Posted by Molly Augustine, MS, CCC-SLP – Speech Language Pathologist – UT Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders
New studies seem to be coming out all the time that remind us how important it is to encourage language and communication development from an early age. Language starts developing before a child even starts talking. Children start to communicate with us from the beginning. They quickly learn that if they are hungry and cry, they will get fed. Or if their diaper is wet and they cry, they get changed. Our job as parents and caregivers is to continue to encourage that communication.
We have to start by physically lowering ourselves to our child’s level. Squat down, lay down, get toe-to-toe and nose-to-nose with your child. This will allow you to better understand what your child is trying to communicate, but it will also help them take in all the information you are conveying.
One of the best ways for our children to learn language is to hear it. So talk! Talk about what you are doing, talk about what your child is doing, talk about what other people are doing. The more you can add language to a situation, the more your child moves forward.
The other side of talking – and equally important – is listening. Our children learn this by watching us listen. So while we talk about what’s going on around us, we must leave openings for our children to interject their ideas and opinions. We have to allow space in the conversation for a child to process what we’ve said and then generate their own response.
Remember to leave openings for your child’s responses by using the acronym, O.W.L. After you talk about a garbage man unloading trash, “observe” your child’s reaction to your comment, “wait” for them to generate a reply, and then “listen” to that response. The waiting part is usually the hardest. Try counting to five in your head before you say something else.
To learn more about what language is and typical language-development milestones, visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website.