One of the first tools deployed in any good speech-language pathologist’s toolbox is getting face-to-face with a child. It is one of the first activities taught in many parent training programs, such as the Hanen Programme and DIR Floortime, and for good reason.
Verbal communication and learning to verbally communicate start with nonverbal communication. A child who regularly and effectively communicates via facial expressions, gestures, and eventually sounds will have a much easier time moving to words than a child who doesn’t employ those tools. To help our children learn to use those precursors to verbal language, we need to give them lots of opportunities to practice by coming face-to-face with them. This gives early learners a chance to read our expressions and learn about how we react when they use communication.
Getting face-to-face is exactly what it sounds like – move into your child’s line of sight. When children can see your face and your reactions, it helps add meaning to the interaction. For example, a child who drops a toy may not appear to notice, but if a parent makes an exaggerated facial expression and “Uh-Oh!”, the child is more likely to understand the meaning of “Uh-Oh,” to pay attention to the dropped toy, and to follow through on an interaction related to talking about the dropped toy or picking up the toy.
The more you get face-to-face with your child, the more opportunities he will have to learn to communicate with you.