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Early Intervention Strategies for Speech and Language Skill Development

Children’s first few years of life are a vital time in their speech and language development.  Parents are a key factor in this development as they are their child’s first language model.  Simple daily interactions can be manipulated in order to create opportunities for learning.  Below are ideas to encourage speech and language skill development in the natural environment.


Children learn new sounds and words by listening to the language models around them.  When speaking to your child, say words slowly and clearly and with a lot of intonation.  Praise all of your child’s attempts at communication, even if he or she does not pronounce the words correctly.

Symbolic Sounds                       

Symbolic sounds (animal and environmental sounds) are a great ways to encourage speech-sound development in young children.  Symbolic sounds are easy for children to produce.  They are important to practice as they contain the same consonant and vowel sounds as more complex words. Examples: The cat says “meow.” The train says “choo-choo.”

Communication Temptations

Tempting your child to communicate involves using a highly desirable, toy, object, or food item to elicit a word or vocalization. For example, present your child with a closed container of crackers, but do not open the container until your child vocalizes a request.  In the early stages of language, it is not necessary that your child use the correct word.  A vocalization or an approximation of the word is sufficient. This teachers your child that he or she must initiate communication in order to receive what he or she wants.

Add language

Adding language involves providing a language model by commenting on what your child is doing or seeing, as well as expanding on their language production.

Child is playing with trains.
Adult: “Look at the red train. It’s going so fast! What does the train say? Choo-choo.”
Child is watching a bird flying outside.
Adult: “Wow, look at that bird flying in the sky.”
Child: “Boat.”
Adult: “Big boat” or “Fast boat.”

Erica Williams, M.Ed, CCC-SLP