Promoting Speech-Language Development in Children with Little to No Verbal Language
Communication matters whether it's using words, gestures, body, language, tone of voice, or behaviors. Did you know that “55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken” (Thompson, 2011)? Below is a list of suggestions to encourage language development in children with little to no verbal language.
Do Not Anticipate Needs and Desires. Encourage him/her to use communication (eye gaze, vocalization, pointing, etc.) to communicate what he/she wants, even when you know what he/she is likely to request. You can provide choices as described below.
Provide Choices instead of asking open-ended questions. (i.e., “What do you want?”)
Hold the two items out of the child’s reach, but in plain sight (hold them near your eyes if possible), “Do you want _____ or _____?”
Look for some indication as to which item the child wants (eye gaze, reaching, pointing, vocalizing, etc.)
Then model the name of the item (single word or short phrase) as you give it to the child. “Juice, you want juice!” Do not require that he/she say the name of the item by prompting with “Say ___” or “Now you try ___” Often the child will do the opposite, which is to say nothing.
Model Language in short phrases of 1 to 3 words. By modeling language, you are increasing the child’s exposure to language in the world around him/her.
Describe what the child is doing and what you are doing. Use both action words and object labels. “Push!” or “Push the car,” or “Baby” or “Baby’s sleeping.”
Respond to and praise the child’s vocalizations.
Provide the appropriate word if you know what he/she is trying to say.
You can also imitate his/her sounds or tell him “Nice talking. I like your sounds/words.”
Do not imitate the child’s baby talk, but rather model the adult form of the word with emphasis on the target sound/word. If the child says, “wa-wa” when requesting a drink of water, you can say “Water, you want water.” Again, do not require that he/she repeat the word correctly.
Communication-matters [image]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://childrenscampus.com/blog/communication-infants-preschoolers-much-words/
Thompson, J. (2011). Is nonverbal communication a numbers game: Is body language really over 90% of how we communicate? Retrieved https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/beyond-words/201109/is-nonverbal-communication-numbers-game