Interaction Styles That Help Young Children Learn to
Valerie Johnston, MS, CCC-SLP
Research has shown that a child's ability to
communicate can be improved by interacting with him in certain ways. In
general, there are five areas that have been found to be important. These are
balance, matching, responsiveness, nondirectiveness, and emotional attachment.
What follows is a brief description of each of these areas and a few
suggestions for how to use them with your child.
Balance - This means that you take about the same number of turns as your child
takes. There should be a give and take, with each person sharing the
responsibility for continuing the interaction.
- Play with a ball and take turns rolling it back and forth.
- Play with interactive toys or games that will allow you to take
turns with your child (peek-a-boo, handing things back and forth, taking
turns banging on things, etc.).
- Take turns naming pictures or objects.
Matching - In order to "match" your child, you
imitate what he does or says. When matching, it is sometimes helpful to imitate
your child and then show him the next level of development.
- While playing with blocks with your child, imitate the shaking he
does. This is matching. Then show him the next step by simply dropping the
block into a bucket or box.
- If your child is making sounds and says "mmm", you could
imitate this sound and then say "mama" to preview the next step.
- When your child says a single word ("ball", for example)
you might want to say "ball roll" or some other appropriate
Responsiveness - This means that you respond appropriately and
consistently to your child's communication attempts, interests and emotions.
- When your child says "nana" to let you know he wants a
banana, say something like, "Oh, you want a banana" and give it
to him, if at all possible. Likewise, if he says "more", give
him more of whatever he's asking for if he can have more.
- Talk about what your child is interested in. Follow his lead. For
example, if your child is playing with cars and trucks, talk about what
he's doing with them instead of trying to get him to look at the book you
want to read to him.
Nondirectiveness - When you are nondirective, you interact with your
child by commenting on things or remaining silent rather than giving commands
- Talk about what your child is doing as he plays. This is known as
parallel talk. You might want to describe his actions or talk about what
he might be feeling in short, simple phrases and sentences.
- Talk about what you are doing as you play with your child. Talk
about the same things as you do when you talk about what your child is
doing. This is called self talk.
- While using parallel and self talk is good, be sure you allow
enough time for your child to respond.
Emotional Attachment - This occurs when interaction becomes a priority
for you and your child. When you are emotionally attached during an
interaction, both you and your child are enjoying the interaction. Emotional
attachment can best be achieved by using the interaction styles discussed
Although you probably won't be able to use
these ways of interacting with your child each time you're with him, using them
often in your daily routines and when you read to and play with him will help
him develop better communication abilities. It will also make these activities
more pleasurable for both you and your child.
you have questions or need more information you can contact me at:
Speech & Language Center, Inc.
Fort Worth, TX
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© 2001-2003 Overton Speech & Language Center, Inc.
revised: March 24, 2003