Strategies to Encourage Receptive Language


  • Condense your words- It’s great to speak to your child in an adult way, that’s how he/she learns new vocabulary! Some children, especially those with receptive language delays, can benefit from shorter, more concise directions to aid in their comprehension.  Instead of using several longer sentences, provide directions or ask questions using shorter phrases and sentences.  As your child’s comprehension increases, you can add complexity to the direction.  Emphasizing certain key words can also aid in comprehension, such as “Put the ball on the table.”
  •  Use Visual Cues- Provide visual cues to help your child follow directions.  Point directly to objects you are speaking about, or make gestures to match your speech.  Point to pictures in books as you are reading.  Demonstrate what you’re asking your child to do, if needed.  This helps your child connect what you’re saying to the request or action.  Provide a lot of praise when your child completes the action.  Be sure to fade these “cues” as your child’s comprehension increases to increase independent and unprompted use of speech.

  • Photos and Pictures- Use photos or pictures to improve your child’s comprehension.  Have photos of your child doing activities or going places that will be meaningful to them.  When you say to your child “Time to wash hands”, show your child the picture of him/her washing hands to provide the extra cue.  You can also use these photos in a photo album or book.  Look at the photos with your child to help increase both receptive and expressive language.  Include photos of family members to help your child increase his/her knowledge of “who” some of those people are.
  • Hide and Seek- Have your child hide a favorite toy in a specific location – “Put the bear on the table/under the chair/in the box”.  This helps increase your child’s understanding of spatial concepts and prepositions.  You can expand this further by hiding preferred items and asking your child “Where is the bear?”. Initiating them to respond with “I don’t know.”, or “Bear where are you?” etc. and then stating “The bear is on the bookshelf.” types of responses to provide additional cueing for spatial concepts.


  • Ask yes/no questions- During the day, ask your child questions that require a simple yes or no response.  Encourage both nodding and saying “yes”, and do the same for “no”.  Start with basic yes/no questions like “Do you want…”, then move on to questions like “Is this a ball? Are you a boy/girl? Eventually you can move on to more complex questions like “Does a cow bark?”
  • Use as many scenarios as you are able, throughout the day, to increase your child’s communicative interactions. This may encourage further speech development across multiple environments.

    Blog By: Rebekah Greer

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