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Communication & Language Development



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  • 1. “When you smile at me, I learn that I am lovable. When you understand me, you help me to understand the world.” -Hatkoff, 2007
  • 2. Remember that communication is not JUST language.It also includes:  Facial expressions  Directed gaze  Gaze aversion  Gestures  Body Movements  Object use  Sounds (cooing, babbling, words)  Intentional Actions  Reaching, showing, pointing, pulling, nodding  Speech, signing, pictures, text
  • 3. Three areas of communication: Comprehension = the ability to understand communication and utilize the messages in daily living Production/Formulation = the ability to formulate or produce components of language Pragmatics/Use of Language = the ability to use language functionally and purposefully in daily living
  • 4.  The ability to comprehend language comes from:  Shared attention  Shared meaning  Shared intentionality
  • 5.  “…two people direct their attention to the same aspects…” “…ensures that some aspect of the event is experienced by both participants…” (Nelson, 2007)
  • 6.  “Meaning… is whatever is perceived as relevant to the individual on the basis of needs, interests, present context, or prior history… that which has meaning – significance for the individual…” “Two people can share an experience but not a meaning.” (Nelson, 2007)
  • 7.  Collaborative activity in which participants share psychological states with one another Tomasell0 (1999)
  • 8. Video of Sara and Swing (Visual Reality)
  • 9.  The ability to connect what is heard to what is already in his mind The ability to recall ideas from memory that are associated with prior experiences of the words The ability to form a new intentional state representation (what does that mean for me right now? “Kaaaaat, where’s the swing?” while pointing and drawing Kat into the interaction).  Adapted from Bloom and Tinker, 2001, p. 15
  • 10.  In typical language acquisition, the comprehension of language precedes production In atypical language acquisition, the comprehension does not always precede production
  • 11. 8-12 months Understands a few words in context (plays pee-a-boo in response to words and gestures) Responds to interactions of others Responds to other’s intentions to regulate behavior, other’s intentions to draw attention to themselves, other’s intentions to draw attention to objects. (Miller and Paul, 1995; DMIC, 2005)
  • 12. 12-18 months Understands single words for objects used in immediate environment Will get objects when asked if they are in view Will perform some actions when asked Knows names of familiar people Responds to name (Miller and Paul, 1995; DMIC, 2005)
  • 13. 18-24 months Understands two word combinations similar to those they can produce (eat cookie, Mommy jump, Mommy’s shoes, kiss baby) Understands words for objects that are not in view Understands and responds to routine forms of “who”, “what” and “where” questions Doesn’t understand agent-action-object (Mommy eat cookie) fully. Understands about 150-500 words. (Miller and Paul, 1995; DMIC, 2005)
  • 14. 24-42 months Understands (agent-action-object) constructions Understands a greater range of “what”, “where”, “who” and “whose” questions. Understands more complex directions Understands and responds to simple, causal “why” questions. “Why is daddy fixing the bike? (in the context of Daddy fixing it)” Understands locatives (Miller and Paul, 1995; DMIC, 2005)
  • 15. 42-48 months Understands when, how, and why questions Understands about 1000-3000 words.
  • 16.  Does your child respond to directions or statements made about the environment?  (i.e. “A cup!” – child picks up the cup) Can your child pick up on stressed or emphasized words?  (i.e. That’s the BIG chair!) Does your child respond to sounds, speech sounds, affect, or tone? Does your child respond to gestures and sounds of others with and without contextual clues? Does your child understand ‘wh’ questions?  (i.e. Where is the dog?)
  • 17.  May imitate what is said to him May not respond to questions or comments May not respond to verbal requests to join an activity May not show, look at or get items/objects named or pointed out in the environment May not engage in actions that are requested within their environment May demonstrate anxiety, confusion, and dysregulation. May not engage, relate, or communicate as we might expect
  • 18.  Bring down the complexity of your language input Target particular words and phrases Work on comprehension in familiar contexts and affectively rich/meaningful situations Pair language with the child’s actions Present targeted language in many familiar contexts to promote learning Adapt to the child’s comprehension level (if only saying “open” we shouldn’t be using “want me to open it?”)
  • 19.  Pair words with gestures, facial expressions, and other visual supports Use question forms that the child understands Use choice questions judiciously Request clarification Repeat, paraphrase, make salient the new ‘information’
  • 20.  Use affect to help support understanding Use gestures to support understanding Emphasize words or sounds Pair with signs or pictures to help support understanding Use LESS language Be sure your child is engaged before communicating
  • 21. Video Emma and the eggs (Visual Reality)
  • 22.  Remember, BEFORE our kids comprehend communication our child must be: (Level 1) REGULATED (Level 2) and ENGAGED THEN (Level 3) TWO WAY COMMUNICATION Be sure your child’s foundation is ready for communication by supporting regulation and engagement.
