Speech Therapy for Pronoun Reversal

Pronoun reversal is one of those wildly frustrating things to work on in speech therapy, like a game of “Who’s on first?” In pronoun reversal, your child refers to themselves as “you” and refers to you as “me.”

It’s even more frustrating than that comedy sketch, because your communication partner isn’t joking and might actually cry after telling you, “You do it,” and then seeing you follow through on their request.

What’s happening and why is this so persistent?
Your child is a Gestalt learner, and is learning whole sentences at a time, without learning the meanings of each individual word.

Basically in order to fix pronoun reversal in speech therapy, you need to teach a whole lot of sentences containing your target words, in this case, you and I/me. Only once your child has command of lots of different sentences containing these target words can he start to break down the sentence into meaningful units that can start to be switched out.

  • Correct your child when they say something with the wrong pronoun that can be immediately reinforced. Example, my child says “Pick you up” when he wants to be picked up, because he’s only ever heard the sentence, “Do you want me to pick you up?” I’ve never once told him to “Pick me up.” Model the correct sentence and immediately reinforce it with whatever makes sense, in my case, picking my kid up.
  • If necessary, act confused when your child uses the wrong pronoun. This gives the critical feedback that what they have said does not make sense. When my kid asks to “pick you up,” I say “really? Ok, I’m pretty heavy, but you can try? —– OHHH you want ME to pick you up. Say ‘pick ME up.’”
  • Start teaching lots of different “I” and “me” sentences:
    • Give it to me
    • Throw it to me
    • Show it to me
    • Tell me how
    • Give me a turn
    • I want…
    • I need…
    • I hear…
    • I see…
    • I like…
    • Can I have…
    • I am… (in response to “where are you?” — right here, in the bath, sitting with Daddy)
    • I am… (in response to “how are you feeling?” – happy, sad, hungry, thirsty, tired)
    • I have to…
  • This will make an immediate difference in producing the right pronoun in context with your learned sentences, and with enough sentences, will teach your child the actual meanings of you and I.