Sunday, October 18, 2009

Repetition of Simple Words When Learning Language

Yesterday at the grocery store my 16-month old son told every employee and other customers"Hi" no less than 100 times! It would have been slightly annoying after the 75th time if I didn't work with young kids with developmental delays. So, instead of rolling my eyes, I chose to smile and be glad he is wanting to talk to others. He has about 10 words that he uses, some on a daily basis and others at least every few days. But each word was used repetitiously in the beginning. Like the word "banana"; when at the store about 2 months ago, he said "nana" over and over throughout the whole grocery store visit as he pointed to the bananas I had placed in the cart. Now, he only says "nana" when he sees the fruit bowl in our kitchen or when he actually wants to eat one. Typically, kids do this. Kids with disabilities or delays, may only use a word intermittently or say it a couple of times, and not say it again for a few weeks.

During therapy with young children with delays as well as with my interactions with my own son, I purposefully keep my sentences simple and repetitious. When rolling the ball back and forth to a child, I may say the word "ball" 20 times or more. I also pause to let the child have a chance to say it or go after it if it rolled away. This is important because the brain may take multiple times to make that connection that the sound of "ball" matches the actual object. So, then next time the child wants to play ball, they just have to say it. Some kids with disabilities may use sign language or pictures instead of words, but even then, they need repetition of those approaches too. Also, if I start the activity out the next time by saying "Get the ball",...pause..."ball", I hope that the child goes to retrieve it. If not, then I help them go get it, and hope that the next time the child will remember what a ball is.

In addition to repeating the words multiple times, the other big thing to remember is keep the sentences simple. I don't have to describe every detail of an activity especially since the child doesn't understand all of those words. That also increases the chance that the child will tune me out. But if I keep is short, I am more likely to gain the child's attention.

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