Toddler Language Delay: How Pausing Improves Communication

In today’s busy and hurried world, it’s sometimes hard to slow down, take a breath and pause.

Yet, pausing and waiting when interacting with your child, in fact, greatly facilitates communication.

This sounds easy, right? Yet, it’s a skill that most of us need to practice. Luckily, with some guidance and training you’ll be able to skillfully and effectively pause to increase the likelihood that your child will want to say something.

Toddler Language Delay

Photo Credit: fran-taylor

For this post, I’m going to share a fictitious story inspired by my work experience.

There once was a boy, let’s call him Charles, who was 22 months old and not yet talking. He mostly communicated by grunting. I treat many children like Charles. Mom and Dad were worried. About a month ago Charles started speech therapy. Since then he has started to gesture and use some signs. Mom and dad are happy with his progress, but still anxious because they know he is behind. Fortunately, they are hopeful (which is something we should always be), because they’re seeing improvement in their son. They’re also happy because Charles’ speech language pathologist, let’s call her Kim, is always teaching them fabulous new techniques (like self-talk and parallel-talk, giving choiceshow to ask questions). Kim commended mom on how well she has started to give choices to Charles. However, she noticed that mom was so eager for Charles to respond that she often didn’t give him enough time to process and respond to comments or questions. She would instantaneously repeat herself, re-ask the question, give in and hand over what he wants, or sometimes even make decisions for him. So, this week’s assignment is to:

Pause in anticipation

What’s pause in anticipation?

It’s when you wait approximately five seconds (count inwardly 3 to 5 Mississippis) to give your child a chance to respond to what you have asked or said. Show that you are waiting expectantly by raising your eyebrows, smiling, and opening your mouth.

What it’s not?

It’s not prompting for a certain word or phrase. There is no direct pressure for the child to respond a certain way. Any response is acceptable.

Why pause in anticipation?

Pausing in anticipation encourages spontaneous, natural communication. Since you are not requiring your child to say something in particular, you’re increasing the likelihood that he or she will initiate.

When to use pause in anticipation?

Pausing in anticipation is an excellent technique to use with children who are passive communicators; those who only respond and don’t initiate comments or questions. When you pause you’re providing the child time to process what you’re saying and doing, to collect his or her thoughts, and to freely respond.

In my book, My Toddler Talks, I share specific ways you can use pausing in anticipation while performing certain play routines.

But, if you’re in need of an example right now, try this:

Play with your child’s pretend food. I like Melissa and Doug Cutting Food Box Play Set:

While he or she is cutting up some food, use parallel talk

“You’re cutting the apple”.

This way you’re showing your child that you’re paying attention to what he or she is doing while also labeling the apple.

Next, say, “Hmmm…that apple looks yummy.”

Pause in anticipation. DO NOT immediately ask for the apple! Count 3 to 5 Missiippis. See what the child does. Maybe Frankie wants to finish cutting the apple before handing you a piece.

If he doesn’t give you a piece, you can either make the same comment again, or reword what you had said:

“Oh, I’m sooo hungry (rub your belly –gestures are great!) that apple looks yummy. I want to eat it.”

Pause in anticipation.

The goal is that your child will want to either perform an action (give you the apple) or give you the apple AND also say something!!

“Here’s the apple, Mommy!”

Best of luck!!

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