Monday, August 2, 2010


What’s the most powerful technique for eliciting independent language from a child on the spectrum?

Do nothing.

Well, not exactly nothing, but do less and do it at a slower pace by increasing your “wait time”. We are so eager and anxious to fill all of the language “space” around and for our children that sometimes it can become overwhelming.

Almost all of our kiddos have slower language processing. When there is a delay in a child’s response, we often jump in to repeat, ask, or prompt. It can feel uncomfortable – that space of silence. However, very often, that space is exactly what a child needs to process input and formulate a response.

For example: A child is working on greetings.

1. Get down on the child’s level.

2. Try to get his or her attention by either calling his/her name or making eye contact.

3. Say, “Hi!”

4. WAIT!!! if you need to, give yourself a slow 5 count.

Another example: You want your child to initiate communication.

If this is new, it’s best to do this in a situation in which you know the child

has a need or desire to communicate with you (e.g., wants a treat, or needs


1. Again, get down on the child’s level.

2. Wait expectantly.

3. Wait some more.

Of course, you may not always get the communication you are looking for and would then need to prompt, but by waiting, you have given your child a chance and a challenge. When the child is able to use the time to formulate an independent response or request, the learning is deeper and much more meaningful.

So give yourself, and your child, a break. Slow down, relax and most of all – have fun.


Speech/Language Pathologist

Autism Journeys, Inc.

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