Friday, October 17, 2008

Words Every Child Should Be Able To Say

Picking out good first vocabulary words is often confusing for parents. Here is what I have come to believe:
  • When your child wants to end something, he or she should be able to say all done, stop, or bye bye. The bye bye should be a way that your child can end an interaction if he or she does not want to hang out with someone. Don't worry about politeness until your child has a core vocabulary. Link to Sharing Emotions Games.

  • When your child wants to begin an activity, he or she should be able to say go to get things started.

  • In some way or another, your child should be able to say that he or she is mad or hurt or scared. And when your child communicates this, in any way at all, he or she needs to be acknowledged. Link to Sharing Emotions Games.

  • If your child does not like something that you do or someone else does, he or she should be able to say don't, I don't like that! go away, or no! This is a time to acknowledge your child’s feelings and respect them if at all possible. Link to Sharing Emotions Games.
  • A child needs a way to agree or disagree in a lot of different situations knowing how to say yes or no is very helpful--although most of my young friends learn the no early and the yes much later. Link to Yes/No Games.

  • If your child wants to get your attention, your child should be able to call you with Mama, Daddy, or say come, or play. Link to Calling and Greeting Games.
  • If your child misses you when you are not there, your child should be able to ask about you or talk about you with your name-- Mama, or Daddy. Missing a parent is a topic that should be discussed rather than brushed aside. Link to Calling and Greeting Games.

  • If your child is hungry or thirsty or needs to use the bathroom, he or she should have a way to say eat and drink and potty.
  • If something breaks or falls or does not act the way it should, your child needs a word to express surprise or dismay; something like Uh Oh! Oh No! Yikes! or Oh Man!
  • If someone takes your child's stuff, he or she needs to be able to say mine!
  • If your child wants a turn, he or she should be able to say my turn. Link Turn Games.

These are some of the first words that I teach children to say--focusing one by one on these important words. Because these words are so important, I really like the Springboard Lite and the other speech generating devices from Prentke Romich for children who are not able to rapidly acquire verbal skills. Prentke Romich got the words right on their devices. Even if you use another augmentative communication device, and there are now several good ones on the market, these are some of the most powerful words to make available to a child. Some of these words can be represented in pictures in a PEC's system but I have to say that children tend to use these words faster and more frequently if the words are available with a voice.

I teach these most powerful words in a variety of ways as I begin to help children learn to use words to communicate--a goal that I typically get to right after establishing some basic joint attention and a desire for social interaction. I model the words, of course, and demonstrate in every way I can how these words might work to meet each child's needs. I highlight the words and make them available to children even before the child can say the words by using augmentative communication systems including Mayor Johnson Boardmaker pictures, and Talking buttons, the Go Talk 20+ and a Springboard Lite. Even for verbal children, I often make the words available visually or on an augmentative speech device. Why? Because children learn words faster this way.

When it works, it is addictive to communicate. Every communication success speeds up a child's motivation to talk. The goal of early language therapy is to make communicating with language as easy as possible. We know that if kids try it, they will like it. But most of all, I make these words available because every child should be able to say these words.

Below is a picture of the layout of communication buttons on the Springboard Lite. You can see this better at their website where you can download a trial version of their program onto your computer. I never teach this whole array all at once to children but rather present and teach the buttons one or two at a time--but most the important words listed above are on the home page of the this device.


Casdok said...

I will have a look at the Springboard Lite. Thank you!

Bonnie sayers said...

A few years ago at a summer autism conference I stopped at the booth and learned more about the Spring board. Turned out they work with LAUSD but when I approached the AAC people they were not on the same page. I could barely get them to try the go talk 9+ with my son. For years they had on loan to us and it followed my son - the cheap talk, so this past spring I bought the go talk 9+ and it goes back and forth.

Tahirih said...

I think that your experience is pretty common. As I think about the School/AAC question, I think it is worthy of another blog post. Please see follow-up post.

Tamara said...

Great list - my son, who is now 11, has Down syndrome; but this would have been a perfect list to concentrate on.