“When you smile at me, I learn that I am lovable. When you understand me, you help me to understand the world.” -Hatkoff, 2007
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
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
The ability to comprehend language comes from: Shared attention Shared meaning Shared intentionality
“…two people direct their attention to the same aspects…” “…ensures that some aspect of the event is experienced by both participants…” (Nelson, 2007)
“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)
Collaborative activity in which participants share psychological states with one another Tomasell0 (1999)
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
In typical language acquisition, the comprehension of language precedes production In atypical language acquisition, the comprehension does not always precede production
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)
12-18 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)
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)
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)
42-48 months Understands when, how, and why questions Understands about 1000-3000 words.
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?)
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
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?”)
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’
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
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.
Precursors to Language (things you gotta have first!) Shared understanding between infant and parent Synchrony in infant-parent interaction Intersubjectivity Join attention
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
Precursors to Language (things you gotta have first!) Affect expression – feelings and states Vocal expression Contours of syllables Babbling Jargon Speech sound perception
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.
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)
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.
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
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
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)
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
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
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
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!
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
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
Watch your positioning On the child’s level In their visual field In front of the child vs. behind
KEEP going with it! Difference between expand and staying in the interaction Video of Paper Ripping – if it’s working GO with it!
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
Make sure you are always on the positive When a child does something GREAT, be reinforcing and exciting.
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.
“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 Floortime.org ICDL.com If you want a copy of “Visual Reality,” email Sima Gerber @