I remember many things from when my wife Bryn and I ran our Son-Rise Program® with Jade, our daughter. I remember the way Jade would ism (stem) for hours as she played with LEGO’s, using them to build endless staircases. And I remember our rough and tumble physical interactions, and hearing her laugh as I spun her around in my arms. In those moments of fun, I recall seeing her eyes sparkle as she looked at me, fleetingly. I also remember how just listening to her wonderful and amazing voice made me happy. Over the duration of Jade’s Son-Rise Program, the approach we took to helping improve her speech, from one word to sentences to conversations — always contained the same key elements.
This approach is the same one we share in all our Son-Rise Program training courses, and I’d like to share the basics with you now. For those of you who attended The Son-Rise Program Start-Upor The Son-Rise Program Essentials training this will serve as an important reminder of the key elements needed to inspire your child to improve his/her verbal communication. For those of you who haven’t attended either program, I hope you find these insights valuable. Our belief is simple: the more you listen to your child’s beautiful voice, the more you’ll find motivation to help them take their verbal communication skills to the next level.
Here are a few important perspectives you’ll find helpful in developing your child’s verbal communication. First, don’t approach your child with the attitude that you’re somehow going to make him/her talk. This isn’t a battle. Instead, try an internal dialogue that goes something like this, “I want to encourage, inspire and passionately invite my child to verbally communicate so that they can create more of what they want in their life. I want to help them get their needs met and create meaningful relationships and friendships. I want to hear his/her beautiful voice.” Remember, a talking child does not equate to a non-autistic child. In The Son-Rise Program, our first focus is to establish a fun, interactive relationship. Afterwards, we can help them use language to enhance and deepen all their interactions.
Here are seven steps to help improve your child’s verbal communication:
1. Be clear on exactly how you want to help.
Are you working on clear single words, two-word phrases, conversation loops, flexibility of the conversation topic, etc.? Before working with your child look at The Son-Rise Program Developmental Model select a Language goal for your child. Review your Son-Rise Program Start-Up manuals – especially the Developmental Model and the Creating Social Curriculum section. These will provide guidance on how to best choose your language goal, as well as other aspirations for your child.
2. Create fun and interesting interactive activities with your child.
Before focusing on your goal, make sure that you and your child are involved in an engaging interactive activity together (e.g. blowing bubbles, tickles, building with blocks, singing songs, conversation, etc). Once you and your child are having fun playing interactively, introduce your goal by adding your request into the game. It’ll be much more enjoyable for your child and increase the likelihood that he/she will respond favorably. (NOTE: If your child is highly verbal and is being very controlling, then it’s best to wait on your request and find a time when they seem more flexible. The objective is to have fun together and then make your request.)
3. Play the game for a few cycles.
Don’t rush or be quick to ask your child to work on the language goal you’ve set. Again, remember to prioritize the social interaction first and then work on the goal. Make the beginning of the activity fun and easy for your child, so they enjoy being social with you. Once you’ve completed the activity for 3-4 cycles, (e.g. blow bubbles 3-4 times; build the LEGO structure for 2-3 minutes; enjoy the topic of conversation your child is sharing, etc. until there is space for you to add and expand the conversation) move on to the next step.
4. Stop and request.
Once both you and your child are enjoying the interactive game, stop (or pause) the activity and request your language goal. Make your ‘ask’ enthusiastic! When your child begins to speak, show excitement about hearing their voice. If you believe in your child’s ability to grow in the way you’re requesting, your exuberance will come from a genuine place.
Give your child a chance to respond. Wait a minute, if they don’t begin talking. Don’t restart the interactive activity too quickly before allowing your child to respond. Give them a chance to process your request and then to respond. Find a balance between waiting and keeping the game going, and stay positive!
6. Celebrate and keep the activity going.
If your child responds in any way to your request, let out a big cheer and quickly give them what they want. Do this while continuing to create a fun and interesting interaction. After a few more cycles of the activity, stop and request again (Step 4, above). Repeat this process for as long as the game continues.
If your child doesn’t respond and appears to be losing motivation, restart the activity and continue to engage them in interactive play. After a few more play cycles, stop and request again. (Step 4, above)
7. Be persistent.
The Son-Rise Program requires persistence! It’s important that you stay strong, passionate, at ease, and comfortable even if you don’t receive what you desire at the moment. At all costs, avoid pushy or passive behavior. You will want to remain lovingly persistent. Do not give up!
You may need to request something many times before your child responds to what you’re asking. Be determined. Even when your child doesn’t respond to a request, please know that you’re laying a foundation for future success, or with the next person who interacts with them.
Enjoy listening to your child’s current sounds, words and sentences. Make it a habit to encourage them to use their voice more frequently when interacting with others as well. It’s my wish that these seven steps help grow your child’s verbal communication skills, and opens the door to deeper, more rewarding connections.