Communicating Partners, Fall 1995 Newsletter

Letter from Barbara
     When I think of all the things I have learned about having conversations with language-delayed children, one idea stands out: The less work we make for a child in an interaction, the more the child will stay with us and communicate.
     This sounds like a very simple idea, but I've found that it is not as easy to do as we might think! Most of us find it difficult to break the habits of talking too much, telling our children what to do, asking questions, and just generally controlling conversations or letting the child do it all.
     When my son and I are together, I frequently think of talking as if it were creative play. Words become our "toys" and my main goal is to help him learn to stay in conversations. I've enjoyed writing some of these conversations down to think about later. You might want to try it also. I'm sure you will find, as I did, that the more fun you and your child are having, the longer your child will stay with you, and the more he or she will communicate. (Even doing simple housework and chores can be fun and an opportunity to learn to communicate!)
     The following conversation took place over a year ago, but we still play games like this. His sentences have become longer, of course, and the games more involved. I hope it will give you some ideas for playing and talking with your child.
     Mark was lying on the floor, doing nothing, so I picked up his stuffed purple friend and started a game.

Mom: "Come on, Barney, we need new shoes."
Barney: (Pointing to Mark's shoes on the floor.) "I want those shoes!"
Mark: "I'll be right back." (He gets off the floor, goes into his sister's room and comes out wearing her shoes.) "Mama, look!"
Mom: "Those are nice shoes. Barney wants shoes." (He goes back into his sister's room, comes out with more of her shoes, and lines them up on the floor.)
Mom: "Those are girl's shoes. Barney wants boy's shoes."
Mark: "One minute, Barney." (He gets his own shoes and puts them on the floor with the others.) "Shoe store!"
Mom: "Those are nice shoes."
Mark: "I'll get more." (He comes out of the boys' room carrying boots.)
Mom: "Barney likes boots."
Mark: "No, too big."
Mom: "Too bad...those might fit Barney."
Mark: "Too big. Sorry, Barney."
Mom: "Well then, I need shoes."
Mark: "Here, mom!"
Mom: "I like these."
Mark: "Too big."
Mom: "Do you have more?"
Mark: (Gets more shoes.) "Here mom, new shoes."
Mom: "Those are nice. Oh, too small."

     This game went on for quite a long time until Mark showed he was getting tired of it. We finally found a pair that fit me "just right" but nothing fit Barney. I wanted to see if we could continue our game and conversation, so I suggested something else.

Mom: "Barney wants to buy something. Do you have a toy store!"
Mark: "Yes!" (And the new version of the same game continued.)

     Do you have some interesting conversations to share with us? We would enjoy reading them and sharing your ideas with other parents.

Barbara Mitchell

  Revised: February 22, 1998.