As Speech Pathologists, there might be moments where the things we do in therapy sessions may surprise or confuse parents. To the untrained eye therapy sessions may look like we’re not accomplishing much, just having some fun playing together. This can be especially frustrating when you have come to speech therapy because your child’s not talking.
The truth is that there are many key foundations to successful communication, and these foundations are necessary before other skills can be learned successfully. For example, if a child has difficulty paying attention, they will struggle to understand much of what is said to them simply because they haven’t attended fully to it. Similarly, if a child has difficulty understanding language, they will have difficulty learning new words and grammar skills. Most language is learned by hearing, and if you are having trouble understanding what you hear (or aren’t really hearing it because your attention is poor) you will struggle to learn to use it.
Five of these foundations to communication are:
- Joint Attention: The ability to understand that we can pay attention to the same object as someone else. For example, your child is able to follow eye gazing, pointing, or other gestures from another person (a communication partner) which leads to both paying attention to the same object.
- Shared Enjoyment: The ability to share an event or feeling with another person. For example, your child sees something funny on TV, laughs and then looks at you to see if you also enjoyed it.
- Intent: The ability to use different forms of communication (verbal or non-verbal) to send messages to other people. This can involve using verbal (like saying “look”, “watch”, “come here”, etc.) or non-verbal cues (pointing, gestures, etc.) to communicate clear messages to others about our wants and needs.
- Persistence: The ability to keep attempting to communicate with someone else when their message hasn’t been received yet. This shows that your child is aware of their message properly reaching their communication partners. For example, your child calls to you and you don’t turn around so your child attempts to gain your attention by poking you and then repeats what they were trying to say.
- Social Referencing: Using cues and messages from other people to know how to act appropriately in a situation. For example, your child looks to you to see if it is ok to open a cupboard and uses any cues you are giving (such as a disapproving facial expression) to know whether they should.
Sometimes we need to address these foundational skills before we can move on to ‘talking’. So don’t get worried if we don’t start getting your little one to try and say things straight away we are just laying a solid foundation for communication success.
The good news too is that at Chatterbugs we try to explain the reasons why we do what we are doing, every step of the way. We make sure that both you and your child get what you need to be confident and comfortable. Get those foundations for communications sorted!