How Can I Help My Child Communicate More Spontaneously?

Guest Authored By Amanda Weiland, M.S., CCC-SLP/L

Are you a parent of a child who only uses a few words or communicates seldomly? Do you find that your child experiences behaviors related to communication breakdown when they are unable to adequately communicate their wants and needs? Are you looking to find strategies to help your child communicate more spontaneously? If so, you can enhance your child’s communication by creating social temptations.  

What are Social Temptations? 

Social temptations occur when you create opportunities in your child’s environment, typically during structured routines, that encourage your child to utilize expressive language in order to communicate. Even though it often feels natural to initiate communication by asking your child a question, we want to re-frame it, so your child initiates communication instead of always being a responder. Social temptations are typically most successful when implemented during familiar routines (e.g. mealtime, morning routines, bedtime, bath time, playtime etc.). The end goal of social temptations is to teach children the power of communication.  

Manipulate the Environment  

When manipulating your child’s environment, have a preferred item or target in mind. This could be your child’s favorite snack, blanket, or toy. Then determine how you can create opportunities for your child to initiate communication. For instance, you can start by providing your child with a smaller than normal portion size of their favorite food during mealtime. This will require your child to communicate in order to receive more. In the beginning you may need to provide a model (e.g. “more” sign, “I want more.”)  and prompt your child depending on their communication abilities, however make sure to fade prompts when they demonstrate understanding.  

Another way to manipulate your environment is by placing highly preferred items (e.g. food, toys, bath toys, etc.) in sight but out of reach. For instance, you could place your child’s favorite train toy on the tallest shelf. This will require your child to request your assistance.  

Wait Time 

Another strategy that is essential to implementing social temptations is to incorporate wait time while taking the child’s lead. This may feel unnatural at first, but it is very effective and allows your child to process and initiate communication. For example, give your child a container that you know they will not be able to open and then wait. Allow for your child to request your assistance before opening it. This will teach your child the value of communication.  

In addition, using intraverbals (fill in the blank statements) paired with wait time may encourage your child to fill in the blank. Start with familiar games, songs, and books. For example, when singing Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, provide wait time (e.g. “One fell off and bumped his ______.”). This not only encourages, but takes away the pressure of feeling as though they must answer a question.  

Want to Know More? 

The Speech-language pathologist team at Eyas Landing would love to hear from you and answer any questions you may have regarding speech and language development. Eyas Landing provides relationship-based therapy that is individualized to meet your child’s and family’s needs.