Your child is beginning to use their words and tell you what they want—how exciting! Now is the time to foster your child’s development of language as they are gaining confidence in their voice. Here are some tips and tricks for helping your child express even more!
Children benefit from language and vocabulary repetition in several contexts before they truly understand the words, directions, or songs. Children with hearing loss miss out on many opportunities to learn language through incidental learning (overhearing language in conversations). We naturally repeat ourselves when we communicate with young children, and the same repetition is needed for our children with hearing loss. Repetitive language should input in fun and natural ways, for example:
“Look! Johnny has a ball. That’s a big ball. Bounce the ball. I have the ball! Roll ball, roll!”
“You have wet hands. The water makes them wet. My hands are not wet. Uh oh, your shirt is wet! What do we need for wet hands? Now the towel is wet! Hang up the wet towel.”
Sometimes the lingo we use is difficult for children with hearing loss to understand without context. You may have directed your child to, “Throw it in the trash”, however when you say, “Put it in the garbage” they look at you with a blank look. In this situation, tell your child, “The garbage is the trash. Throw it in the garbage”. Give them a visual or help them complete the task if they still aren’t sure!
When your child shows difficulty understanding directions or conversation, rephrase your sentence rather than repeating verbatim or getting louder. “Go to your room and get your shoes,” becomes “Get your shoes in your room”. As your child gets older, encourage their self-advocacy, “What did you say? Can you say that again?”
Your child looks at you and says, “more”—great! More, what? This is the perfect time to expand your child’s language to help them be specific. Give two choices, “More crackers? Or more water?” Remember to use power words, including prepositions (e.g., ‘under table’), pronouns (e.g., ‘my cup’), adjectives (e.g., ‘big dog’), or negation (e.g., ‘not cheerios’).
As your child gets older, expand their use of vocabulary. When looking at animals, name different parts—beak, talon, paw, tusk, or horn. When playing with sensory items, use pile, lots, bit, grain, slice, few, huge, or tiny. When doing an obstacle course, label around, through, inside, over, beside or underneath.