What To Do When Parents Ask, 'When Will My Child Talk?'

Now that you have a fresh caseload with eager parents and children waiting for your expertise, the only thing that could bring you down is a parent coming into a session after a few weeks of therapy and asking, “So when exactly will my child begin to actually talk?”. While disappointing to hear, often we forget to educate parents on a crucial part of early intervention therapy: pre-linguistic skills!

Pre-Linguistic Skills: A Parent Education Opportunity

What makes our jobs so complex, is that our results are not always instantaneous. Why? Language is not just motor skills, but they have a cognitive component behind them. Before any child begins verbalizing, the foundation must be set and it is done through pre-linguistic skills. Pre-linguistic skills develop naturally but it is the parent’s and therapist’s job to give meaning to these skills in order for language development to occur. The day a child is born, they begin using sounds, actions, eye gaze, and facial expressions. A parent’s consistent response to these non-verbal communications allow babies to gradually understand that their unspoken messages can affect others and lead to more interactions. 

So, what cues should parents and therapists be looking for in a child who is not yet using verbal language?

What are the Pre-Linguistic Skills?  

  1. Joint Attention
  2. Eye Contact
  3. Pointing
  4. Turn-Taking
  5. Social Gestures and Signs
  6. Babbling and Using Symbolic/Environmental Sounds

Recognizing, responding, and returning these pre-linguistic communication attempts can make a world of difference in teaching a child that their actions have meanings even before they begin verbalizing! Over the next few weeks I will be sending out more information and more resources for you to have on hand to build these blocks of language even further.

P.S. This series may be turning into a comprehensive resource aimed at Early Intervention. Let me know in the comments what I can help you with!

1 comment

  • Hi Erin,
    I get this question and the ‘why are you only playing with my kid’ when will you start teaching them question a LOT. A resource addressing these questions would be so helpful.

    Mary Jo

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