So having been in speech therapy with Ruby for 2 years I have learned somethings on how to encourage communication. So, I decided to use some of these things with Jack, who is now 12, to help his communication develop.
At about 9 months I started doing these three things with him.
1. Turning the unintentional into intentional. So this was key for Jack. I would talk to him as though he could understand me and then take his noises as intentional and comment on them. For example, when I was giving him food, I would ask him if he liked it. If he would just stare at me I would then answer, “oh yes I like this too, it yummy.” It was even better when he would make a sound to answer. I would have him feel he was apart of the conversation because it motivated him to try to be.
2. Sign Language. I don’t do a ton of sign language, but I do use the a few signs that help to communicate his wants and needs. Here are the ones we use.
- All done
When I start sign language, try it during times when he is highly motivated, like during meal time. For more, I ask do you want more (emphasized and using the sign) food? Then I take his hands and say more. I repeated this almost every time we ate and he started to get it! It is important to use outside of meal time too because I want more to be universal and not just for food. This is applicable for all of the signs.
I know there are concerns about sigh language replacing verbalization. However, when you use the signs and say the word too, this increases all around communication including verbal communication. Sign language helps to catch their attention more than just verbal sounds do, which helps when developing language.
3. Circles of Communication. Circles of communication are the back and forth between you and your child. Think about having a conversation, there is back and forth. Building these skills helps with communication, joint attention, and cooperative play. So a good place to start with a young child is making noises back and forth, probably squealing. Try to keep it going as long as you can, and you can switch up the noises. Peek-a-boo is another great circle builder. Anything to keep them involved and participating with you is a great thing.
With starting early with Jack’s communication, he is 12 months and can say mom, dad, more, all done, Pepper (our puppy), ball, and that (which he constantly points to things and says that when he wants something). We are still working on yes, no, please, and thank you.
Even though these are only a few words, he is able to communicate his needs pretty well. After a diaper change he even pointed to the diaper and said that, I gave it to him and he walked directly to the garbage can which is closed, and turned around and said mom. I opened it for him and he threw it in! This was all on his own with no prompting and never been done before. He was able to direct me and do what he wanted to do. This is empowering and so fun to see happen!