Welcome back to HeadStart for Life: Beyond Therapy blog!
As a speech therapist, one of our main responsibilities is to support and encourage all parents to be their child’s “best speech therapist”. That is why we always require parents or caregivers of all the children that we see at Headstart to attend our therapy sessions. This way, we are able to communicate freely, supervise their interactions with their children and share ideas and information that will help our children’s overall development.
If you think you are parent or a caregiver who needs a little bit of a push to be a better interactionist with your child, then this post is for you!
Very often I hear from parents when I ask them how their children request for something they want, they would say, “Oh, he’s very independent. He would just go and get it himself”.
But what happens when you let your child be? It creates zero interaction! When a child becomes independent around the house, you are giving him no reason to communicate. As a result, the child does not get the interaction that he needs to develop his language skills.
We want to change that.
Here are 7 tips for you to create more opportunities for your child to interact.
It becomes instinctive for us to understand what our children’s needs are that we immediately rush to their aide when we know they want something. But this can be a big opportunity to teach your child learn how to request using words or gestures, depending on what she can do.
So, try putting her favourite toys away from her reach and then wait for her to do something to ask for it. Then as soon as she does or says something, give the toy immediately. This way, you are creating the idea of what communication is. That is, in order for her to get something, she needs to do something.
Find out what your child loves playing best – bubbles, cars, musical toys, flashlight, wind-ups, etc. Since she can’t operate these toys by herself, more often she would approach you to ask for help. When she comes to you and ask for help, give or show her immediately.
You can take out the batteries of toys or wind the toys up just a little bit so she will come back to you again. Blow bubbles one at a time and close the cap then wait for her to ask for more bubbles. You can hide the cars that go on the slide and wait for her to ask. Accept any effort that your child makes. Then gradually increase your expectations when she is ready.
When playing, control the presentation of toys. Do not let your child get access to all toys or parts of the toy in one go. You can hide them or put them in a container that she can’t open. Give only one part of the toy when she asks for it. For example, when building a train track, give one part of the track at a time only when she asks for it. When playing cooking set, give only one vegetable at a time or give only a spoon. You can also hide a piece of a puzzle that she is trying to complete.
When we say “sabotage”, this doesn’t mean heartlessly destroying the block structure she built or breaking the toys she is playing. This means intentionally setting up silly situations that may come as a surprise to your child. For example, putting a piece of a puzzle that doesn’t fit; pretending to cook a car in the pan; wearing a scrunchie on her arm; pretending to swipe a paint on her hand during painting activity; replacing a different word of the songs she likes. Of course, this should be paired with over – the – top reactions as if you didn’t expect it to happen. And more importantly, WAIT for her reaction.
You can also apply this trick in her daily routines.
– Getting in the tub without water
– Asking her to brush her teeth without toothpaste
– Giving her a cup without water
– Passing everyone a cookie except her
REMEMBER: Be realistic with your goal! Do not ask your child to say words or do actions that she hasn’t said or done before. Use this trick when you want her to say words that she knows but uses less frequently.
Some children enjoy repeating the same activity or routine over and over again. This may include, singing the same songs, playing the same games (e.g. peek-a-boo), or doing the same action on the toy repeatedly. Try to pause the song or stop singing in the middle of the song and wait for her reaction. Only resume singing when she asks.
You can also change a step of a familiar routine. For example, instead of “falling down” after singing “ring-a-ring a Rosie”, you can jump up and down or sit down. She may even start commenting on the silly actions that you made.
Offer your child at least two choices as many times as possible during activities or play. Sometimes, children find it easier to communicate when two choices are given. Your child might grab both choices at first, but after few trials she will eventually learn to choose one item at a time.
Your child can be oblivious of the things around her. This usually happens when she gets too focused on what she’s doing that she may not notice your presence in the room. The best way to get her attention and connect with her is by imitating her actions. Get down to her eye level, close enough to make face- to – face interaction. Then, copy exactly what she does without losing eye contact. If she is playing a car, get your own car and do exactly what she does. You can even imitate the sounds she is making, the rhythm, the loudness and the tone of her voice. Then wait for her to make a comment. If she doesn’t like it, wait for her to say so.
While these tips are helpful in encouraging your child to communicate, it is also important to have flexibility when implementing these strategies. In short, DO NOT overdo them. When you find yourself getting frustrated and your child starts walking away, this means you are not being flexible. Be realistic with your goal and start at the level where your child has the most possibilities of success. This way, you are providing a more favourable and secured environment where her efforts are recognized, which will encourage her to try again in the future.
These are only few of the things you can try at home. It is always best to communicate with your speech therapist to create suitable activities and strategies that will work best with your child.
Also, don’t forget to have FUN! These strategies work best when both you and your child are having the best of times!
Let me know which ones worked and which didn’t in the comments section below.
Pepper, J. and Weitzman E. (2004) It Takes Two to Talk: A Practical Guide for Parents of Children with Language Delays.Ontario, Canada. The Hanen Centre.
Laura (April 2008) A Little Frustration CAN Go A Long Way….. Using Sabotage And Withholding Effectively to Entice Your Toddler To Talk. http://teachmetotalk.com/2008/04/20/a-little-frustration-can-go-a-long-way-using-sabotage-and-withholding-effectively-to-entice-your-toddler-to-talk/
Marinovich, A. (July 2016)The Art of Sabotage: How to Use this Strategy to Help a Child Communicate. https://www.strengthinwords.com/podcast/the-art-of-sabotage/