Tried and True Methods for Helping a Late Talker Use More Words

potatoe head

Tried and True Methods for Helping a Late Talker Use More Words

Today I received an email from an SLP who asked me this question:

“How can I get a child on my caseload who can talk to say more words during a session? He likes me. He likes toys. He’s in a good mood most of the time, but I still can’t get him to use many words, even though he’s a pretty decent imitator.”

Instead of reinventing the wheel for my answer, I replied to her with sections I copied and pasted directly from my book Teach Me To Talk: The Therapy Manual. These tips are so useful I want to pass them along to you too!

The best way to dramatically increase the number of words a child uses is by offering choices. Although this is still usually an imitative task since you’re providing a model by asking, “Do you want ____ or ____,” you’ll still significantly increase the number of words a child says in a shorter amount of time.

Don’t just offer a choice to select each activity in sessions, but keep the choices going throughout the play routine. For example, give a child a choice between playing Potato Heads or a puzzle. Once he imitates the word to select his toy, continue asking for every step of play by saying,

“Should we close or open the bag?”

Then ask,

“Who will unzip it, you or me?”                                                                                           

Then as you take out the Potato Head, ask the child where to put it down saying,

“Where do we put it, up or down?”                                                                                               

“Here or there?”

Then offer the pieces one by one by asking,

“Do you want shoes or hat?”                                                                                            

“What’s next – eyes or nose?”                                                                                         

“Teeth or arm?

Continue with every single piece until Mr. Potato Head is assembled.

Once you’ve admired your finished product, give a child some initial practice with any of the receptive language concepts you’re targeting with Mr. Potato Head. If you’re working on understanding action words, let the child use Mr. Potato Head to demonstrate action words after you’ve given him the choice offering,

“Should he walk or run?”                                                                                                               

“Fall or jump?”                                                                                                                   

“Will he laugh or cry?”

If a child doesn’t participate, keep him interested by being silly as you hold Mr. Potato Head and exaggerate each action.

Your goal here is to offer choices in a fast-paced way to keep him imitating and talking. It’s not unusual for me to elicit 25 or more different words within a single play activity using this technique. When you facilitate constant conversation like this, you’re building a habit of using words consistently and frequently. Again, this usually has to happen with imitation before it’s spontaneous.

The main reason choices are so powerful is that it gives a two-year-old the illusion of control within a session. You’re honoring what he says. If he chooses an activity, he gets to do it. The kicker is you can’t offer anything that’s not an acceptable option. Remind parents of this important strategy. Sometimes during a session when a child is having an off-day or is misbehaving a mom might ask him, “Do you want to play with Laura, or do you want her to go home?” I interrupt her only to say, “If he says Go home, then I’m out of here!” Teach parents that they should never give a choice when they can’t live with the outcome.

Another pointer for parents is to teach them to offer the choice they really want the child to pick as the last option. A child at this developmental phase often just echoes the last thing he hears. Later you’ll probably want to help him learn to listen carefully to both choices and say the one he really wants. Children with echolalia will struggle with this for a while, and for them, you’ll need to use a non-preferred option as the last choice so that they purposefully choose rather than imitate rotely. However, at this phase of development, an adult can use word placement to steer a toddler. A really smart toddler may catch on and trip up an unsuspecting adult despite our efforts. I just love it when that happens! The child has finally learned that words have power!

Teach parents to offer choices all day long at home. Most of the time, moms and dads have to watch this strategy multiple times, week after week, before they can get anywhere near the number of words that a skilled therapist can elicit with one activity. If you or parents aren’t as successful and need to see this technique in action, watch several examples on my DVD Teach Me To Talk in the section on Choices.

