Understanding language begins with the child feeling like a powerful communicator. What is essential for this development is the child’s repeated experience of people around him who love him and who make the effort to understand what he means, when using his body to express what is in his mind, initially through gestural non-verbal language.

 Problems with understanding of language

If your child has problems with understanding language and what you say to him, you need to help him to understand the MEANING of communication first by reducing your language and focusing more on gestural communication, e.g. if he:

  • imitates words without meaning
  • misinterprets what you say and responds in ways that don’t make sense
  • does not respond to what is said to him
  • shows confusion and dysregulation

 Developmental strategies to help your child to understand language:

  1. Look at what the child is looking at
  2. Use language in context, as the child will try to make sense of what he sees is happening around him
  3. Use gestural language to help your child to understand, i.e. so he can ‘see what he hears’
  4. Reduce complexity: Keep language simple (but without distorting your grammar), i.e. avoid long sentences,
  5. Maintain grammar, melody and flow: use correct language, i.e. don’t use grammatically incorrect language as this affects its meaning
  6. Repeat the relevant language or words in meaningful ways (i.e. not to ‘teach’ or ‘test’) and many different familiar situations
  7. Match language with child’s actions and feelings: be Playful, firstly engaging in 1-1 sensory and action games (shared attention), later toys (joint attention)
  8. Do what makes sense and what you usually do with objects, i.e. don’t put the cup upside down, – until child that putting a cup on your head is a playful game
  9. SLOW DOWN and keep a slow/moderate pace, so your child can follow and has time to process

16 Key Strategies for DIRFloortime Play

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