  • 23. Precursors to Language (things you gotta have first!) Shared understanding between infant and parent Synchrony in infant-parent interaction Intersubjectivity Join attention
  • 24. Precursors to Language (things you gotta have first!) Sensory motor development –  Object permanence  Means end relations  Causality Objects knowledge, object relations, event relations Child’s “theories” of objects, space, time, etc. Child’s knowledge base
  • 25. Precursors to Language (things you gotta have first!) Affect expression – feelings and states Vocal expression Contours of syllables Babbling Jargon Speech sound perception
  • 26.  Work on engaging interactions – lengthen them and strengthen them in fun, playful settings. Work on communicative rhythm – back and forth responses, attending and responding. Experience the world with your child – explore and start to recognize patterns in the world.  Example: Can your child determine cause and effect of putting on his own seatbelt or make his own sandwich, etc? Play with sounds – sing, rhythm, vocal tone.  Phonemic Awareness  Labeling sounds – dog, cow, etc. Connecting sounds with labels.
  • 27.  Does your child use language to get what they want or need?  (i.e. “Bakey” = give me my blanket) Does your child use language to comment?  (i.e. “uh oh!” when food falls on the floor) Does your child use language socially (to interact in a social manner)?  (i.e. “get ya!” to signal a game of chase)
  • 28.  Helping your child:  Ensure your child is engaged and relating with you.  Model! Show them how to request using gestures and words in lots of non threatening play situations or interactions.  Highlight the context for them.  Watch their comprehension. Are they understanding?  Keep an eye out for sensory or emotional overload.  Keep your pacing appropriate. Keep the rhythm, the relating!  Help a child to be intentional.
  • 29.  What is the child doing? Why are they doing it? How can I join? How can I expand? Make random behavior purposeful. Video of B and S doing math
  • 30.  How can I start with sensory? What can be used to make this activity include appropriate movement? What is the child’s sensory system telling me about our play? Video of S and J jumping by the mirror
  • 31.  What can I turn into a theme? How can I change the theme slightly to move up the ladder or support the roots? Is my theme consistent with the child’s lead? Video of Emma and the Lollipop Dance (Visual Reality)
  • 32.  Can I say what I said with more tune, rhythm, singsong or beat? Can I use rhythm OVER verbal language? Video of J and M, Wheels on the Bus
  • 33.  Am I drawing everything out? Am I sloooooooooowing it down? Am I exciting? Am I expressive and affective in my face, vocal tone and body language? Video of J and the car on the rug
  • 34.  Can I playfully get in the way to require more? Can I present a problem in a way that is silly, fun and exciting? Can I play dumb to an extent that the child enjoys the game? Video of S & S – Wake Up – 4:15
  • 35.  Remember to be in the moment… you’ll get where you’re going if you’re patient. Wait for it, wait for it…  Taste the joy in the moment, march forward at the pace the child sets forth and have fun!
  • 36.  Use facial expressions, body language and gestures to communicate. Help your child read your cues and tune into you without excess language. Video of M and S eating lunch
  • 37.  You want the mustard?! Oh, no? The MILK!! Best way to encourage a child is to play dumb – really make them think! Remember how learning the world and environment supports language production and comprehension. Video of S & S – Jump Rope, 18:50
  • 38.  Watch your positioning On the child’s level In their visual field In front of the child vs. behind
  • 39.  KEEP going with it! Difference between expand and staying in the interaction Video of Paper Ripping – if it’s working GO with it!
  • 40.  Keep trying. Try the same thing four or five times before you change. When you change, change slightly according to the cues and information your child is giving you Video of C – don’t change too much – persist in what you were doing
  • 41.  Make sure you are always on the positive When a child does something GREAT, be reinforcing and exciting.
  • 42.  Watch how many steps you are giving a child. “Go upstairs, get your shoes and get in the car” vs. “Shoes? SHOES!!! Shoes.” IF you think they can, try FIRST, THEN. First, shoes. Then, car.
  • 43.  “Engaging Autism” – Stanley Greenspan and Serena Weider “The Out of Sync Child” – Carol Stock Kranowitz “The Child with Special Needs” – Stanley Greenspan and Serena Weider If you want a copy of “Visual Reality,” email Sima Gerber @