Self Talk - A communication strategy to help your late talker

The first thing you can do to help your late talker is something called self-talk. This is essentially just talking about what you’re doing. You’re going to feel like you’re just talking to yourself but it will help! When you are around your child, talk about what you are doing. Describe what you are holding, the actions you are performing, what you see, how you feel, and what you hear, smell, or taste. Talk about all of this! Your child will learn from hearing you talk about all of those things. They key here is to keep your utterances short.

As a general rule of thumb, you should speak in phrases that are the same length as your child’s typical phrases or slightly longer. 

For example, if your child isn’t talking yet or is only using one word at a time, you should be speaking in one-word utterances and two-word phrases, like “Ball. Throw. Throw ball. Ball”. If your child is using mostly single words but is beginning to put a few two-word phrases together, use a lot of two-word phrases when you speak to your child but also throw in some three-word utterances as well as a few one-word utterances. Don’t be afraid to repeat those same words many times. These children learn best through repetition!

Self Talk - Things to Remember

  • Talk about what you are doing while you are doing it. Describe what you’re holding, what actions you’re doing, what you hear, smell, taste, etc.  Talk about everything.
  • Keep it short! You shouldn’t be using big long sentences with your late talker.  Try using utterances that are the same length or one word longer than the utterances your child usually says.  This is probably just 1-2 words at a time.  You could say “Mommy eat” or “eat banana” instead of “Look, my darling child, Mommy is eating a big, ripe, delicious banana!”.  
  • Repetition is key! Keep repeating common words and phrases over and over again for your child.  The more your child hears it, the more likely they will be to pick it up. Don’t be afraid to repeat those same words many times. These children learn best through repetition!

How parents can help at home.

Practice using self-talk around your child for at least 10 minutes every day this week. You don’t have to specifically sit down with a certain activity to do this, just use self-talk during normal activities. Keep in mind, 10 minutes per day is the absolute minimum. Try to use self-talk as often as possible. If you can keep it up for most of the day, your child will benefit immensely from it!    

Published by - Anna Keno, Speech Language Therapist (BLST, MNZSTA, Reg.EPCNZ) Giant Leaps® NZ

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