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Modeling Speech and Language

Modeling Speech and Language


Modeling Language for young children: There are many ways to do this and I am going to talk about 5!


  • The first is language expansion, or restating the child's words while adding to them. For example if the child says "truck" you could expand and say "I see the big blue truck" or "The big truck is going fast" or "Look a big red truck."


  • The second way is self-talk, or talking about what you (the adult) is doing. This is like narrating your life for your child's benefit! For example if you arrive home for the day you could say "Look there's our house ! We are home" "Let's open the door and get out out out! "Where is the front door? "I see the front door" Let's open the front door! Open Open Open!" You may feel silly but this is excellent "input" for your child's brain!   


  • The third way is parallel talk, or talking about what the child is doing while they are doing it!  If you child is playing with blocks you would say "You are stacking the blocks up up up!" "Red block on, blue block on" "Uh oh, blocks fell down" "Crash" "Pick up the blocks, one two three..." 


  • You can also model language by recasting phrases, or changing the child's phrase to a different type of statement (declarative, imperative, question, exclamation ect..). If your child says "Puppy hurt" (declarative) You could say "Uh oh, did the puppy get hurt?" (question). 


  • The final technique I am going to mention is using cloze phrases. A cloze phrase is a familiar phrase with the last word (or couple words) left off. This is only used once the child is familiar with the particular language.  I use this often when reading repetitive and rhyming books. For example: "Mr. Potato head sees with his_____" (while holding up the eyes or pointing to your own eyes).  "The cat in the ______" (while pointing to the hat).  This is great because it helps the child anticipate the expected language while encouraging them to verbalize with you!

Modeling Articulation: If you child struggles with certain speech sounds it is important to model it correctly for them. It is a good idea to direct your child's attention to your mouth when you are doing this. If your child says "pish" instead of fish, you could say "watch my mouth and try to say "fish" again." A great cue for /f/ is bite your bottom lip and blow!! (please note: saying /p/ for /f/ is developmentally appropriate until 4 years of age according to articulation norms). Another way of modeling articulation is to simply restate their mis-articulated phrase or word correctly. If your child says "I weally want a wabbit" You could say "Oh you really want a rabbit?" While emphasizing the /r/ sound. It is important to set a side time every day to work on your child's speech sounds but ALWAYS provide them with a good model throughout the day!


One thing to remember: No more baby talk for your toddler! :) You need provide the correct use of speech and language, not mimic the way they talk! I know its tempting and fun, but your child will benefit more from hearing normal language and speech at this age!


**Let me note that baby-talk is OK for young infants (it can be soothing for them and aid in their development). I am talking about when your child is a toddler or older! I encourage parents to stop baby-talking their infant at around 12 months. It is still OK to use simplified speech with 1-2 years olds (shortened sentences/emphasizing words/being more expressive) but not baby-talk!



One of the most important things you can do for your child (regardless of their communication struggles) is to be a good model. As your child is building their language skills or working on speech sounds, modeling will help facilitate their development and progress.

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