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How Can I Help My Child to Talk More? Getting Your Child to Talk!

how to get my child to talk more

Parents often ask How can I help my child to talk? Or How can I get my child to to talk more? Many families ask us at the beginning of therapy, What can I do to increase my child’s language?

We often work with children who start out with very little or no spoken language. Our goal in helping children to speak more is to use those words as a way to reduce inappropriate behavior. Often, language or talking can replace inappropriate behavior. ABA specialists at Acuity Behavior Solutions commonly work on increasing language because it can greatly reduce a child’s frustration, and increase positive communication. ABA therapy is very helpful and can greatly increase language skills!

Here are some ways you can help your child to speak more at home:

Talk to your child:

Talk, talk, talk!! Talking to your child about what you are doing, about what he or she is doing, or about anything in the environment will expose him or her to many new words. Hearing and memorizing the sounds of the language will serve as a great basis for future language. When talking about things, do your best to talk about things that are in the immediate environment so they can connect the word to the item or activity. Even better, let them touch the item while you name it. For example, let them hold a leaf and say, “Leaf! Yes, it’s a leaf!”.

Read to your child:

Reading to your child exposes them to new language, which gives them a wider variety of exposure to words. Reading also helps children to link pictures with words. Children are learning that words represent items and reading with the child while pointing to items in the book can help them to memorize those objects, actions, and more.

Sing to your child:

Whether you are an excellent singer or not, singing is a fun way to help your child learn! Your child will surely appreciate your singing! Singing is a fun and engaging way to help a child to hear more words and to memorize those words. Pairing songs with actions or pictures can make the songs even more effective. Making songs out of everyday routines or activities can also help a child to learn that routine, because the memorization becomes more fun. The repetition of songs can help children to memorize easily, as well!

Build Experiences:

Experiences provide many opportunities to learn and grow. Without a variety of experiences, your child might only see a few particular objects. However, going to new places and doing new things will provide additional opportunities for learning, growth and exploration. Provide as many new experiences as you can to improve language, learning and development.

Use Real Words:

Children say the cutest things! “Ba-ba” for bottle! “Ma” for milk! “Dah” for Dada! These are all adorable, but they are not real words. They are a great start! When a child uses their own version of a word, formally called an “approximation,” the best thing to do is to reinforce the attempt and then to say the real full word, for example, “Ba-ba! Yes! That’s a bottle! Good job!”


Speaking of saying the word again… Re-casting is a great way to help a child learn! Re-casting means that when the child says something close to the correct word, instead of correcting it, we reinforce the attempt and then say the word in the correct way. Another example of re-casting is, after your child says, “Mo,” when he wants more, you say, “Yes, MORE!! Good job, you want MORE!” And then provide more of the item desired.

Have Conversations:

Conversations with a child might feel silly, especially if the child is not yet fully verbal. However, children benefit greatly from conversations, even if they are still learning to talk. A great conversation with a child who is learning to talk includes both simple questions and listening for their answer. You can even help them to answer correctly.

Ask Questions:

Just like conversation, asking questions can make your child think and expose them to new language and words. Asking questions is a great way to get a child to learn the back and forth mannerisms in language. Asking questions to your child can also help you as a parent or caregiver to bring new words into your child’s life. It can help your child to feel more curiosity as well. Later on, we will want your child to ask questions to other people, so this can be a great model for that! At some point, maybe they will be asking so many questions, you may have to start working on when to wait to talk, but that will be much later on!

Be Responsive:

Allowing your child to talk to you and responding to that can show your child that words get reactions. Oftentimes, children LOVE reactions! Just a smile on your face or a hug from you can be all they need to start repeating those words. If your affection or verbal responses aren’t doing the trick, start responding to words by giving them the object you think they are asking for or by providing fun activities after they vocalize. We want your child to learn that words help us get things we like!

Listen to Sounds Together:

Listening to sounds like music, animal sounds, knocking sounds and any other sounds in the environment can help your child to learn to listen and hear the differences between sounds. It can help them to learn to discern the differences, and you can add to this by labeling them as the sounds occur. For example, “Oh do you hear that? It’s an airplane! Look!”

Exaggerate Emotions in Responses:

Children love a good reaction… or any reaction sometimes! Showing emotion in your responses can make them more interesting for your child, and can gain their attention more easily. Words connected to emotions are more easily learned and memorized, as well! Adding emotions to your responses to make them more interesting can help with memorization and keeping your child’s interest. For example, “Wow, you are jumping! Jump! Jump! Jump! Yay!”

Use the One-Up Rule:

When talking to a child, try to speak to them at a level that is just one STEP above their current level of speech. Talking to them like an adult with too many big words can be intimidating and confusing. Talking to them at their exact current level of speech, for example using one word when they typically use one word, may not stretch their minds for learning. Instead, speak to them just above their current levels of speech. This might mean just a little bit more language in your sentences than they say in theirs. If they are not currently speaking, use one-word or two-word sentences. If they are speaking in 3-word sentences, then use 4 or 5 word sentences.

Reinforce Language Attempts:

Perfection is the enemy when teaching language! We don’t want to expect perfection! Language learning is all about small steps, and shaping. This means that, at first, their language might only sound somewhat like the word we are trying to teach. That’s great! That is a wonderful start! We want to reinforce or reward any attempt at first, so that your child learns to speak! For example, a child who is not speaking, and says “Mmm” for milk, we would immediately say “Wow, you said milk!” and give a milk right away. Later on, we might expect the child to say, “mi,” and then even later we might expect them to say, “milk.”

Reinforce Approximations:

What is a word approximation? It is when a child makes an attempt or says a part of the word you are teaching. “Bah” for the word ball is an example of an approximation. When teaching language, we usually reward approximations at first, so that the child learns to talk more. With time, we make the standard a bit harder so that the child’s language becomes closer and closer to the actual desired word. For example, on the word “banana” we might first hear, “na”, then “nana,” then “banana.”

Some children may need step by step guidance or individualized plans for acquiring language as a part of an ABA program with the goal of increasing appropriate language and decreasing inappropriate behavior. Our team of experienced ABA therapists is able to create an individualized plan for teaching this important skill as a part of the ABA program goals. Acuity Behavior Solutions staff can also review additional ways you can help to ensure your child makes improvements through ABA therapy. If you have any questions about starting ABA, please feel free to give us a call at (714) 696-2862.