understand and use words. If you need more of an explanation, please listen to my previous shows in this series! (Show # 275, #276, #277)
In this show, I discussed specific activities, ideas, and toys to help improve this area, as well as what goals you’d write for a child’s plan. Some parents don’t care so much about writing goals, but therapists do! I want to be sure that both parents and therapists are confident in their ability to accurately address (and document if necessary!) developmentally-appropriate goals and strategies.
Remember that this information is best suited for speech therapy for toddlers with severe delays and any young child with a significant developmental disability. As a general guide, this would include children who functioning in the birth to 6 month developmental range. Learning that occurs in this phase happens through exploration with repeated exposure during sensory-enriched experiences.
That’s a mouthful to say and hard for many parents to understand, so here’s how I break it down for the families I see. Our main goal for children who need help to master this first skill is to provide activities to help a child learn to use his senses to explore things in his or her little world. Ideas I recommend for this skill are toys a child can:
- See – Unbreakable mirror, Interesting things like Mobiles & Pictures of Faces, Books with Black & White Pictures, Vinyl, and Touch & Feel, Soft dolls/animals
- Hear – Toys that crinkle, squeak, rattle, ring, play music
- Taste – (Mouthing) Teething Toys – Vibrating Star, Sophie the Giraffe, any other safe material for a child to chew
- Feel – (Hold & move) – Textured Blankets, Taggie Toys, Touch & Feel Books , Rattles, Bendy Balls, Links, Squeezable Toys, Soft Dolls/Stuffed Animals
I LOVE toys that can do “double duty” meaning one that encompasses several senses. For instance, a soft toy a child can hold and that will make noise when squeezed. Or a play gym with various things to see, touch, and mouth that can be placed above a child when he’s on the floor or his crib or even in a stroller or another seating system.
Sometimes parents get a little bummed out and think “Those are baby toys. It feels like we’re going backward.”
Here’s the truth…
We have to meet a child where he is, right now, so that we can help him move forward.
If you have a child who does not consistently respond to things in his environment, this IS the place to begin working with him or her. I talked about the principle of “backing up” to the point where a child can be successful during this week’s show. Listen for a full explanation if this is new information or difficult for you to wrap your head around!
At the end of the show, I talked about matching your written goals to what you’re currently doing in sessions and provided some preliminary guidance, particularly for therapists. Because agency, state, and insurance requirements vary from place to place, be sure you’re meeting those predetermined requirements so that therapy services get reimbursed!
I also discussed something else about goal writing that I firmly believe and practice every single day….it’s very important that we do not write a goal for a child at this developmental level to “use words to communicate” because frankly, that’s unrealistic. For more discussion, listen to the show!
Next week we’ll move on to talk about one of my FAVORITE things to work on with a child – helping him learn how to respond to people! So FUN!!! : )
I hope you’ll join me then!
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Thank you so much for the videos you have posted on your youtube channel. They are so direct, informative, and helpful. Thank you for being a resource for me to become a better therapist."
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Thank you for systematically organizing and explaining essential steps for young children to learn and develop. You are having a great impact on our profession, the ECE profession and families!"
If this is Laura herself reading this email let me take this opportunity to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you have put forth for us professionals. I own every manual (except the autism manual) and have watched every course on DVD. I have listened to countless podcasts. All of what I’ve come to be as an Early Intervention speech therapist was absolutely to your credit. With your resources at my side I have never needed to scramble for answers and strategies and above all the clear language I use when communicating with parents. My fun, animated affect and key phrases I use have been learned through watching your example. So….thank you! May you be blessed."
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It works!! He went from barely verbal, no gestures, didn't respond to his name etc etc to a verbal, social, curious, ready to imitate anything, fill in the blanks on familiar "set" speech, generate his own totally appropriate and mostly understandable sentences...not just short phrases anymore... full little paragraphs...about imaginary things, what he did during the day, what he wants. True communication!
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I received your book (The Autism Workbook) yesterday and it is absolutely amazing! As I evaluate young children (0-3) for developmental delays and write plans for them with their parents, there are a ton of ideas that are ready to use. Others that reinforce what I have been doing, and saying, all along. Thank you so, so much for writing this incredible book and pulling everything together in one place!"
FRANCINE IN MICHIGAN
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I’m a parent who bought the autism workbook and it’s the only clear resource I found to make a change in my son. I’m really thankful to Ms. Laura for helping out people like us all over the world."
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Girl…my son is 3 years old, and he NEVER asks for something using words. We were playing “Get Your Belly” (from Teach Me to Play WITH You), and after several times, he laughed and screamed "BEWIEEE!!!" It was a hoot. And I can't believe he said it! I have played with him like this before, but this time I took your advice and acted CRAZY!! I will act like a total lunatic if it will get him to talk to me! Now I can give him "the look" from across the room, and he will say it. That manual is so amazingly practical, and it is a GODSEND right now! Thank you SO MUCH!”
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We still have so much work to do with our sweet boy, but I know in my heart he would not have succeeded without the education you provided. I will continue to read your emails & watch videos as we go along this journey and face challenges, but credit is due to you, Laura.
Thank you so much, endlessly."
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