Autism, Early Intervention, Social Skills

Communication Temptations

Communication temptations are tasks that encourage children to communicate their needs by telling you what they want. Rather than always responding to questions or requests to talk, communication temptations focus on the child being the initiator of communication. This is important, as we want to create as much spontaneous and independent language as possible. Obviously, we want our children to communicate and talk to us, sometimes this means that we unintentionally use a lot of questions to get children to talk, for example, “What’s that? What do you want? What are you watching on the iPad? What colour are the Lego Blocks? What are you making with them? How many blocks do you have?”. We may also tell the kids to talk, for example “Say ‘drink’, Say ‘How are you?”.  

For children who have delayed language skills, answering questions can be difficult. The child may not understand the question, or may not have the language to respond, this makes language effortful and not very motivating to engage with.

Understanding the benefits of talking is key to encouraging language. This creates motivation to communicate. However, for some kids, understanding the power of language can be prevented by adults thinking too much for them by anticipating their every need. For example, Joe is thirsty and wants a drink of milk from the fridge. Joe starts to cry. To stop Joe from crying his parents present him with lots of different things to try and gauge what he wants. He is given toys, different food and is still crying. He is then given a drink, he stops crying. Here an opportunity has been missed. Rather than jumping to Joe and giving him lots of choice, let’s walk around the house with him, see what he orientates towards. In the kitchen, he begins to walk to the fridge and at the fridge, we encourage Joe to say open. We offer him a choice between milk and an apple. He points to milk. We give him the language “milk”. We give Joe the carton of milk and wait for Joe to say “cup”. We pour a small amount of milk and wait for Joe to say “more”. Here we have created multiple opportunities for language.

For older children or children with more language communication temptations can be used to give your child practice with new vocabulary, increasing sentence length, or communicating for different reasons. Here we pause in situations for longer, waiting for more language.

Setting up Communication Temptations

When setting up communication temptations, ensure you are at eye level with your child and facing them. We need to start by creating lots of opportunities for communication every day.

  • Initially, we will make activities fun, rewarding and quick! By doing this, the child will be more likely or ‘tempted’ to communicate. If your child is verbal, we will encourage them to speak and if not, encourage use of visuals, gestures and/ or attempting words.
  • If your child is not yet talking, try to remember that communication is about more than words. Sometimes when children communicate, we are so focused on waiting for words, that we miss their communication attempts (point, shift in eye gaze, babble).
  • Take a look at your child’s daily schedule at home and school, think and plan for all the times across the day when you can encourage and support communication from your child.
  • Set aside time each day to  focus on this. This may be for 15 minutes a day, or a couple of minutes each hour.
  • It is very important that your child is motivated. This is how we will encourage language.  For example:
  1. In the morning your child is hungry, at breakfast we give them a bowl of their favourite cereal but not the spoon or milk. The child will be more motivated to ask for the spoon and milk.
  2. Another example, your child loves going for a drive in the car (motivation). The back door is locked, the car is locked. The child could request “key” or “open”. Similarly in school, the child is excited to go outside for lunch and could request“coat”, “open door”, “more time”.

Communication Temptations Ideas

Pause and wait

The easiest way to tempt a child to communicate is to wait because waiting tempts your child to make something happen. What are we waiting for? Two things: eye contact and communication.Then we can respond.This is a simple strategy  to add into any of your daily routines and below are just a few examples of how it could possibly be done.

  • Get ready to go outside and when you get to the door, wait
  • Give them their favourite yoghurt, don’t open and wait
  • Tickle them briefly and wait
  • Give them food in a package that they can’t open and wait
  • When looking at books, point to the different pictures and say ‘i see a _______ and wait.Allow them the opportunity to label the item
  • Sing their favourite songs and do the actions, and wait throughout to fill in certain words to allow them to opportunity
  • Use Choice: You can work choice into most parts of your child’s day. Choice allows them both opportunities to practice communication and also independence. Examples of choice can include “It’s time to get dressed, do you want your red or blue socks?”, “It’s time for snack, do you want apple or banana?”, “It’s dinner time, do you want to use the spoon or fork?”.
  • Requesting: Choose an activity that your child enjoys and is easily stopped and started (e.g., bubbles, swings) or choose an object that has many parts that you can hand to your child (e.g. puzzle pieces, cars for the garage, or even crackers). 

There are so many ways we can encourage language development and we promote a collaborative approach whereby we work closely with parents to ensure they are confident in implementing these across their daily routine.

If you would like any more strategies or information on this, you can email us on info@stepbystepconsulting.ie or call 085 2737 466 or by clicking the button below and sending us a message through our contact form.

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