Communicative Temptation: Arranging Your Environment Can Get Your Child Talking!

By: Jennifer Tripoli, M.S., CCC-SLP

Communicative temptation is a speech therapy technique I use consistently during my sessions with children who are late to talk. It is an easy strategy that can be implemented across environments, not just in therapy! Communicative temptation was coined in 1989 by Wetherby and Prizant in order to use a creatively engineered environment to facilitate communication in young children.

In short, communicative temptations are what they sound like. You are going to tempt or entice your child to communicate by setting up your environment in a specific way. Sometimes we do not give late talkers a chance or an opportunity to learn/use communication. Not because we do not want them to talk, but more so because we anticipate their needs way too frequently.

Is your child ever struggling to open a container full of a preferred food and you jump in and open it for them? Do you ever anticipate the type of snack your child would like without allowing them to tell you? Are all of your child’s preferred toys in reach? Here are a few examples of ways you can tempt your child to communicate! 

  • Placing a highly preferred toy or food item out of reach for the child. Key is in sight but out of reach!
  • Placing highly preferred objects inside a clear plastic container that the child cannot open on their own
  • Placing a lock on a cabinet door where a preferred object is located
  • Eat a desired object in front of the child but don’t offer it to them
  • Take the batteries out of a preferred toy and wait for the child to communicate the toy is not working properly
  • Initiate a reciprocal interaction game such as “peekaboo”, then stop and wait
  • Blow bubbles with the child a few times then place the bubbles out of reach or hand the child the bubbles container without the wand
  • Push the child on the swing a few times and then stop
  • Block the entrance of the slide they want to go down
  • Change a familiar routine

Hopefully these examples, will allow you to think of other creative ways to engineer your home, daycare, toy room, etc. to allow for more communicative opportunities! The outcome is not always “talking”, it can be ANY type of communication! A gesture (e.g.

Nicholas_T
Photo by: Christine Carroll

pointing or reaching), a facial expression, a word, a phrase, etc.! The key here is WAITING. Often times, we do not give children who are learning language enough time to communicate. We jump in quickly and eliminate that opportunity to communicate independently.

Depending on your child’s language level you may need to model what is expected first (a gesture, a word, etc.). For example, if a child is attempting to open a locked cabinet you may first need to model the word “open” and then slowly fade this model. You eventually hope that the child will independently use the word after they are “tempted.”

Take a quick look at your home today. How can you make a few small changes to facilitate communication in your environment? How you can change how you interact with your child to increase communicative opportunity?

For more information about our speech services and other programs at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, click here.

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