Children acquire speech and language skills through daily interactions. However, they are often not given enough opportunities to use these skills in expressing themselves! As Speech Pathologists, we would love to empower parents with strategies to facilitate a two-way interaction with your child.

The following evidence-based strategies have been incorporated from the Hanen Early Language Program, 2011.

O – Observe
W – Wait
L – Listen

OBSERVE

Young children learn best when they are interested or motivated. In order to share a moment of engagement and interaction, it is crucial for us to identify moments when their interest has been captivated. We do this by observing their actions, gestures and facial expressions! Watch to see what they are looking, pointing or reaching for. Once we find what they are interested in, we can immerse communication in the moment together.

WAIT

Oftentimes as adults we forget that our child has different interests from ours, we start to bombard and talk for our children. Waiting is a very powerful strategy to allow your child to i) start an interaction ii) respond to what you’re saying iii) comment on what you’ve done. Hanen (2011) advises a three step approach in waiting:

  1. Stop talking/stay silent
  2. Lean forward
  3. Look at your child expectantly

This builds confidence in your child to understand that you are ready for them to respond to you, or better still, to take the lead in the conversation. It is important to ensure that they receive validation for their attempts to communicate, therefore always respond to them immediately. The most important thing about waiting is to allow your child to understand that there is enough time to respond to a message and that you expect them to initiate communication with you/ This can be in the form of gestures, words, or sounds.

LISTEN

Listening is a great way to allow your child to understand that what they say to you is important. It means making sure that you pay close attention to their words and utterances. Although it’s difficult as a busy parent, try your best not to interrupt your child when they are speaking, even if you already know what they’re about to tell you.

At times, it might be difficult to interpret what your child is saying, therefore the best approach for this is to look around for other clues e.g., body language, gesturing to try to guess what they are trying to tell you. If that is still difficult, imitate what your child says and see if they do anything else to make their message to you clearer. 

Reference: http://www.hanen.org/images-for-public-site/links—sample-pdfs/itttp17-18s.aspx