Another powerful way to increase the words a child uses is by creating opportunities for a child to ask for what he wants. This is referred to as Communication Temptations or Environmental Sabotage. Set up situations so that a child is more likely to ask for the object or event he wants. Some parents think of this as “playing dumb.” Begin a familiar activity, but don’t give the child everything he needs to complete the task. For example,

  • Put him in the bathtub, but don’t run the water until he asks.
  • Put on only one sock and shoe leaving the other foot bare so that a child is prompted to ask for the other sock and shoe.
  • Eat his favorite food in front of him or give his siblings a snack, and wait for him to ask for a bite.
  • Give him an empty cup with nothing to drink to prompt his request.
  • Play with his favorite toy, and don’t share until he asks, or store that toy out of reach so that he’ll have to ask to get it down to play.
  • Place his toys or favorite foods in clear containers so that he will have to ask for help to open the container.
  • Introduce a wind-up toy since a child won’t be able to activate it alone.

Carefully consider the existing words in a child’s vocabulary before you orchestrate these tasks. The chief requirement is that a child must already be able to say the word you’re trying to elicit. If he’s never before said “juice,” he’s probably not going to be able to pop out “juice” for the very first time during this type of situation. A brand new talker will need to imitate the word for a while before he’s able to use the word spontaneously to request an item or event. Use withholding to encourage imitation on request. Once he consistently uses a word during withholding, move the word to this kind of activity to increase spontaneous use. If the child also exhibits a receptive language delay, be sure you’re helping him understand the new word first, before you expect him to say it.

Hope those ideas help you help a late talker you know!

Until next time –

Laura

————————————————————————-

If you like this kind of advice, get the entire copy of Teach Me To Talk: The Therapy Manual for yourself!

My books are always on sale when you use the coupon code SAVE15 for 15% off.

 

 

Laura

Sign Up for your
Free Book

FREE-EBOOK

Subscribe

Subscribe to the Podcast in iTunes

Browse Products

Featured Product

Recent Posts

Teach Me To Talk Testimonials

Happy Therapists, Teachers, Parents & Children

"Hello Miss Laura,

First, I would like to thank you for all you do for us moms who are lacking support in the autism community, and thank you for providing tons of information and resources to help our bright children. I myself benefited so much from watching your videos and reading your daily emails. I cannot stress enough how much all this information helped my toddler. Of course, getting an autism diagnosis for your child is extremely scary (she was diagnosed at 2 years old) and I was depressed and did not know what autism was, how it affected children, and how to teach children struggling with this condition. However, your videos helped me to find light in my child and now I am your biggest fan! I rewatch your videos over and over again to make sure I didn't miss anything that can help my daughter. I even purchase two books- Autism workbook and Teach me to Play. My toddler was completely non-verbal, she didn't know how to imitate, no eye contact, no pointing.. you name it she didn't have any skills and I didn't know how to teach her! And that is until I discover ed You- my toddlers (Fairy: smiling_face_with_3_hearts:)!

Now she is little sweet 2.5 years old and she says "mama" (I cried when she said that magic word), she waves bye bye or hi, she points, she gives "high 5", her joint attention is great and overall she is doing so much better! And that's all because I have been doing everything you described in your books and videos! I. My mind I always play "repetition, repetition and repetition", teaching her everything through play that she so much enjoys!!! I can write forever explaining how much I taught her through yr videos and books! And the most amazing thing is that her speech therapist is a big fan of yours as well so it worked out perfectly since we understand each other and work based on your teachings! The therapist even owns the same books I own ...I am so grateful that my toddler has such an amazing therapist; especially the one that understands autism and is ready for a real challenge! God bless you for all you do and I cannot wait for my toddler blossom.. you gave me hope and lit the light inside me. And I'm determined to work with my girl :)"

"Dear Laura Mize and Team,

Thank you so much for all your hard work and publishing books! Our 17-month-old toddler suddenly exploded into speaking and imitating everybody's gestures and sounds, just a week or two after we 'completed' all activities that are listed under 11 pre-linguistic skills! Your method really works!"

Grateful customer.

"Hi Laura!

I absolutely LOVE all of your workbooks, especially your Autism Workbook. Starting with Social Games has been a game changer for many of my littles with ASD and their families. It's been the best way for them to finally connect and sustain shared attention and engagement, leading to longer social interactions, through play!"

