Sunday, 9 June 2013

Lost in translation

Having helped your child tune in and develop their listening skills (see Listen as you walk), and by slowing down to give your child a chance to try to speak (see Stop look listen )it's now time for you to tune in and acknowledge your child's attempts at speech...

"Mummy...mummy...MUMMY! You weren't listening to me!"

For those children who can't yet talk, or who haven't learned the importance of doing so, we need to encourage them and build their confidence that every sound (or gesture) is important and can be understood. They need us to translate, to bring them into the world of chats, communication and interaction. So we need to listen!

Have fun on those sound walks?? Hear some things your littlie said that you hadn't noticed before?

It's not always easy to translate for a non verbal child.  But context gives tons of clues, so watch what your littlie is doing, looking at, or pointing towards.  Don't worry if you're not sure what they 'said', better to have a guess based on what you see them doing than to stay silent.  It doesn't matter if you get it wrong, I have many times, but just think how rewarding it will be when your littlie smiles and confirms that you have got it right after all...

"Uh" he says with his arms outstretched... "Up, you said up!" You say.

Often children who are late to talk, are looking for reassurance that they are doing the right thing and are being understood.  By 'translating' you are not only showing that you've heard them, but that you understand and are going to respond straight away.  You are also providing the child with a template of the correct sounds to help them develop their pronunciation, as well as reinforcing the child's understanding of the word they are trying to communicate.

The same style of commenting and translating can be done with children who are using movements or gesture and who are unable to develop speech in the same way.  For example a reach towards something could mean "more" or if your littlie stiffens/stills to something, it could mean either "more" or "stop", depending on the context.

If you are trying to develop language, and your littlie is not using many spoken words, try to keep it simple and only say one or two words back to them.  

Try to make a conscious decision to listen to your child this week. Translate every sound they make that you think should have been a word.  What have they ended up telling you?  I'd love to hear...



  1. Today my daughter has told me that 'Abby' (word) is her friend (sign), who goes 'wee-ha' down the slide with her.... and she shared (sign) the slide with her friends.

    It's a long process at the moment!

    1. Well done for listening! That's great your daughter is starting to have chats with you. It does often feel like a long process, but hang in there, sounds like she's making good progress... Thank you for taking the time to comment. I'd love to hear how she gets on in the future. :)