January 11, 2016

Child Speech Therapy: Modeling

You would not assign your new employee to lead a meeting before they have attended and witnessed how your company runs their meetings. In a similar manner, you should not expect your child to throw a ball before they see someone modeling the action of throwing first. Modeling is crucial for children to develop their receptive language. A main component of receptive language is direction following. The child is more likely to understand the direction if a caregiver models the behavior first.  Modeling is our fifth child speech therapy strategy for developing receptive language.
Definition of Modeling
Modeling is when a caregiver physically shows an action while verbalizing. For instance, the caregiver would say, “I am throwing a ball” while modeling the motion of throwing the ball. It is important to show the action before expecting the child to do it. If you are modeling a sound instead of an action, position yourself so the child can see your face. Direct their attention to your mouth, and model the sound slowly so the child can see the oral movement. Then you can encourage the child to imitate the sound. Although we eventually want the child to imitate the sound or movement, modeling is intended to only show a sound or action. Do not expect them to imitate the movement or the sound right away.
Different Types of Modeling
In order to encourage the development of receptive language, there are different types of modeling you can implement during play, car trips, and around the house.
  • Self-talk:Explain everything you are doing, seeing, hearing, or feeling. Your child does not necessarily need thave their full attention on you, but use clear, simple words to narrate your actions. For example, if you are making dinner you can report, “I am taking out the plates. Now I am turning on the oven. Time to stir the pasta.”
  • Parallel talk: While you are interacting with your child, narrate their actions and what they see or hear. Again, your child does not need to have to fully focus on you. Simply speak slowly and use simple phrases. If your child hears a fire truck, you can say: “The fire truck has its siren on. Jayden is covering his ears. The truck is loud.”
  • Expansion: Try to add one or two more words to what your child says. If your child says “Tree” you can say, “Climb tree”. If your child says, “Help Me,” you can suggest, “Can you help me?” 
  • Praise:Always respond to your child’s verbal request using either a nonverbal or a verbal response. Nonverbal responses include clapping hands, smiling, or eye contact. Appropriate verbal responses would be to imitate your child and tell them you are happy they are talking. For instance, if your child says “ba” for ball, respond by saying, “That is a ball. I like your talking”.
Contact Step by Step Care Group to talk to a speech therapist if you would like assistance on how to appropriately model for your child.
Check out our past strategies on labeling, imitation, OWL, and focused stimulation.


“Language Modeling Tips.” The International Series in Engineering and Computer Science Verilog® Quicstart (2002): 187-218. Center for Speech and Language Pathologist. Web. 4 Aug. 2015.

“Speech Therapy Tip #4: Learn to Model Sounds Masterfully.” The Speech PathWay. The Speech PathWay, n.d. Web. 04 Aug. 2015.

Swigert, Nancy B. “Chapter 8: Intervention for Receptive Language.” Early Intervention Kit. East Moline, IL: LinguiSystems, 2004. 85. Print.

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