Jodie, Dev, Therapist

"Hi Ms. Laura,

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."

Dianne

"Hi Laura - I just wanted to say I received my copies of the Apraxia workbooks yesterday and I LOVED workbook 1 (not ready for 2). I'm on chapter 8 and going through the questions carefully so I'm prepared to help my son. I knew it was a great book when you acknowledged the fact that sometimes therapists and doctors don't bring a positive and supportive vibe when diagnosing. I remember being terrified at the mention of apraxia and ASD by both because they had these very concerned looks and made it seem like it was a death sentence. I know now (in LARGE PART, THANKS TO YOU AND YOUR VIDEOS) that it doesn't have to be!! I see a future for him now. You SINGLE-HANDEDLY, through your books and videos have empowered me to help my son after the doctors and therapists have gone home. You've given me strategies, play ideas, plans on how to keep moving forward. I don't always do things right, but I know I'm on the right track and I love that I can reference, and re-reference your books to help me keep going. As I was reading the book, I was so proud of myself because I've used strategies from your previous books and it felt good because I could check off a lot of the skills that you discuss. So, thank you for all your previous books as well!!"

"Gosh, I love all of your emails/podcast/website, just everything!! I work in early intervention as a behavior analyst and am learning so much from you!"

Thank you!

Hailey

 

"Laura,

I love your work! I am a professor of early childhood special education and a speech language pathologist! I have worked to help children learn to communicate and I know how valuable the information you share is for both early interventionists and pediatric speech language pathologists!

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!"

Sincerely,

David

"Thank you.

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."

Chaya

"I just wanted to thank you so much for your incredible help! You are so kind and lovely and every time I implement something you've taught in your manuals or videos it is always a success, I cannot thank you enough. I really appreciate how specific you are in giving us examples of wording to use and how to use a toy in therapy with your videos, it is exactly what I need to properly help my little students. I also really appreciate your list of books of list of toys. I have seen my little students make significant progress thanks to you. I'm looking forward to watching more of your videos, taking more of your CEU's, and reading more of your materials. From the bottom of my heart: thank you so much again!!"

Lauren

"Dear Laura,

What an inspiration!

Thank you for helping me be a better Developmental Therapist. I often listen to your podcasts which help me help families.

Your enthusiasm, professionalism and
the sheer volume of information is so great.

You are part of my team.

I just wanted you to know I appreciate you."

Margaret

"Dear Laura,

Thank you for your generosity in sharing so much knowledge in such a clear and enthusiastic way.

As a retired audiologist with a fabulous and language delayed grandson, I used your podcasts and outstanding publication, The Autism Workbook, to inspire and guide me over the past year.

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!

You make a powerful difference in this world! ❤"

With gratitude,
Diane

"Laura Mize, you are a Godsend. I don’t know how one human can have so many helpful things to say in a beautifully organized way, so often. Always amazes me when another super helpful email comes from you, and for free. With free YouTube videos and cheap CEUs. THANK YOU!!!"

Sheila, Canada

"I purchased the book on autism and have watched the #400s series podcasts. Laura Mize has been more effective in teaching autistic tendencies, than many professors, shadowing professions, and the 100s of books, articles and classes or videos, or live workshop speakers, have been at teaching effective practices for a child with ASD. Some of the many lessons she has taught, which I will now use, to be a more effective Interventionist, include but are not limited to: red flags, typical behaviors, self-stimulating behaviors, not taking away toys, rather showing child to play with toy appropriately. She gives examples of child's actions, "inappropriate," explains the reason for: why the child is engaging in these behaviors and how they can be replaced with more appropriate, effective fuctional and age-appropriate skills."

"I’m sure Laura gets these messages all the time, but I thought I’d share. I stumbled across Laura‘s "Autism or Speech Delay?" YouTube video when I really needed it. This video finally listed and explained some of the red flags my son was showing for autism. I share the link anytime a parent is questioning in my FB autism group. This mother I don’t even know said Laura's video changed her life. I know exactly how she feels because It changed families too. Thank you to everyone at Teach Me To Talk."

