Future Reflections Fall 1994, Vol. 13 No. 3
ENCOURAGING EXPRESSIVE SPEECH
by Donna Heiner
Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from materials published and distributed by the Blind Children's Fund, Inc.
Parents Ask: How Can I Encourage Expressive Speech in My Young Visually Handicapped Child?
- Give your child words for important persons and objects in the environment-Children learn language which works for them-language which meets their needs. They need useful words: Mommy, Daddy, Go, Ball, Water. When you describe objects use words that have meaning to the child because of touch, smell, taste, and vision qualities.
- Use models your child can imitate. Children learn to say what they hear-Other children or adults are models. Sometimes you have to plan opportunities. If you are trying to help the child learn to ask for a drink, stage a dramatic example. "I'm thirsty. May I have a drink? Umm, that's good!"
- Give your child reasons to use language -Children speak to express them-selves. To encourage expressive language make some things-a special toy or a snack-available only when the child asks. Help the child to ask before obtaining it.
- Speak simply- Baby-talk is for babies, but adult speech, which is often complex, is difficult for a child to understand. Speak in short, simple sentences that the child can begin to remember and imitate. "This is a ball." "It's time to go."
- Respond to your child's attempts to communicate- Give your immediate full attention to your child when he or she is trying to tell you something. Your attention encourages early attempts at speaking. Show the same courtesy you would show to an adult who is just learning our language. Try to understand the child.
- Expand on your child's speech- First sentences tend to be telegraphic. The child uses only the important words and phrases to convey an idea. "Ball." "Mine." You can help by putting in the left-out words. "The ball is mine?"
- Expect gradual progress- Learning occurs in small steps. Competent speech requires time to develop. A cry of discomfort becomes "Wa," "Water," "Want water," and finally "I want a drink of water."
- Provide meaningful listening experiences- Using television or radio as a background hinders the visually handicapped child's efforts to attach meanings to what he or she hears. Children who spend many hours listening to the television sometime learn to mimic the sounds they hear-they speak, but do not communicate.
- Give your child the opportunity to ask- Avoid anticipating the child's every need. If you think the child is thirsty, wait before providing something to drink. Let the child attempt to communicate. Even a gesture or sound is a beginning.
TALK TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING!