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  • Writer's pictureCarissa Johnson

How to Improve Communication Skills . . . FOLLOW THEIR LEAD

If you’ve been wondering how to encourage with your child you are in the right place!

Play On Words Therapy Solutions is changing pediatric speech therapy by focusing on training and supporting those who spend the most time with their children: their parents and caregivers.

Parents often ask how they can encourage communication, including babbling, gestures, vocalizing, and first words! One of our biggest suggestions is to follow their lead. But what does that actually mean and what does it look like?

When we talk about following your child's lead, we mean taking the back seat and letting your child lead the play or interaction! Following their lead is noticing what your child is interested in and then joining in their play. By doing this, you are encouraging them to communicate with you in a low-pressure way.

Here are some quick tips on how you can follow their lead:

  • Respond immediately to what your child says or does with interest!⁣ Communication is a two way street , not a one-sided interaction. You can respond with interest through your facial expression, eye contact, verbal response, and gestures. It’s important that you respond immediately after you notice your child attempting to communicate so that they can see the effect of their communication.

  • Join in with their play! You can do this by playing like they are playing, adding fun sounds/words to their play. When we follow our child’s lead during play, we let them direct the play. Avoid telling your child how to play. Instead, pay attention to how your child is playing and follow along!

  • Imitate your child’s actions, words, and sounds.⁣ We love imitation because it encourages communication regardless of your child’s age! For example, you can imitate the sounds or facial expressions your baby is making or you can imitate a toddler’s actions, gestures, and sounds! Imitation can be really effective with getting interactions going, and it lets your child know that you acknowledge their communication!

  • Comment about what they are looking at, saying, or doing.⁣ Comment about what they are doing or even grab your own toy and talk about what you are doing. The goal is to create an environment that lets your child know you are interested in interacting with them without directing them to do so! Commenting also avoids asking your child to talk. Instead of asking your child what they see (more pressure), try commenting about their looking at (less pressure)!

Here are several common mistakes that can inhibit your child’s ability to lead:

  • Not being truly present in the moment (being distracted). Staying connected with your children helps allow them to lead interactions

  • Trying to rush through everyday moments/routines: We are all busy these days, aren’t we? But what we sometimes forget is that it is within these everyday moments our children are learning about the world. These are optimal opportunities to allow them to lead interactions and communicate with us.

  • Listening only with your ears …we need to be sure to listen with eyes, meaning we need to watch our children closely for their communication cues (nonverbal) and take the focus off the words.

  • Asking your child question after question, "what is this?? Is that a circle? What color is the dog?". These types of interactions often shut down communication, rather than promote it.

  • Telling your child what to play with/how to play with something:. Remember, this is about your child's interests, not yours! This includes allowing him the freedom to play with toys in ways that are different than intended sometimes!

  • Always doing everything for your child and not allowing them to make mistakes or request help. This is especially difficult when you have a young child with a speech and language delay. It is human nature to want to try to help your child and not let them struggle, but sometimes we need to WAIT for them to try first!

If you are interested in learning more about Play On Words Therapy Solutions and our parent coaching program shoot us an email or message.....we can't wait to hear from you!!

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