[Overton]Interaction Styles That Help Young Children Learn to Communicate

by 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.

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.

Responsiveness - This means that you respond appropriately and consistently to your child's communication attempts, interests and emotions.

Nondirectiveness - When you are nondirective, you interact with your child by commenting on things or remaining silent rather than giving commands and instructions.

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 above.

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.

If you have questions or need more information you can contact me at:

Overton Speech & Language Center, Inc.
Fort Worth, TX
(817) 294-8408


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Copyright 2001-2003 Overton Speech & Language Center, Inc.
Last revised: March 24, 2003