Children communicate many things without being able to speak, through their actions and behaviour.
Get down to children’s level and look directly at them and speak with a calm clear voice.
Following your child’s lead, give them time to respond and just comment on what they are doing. Start with just single words then build up by mentioning colours, size of object, asking questions about where they are going in the car. If your child is pre-verbal then join in their play and see if you can get your child to notice your play.
Intensive interaction – enter their world, respond rather than direct, jump into their pauses and eventually they will be waiting for a response from you.
Sabotage – create a need in order to try and initiate interaction. Have fun, be silly, give them one crisp at a time, one piece of lego. Give them something that they need your help to open to try and get them to communicate with you.
People play – play games such as Old Macdonald if they like animals and play the same way every time. If they like horses, then give them a piggyback and pretend to be a horse and get them to say ‘again’.
Repetition – the more a child hears something, the greater the chance of them being confident in joining in.
Create opportunities for your child to join in – stop when out for a walk/in your car and point out things to your child.
Focus is enhanced when all other distractions are removed – create a high interest bag. Hold an item of interest to your face to encourage face watching.
Keep language simple – remember silence can help them self-regulate and focus their attention.
Using visuals to enhance the spoken word
Objects of reference – An actual object is given or shown to your child to help them understand what is being asked of them.
Pictures of reference – A picture of the object (initially can be a photo) then a diagram to represent an item or activity.
Now/next boards – Use different pictures to represent activities so children understand what they are being expected to do now and what will come next. Helps support with transitions and also with participation in non-favoured activities.
Visual timelines – Tasks or days can be broken down to help your child understand what is happening and what is expected of them during any point.
Signs/gestures – These are used in conjunction with the spoken words to help support the language whilst they learn it.
Traffic lights – Used to support transitions, prepare a child when they need to end a favourite activity or when they are being asked to move onto a new activity.
Communication boards – use consistently even if the child does not appear interested at first. Use at nursery and at home.
Video showing introducing objects of reference: