If you spend time around a Speech Pathologist, you will hear the word “modeling” spoken often. This can sound like a highly technical term, but in reality, it is a word for something that you are likely already doing with your child. “Modeling” is doing or saying exactly what you want your child to do or say. For example, if you are trying to get your child to pick up toys, you may go and pick one or two up to show them how it is done. That’s modeling! In speech therapy, modeling can take numerous different forms. It can be clapping so a child imitates, making the “k” sound and having them copy, or saying “Get the duck.” as an example of how to ask for something.
Modeling is a powerful tool in our toolbox because it gives a boost to children who may not have a skill on their own yet. It is also very effective because in general, children’s brains are wired to copy the things they see and hear others doing. It is also something that you can do at home. Let’s look at some guidelines to make modeling be as helpful as possible for you and your child.
Firstly, when we model, we want to make sure we are modeling something one step above the child’s skill level. If your child is speaking in 2-word phrases (“more banana”), then model a 3-word phrase for them (“want more banana”). If we model a 3-word phrase for a child who is not using any words, we will likely not get a response. This is not helpful for them because it is way beyond their ability to understand and perform. This is where you get to adjust to your child’s level. You know what they can and can’t do. Ask your child’s speech therapist what they are working on, and then feel free to model one step above their level on that topic.
Another important element of modeling is not making your child respond. This is known as “modeling without expectation”. It may sound backward, but it is crucial. Children need a whole lot of repetition before they are ready to say new words on their own. Modeling without expectation is a fantastic way to give that repetition. If a child has to copy every single time we model, then they will fatigue quickly or become a robot. But if they are free to simply absorb the models, then the only limit is how much you want to repeat! If they give a response on their own, fantastic! But if not, then there is no pressure on you or them to “get the right answer”.
We hope these tips: modeling one step above and not making your child respond to allow you to use modeling effectively at home. May God bless and keep you and your family during this Thanksgiving season. Jesus loves your kids!