LINDSAY

"Good Morning Laura,
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

"Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge, experience, and guidance.
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."

"Laura Mize, all I have to say is that ALL YOUR STRATEGIES WORK."

ANNE, YouTube viewer

"We have 7 SLPs in our preschool (public) program for special needs children (ages 3-5) and we use your courses, books, and techniques every day! :-) We have seen our preschoolers make such great gains!"

 

"I just received Teach Me to Play With You, and it is ALREADY WORKING! WOW!

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!”

"I wanted to send you a quick email to say thank you. I started watching your videos/podcasts about 4 months ago. My son has gone from losing words he previously used, only having about 7 words at his 2 year check up in August (assessed at a blended 10 month language level) -- to now having so many words, increased social engagement, following commands, spontaneously requesting things, and naming letters & numbers (not in order) as well as colors. We had our monthly meeting with our SLP through the state infants & toddlers program and it felt like we were just bragging the whole time, but I knew in the back of my head it was because I have been using strategies you taught me.

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."

KATIE

"I just want to tell how fortunate I feel to have found your website and you!! I became a special instructor in EI almost a year ago and I started with hardly any applicable training. I felt so lost and confused as how to help the kids I work with learn how to use words and play. Honestly, I didn't even understand the importance of play, although I always played with my kids. But, once I started to watch your podcasts and get some of your manuals I felt a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and that I could finally teach these kids and their families something of value from a real therapist and based on research!. Thank you so much for seeing the need to help other EI service providers and providing a forum to share your knowledge and years of valuable experience. I'm sure you get a lot of these emails every week if not every day, but I wanted to make I could add to those notes of gratitude!! THANK YOU again!!"

SS

"Just wanted to say a HUGE thank you for these emails and your books, I have them all and they have seriously saved and improved my sessions with my kiddos. Huge thank you."

REBECCA

"I was very frustrated with how speech therapy was going for my child. I would take him and drop him off and not hear much of anything from his therapist and teachers other than, "He had a good (or a bad!) day." Your materials were invaluable for us because I learned how to work with him on his speech. I learned how to teach him to talk and play. I learned how to pay attention to his cues and work with him to teach him to communicate. Without it, I have no doubt he still wouldn’t talk."

BRITNEY

"Hi! I just wanted to say (from an SLT perspective) how incredibly useful I am finding absolutely all of your articles, blogs and resources - I only discovered your site last month and have just received all your books which I feel I am learning more than on my entire university training course!! But also the way in which you give specific, realistic, fun, encouraging ideas for working with parents is really just fantastic, I only wish I have your site sooner! Thanks so much from the UK! Kind regards."

HANNAH

"I just wanted to reach out to say thank you for making things a little easier to manage for me this year. I made the transition from school SLP to private therapist about a year ago. While the change was welcome, it was a lot, and I was just getting my footing in the clinic when I began teletherapy full time. Your website has been a huge lifeline in helping me work with late talkers and coach their parents in an accessible but effective way, even remotely. I look forward to getting your emails each week. I am floored by the amount of valuable, free information that your website provides, and I’m looking forward to investing in your workbooks soon. A sincere thank you for all you do!"

ALLISON

"You are an inspiration! I am truly grateful for the way you put into words and writing how to do what we do as SLPs. At this time in my 13 years of practicing, I find your encouragement keeps me going. As a single mom, I find it a stretch to buy materials these days and I am so thankful for the freebies you so generously share that help me teach my families. I don’t have much time to put together lists or quick references for parents!! Much gratitude!!"

ANDREA

"I just really appreciate your courses! I have two new clinicians that I’m working with and have recommended these courses to both of them. I’ve watched quite a few and have learned so much about serving this population. To be honest, before I started implementing your strategies I was a little frustrated with the lack of progress. My skills with engaging these little ones have improved so much! Thank you so much for making these CEUs so valuable!" C, SLP