When working with children with autism spectrum disorders, a big focus of training and intervention is on language training and expanding communication for these precious kiddos.

With typical kids, it’s the exact same. Maybe your child is already a chatterbox so you can’t stop reading this now, right? Ummm…no. How about you focus on appropriate functional language to help get your Little to the next level of communication skills.

With my sweet little one around 1 year old she would say “Mama” consistently, but not “Dada”. Why is that? Because her dad is a pushover. Maybe I can find a nicer way to say that.  The truth is her dad is nicer than me. Everyone knows that.

When she wanted something from me- she’d hand me a book or toy or look at me and start to fuss about something, I’d  tell her, “Say, ‘Mama, help.’” And she’d repeat back “Mama”. I wouldn’t help her until I got something resembling “Mama” out of her sweet mouth.  I’d try to model the same for her dad. He’d tell her to say “Dada” and then he’d just do whatever she was asking with her sweet smile. He didn’t require the verbal response and it took longer to get her saying “Dada”.

So the moral of the story is don’t be a pushover.

I found a video clip demonstrating a teacher or ABA therapist using this technique to help a child have the functional communication skill of requesting help. She could have just gotten the toys down for the kid without requiring the full response, but by making him talk to her and ask correctly, that little guy now has the ability to use this skill for other situations, too. 

Require language. Model it for your child to repeat after you when necessary. Don’t give in without an appropriate verbal response from your kid. Be consistent. See an increase in functional communication. See a decrease in problem behavior. Enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Want more awesome ideas to prevent problem behaviors and make your life more like the one you show the world on social media? Check out Parenting with Science: Behavior Analysis Saves Mom’s Sanity!

Research is cool!
Sautter, R. A., & LeBlanc, L. A. (2006). Empirical applications of Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior with humans. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior,22(1), 35.
Skinner, B. F. (2014). Verbal behavior. BF Skinner Foundation.
Sundberg, M. L., & Michael, J. (2001). The benefits of Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior for children with autism. Behavior Modification25(5), 698-724.