Categories: ASD and DD, Child-focused
[This column was published in the Randolph Herald.]
It has long been established that there is a correlation between the number of words a child hears and his or her language abilities. Exposure to language is undoubtedly important. However, a recent study conducted by MIT cognitive scientists used brain imaging to specifically identify the value of turn taking – interactions that involve back-and-forth communication by both participants.
This study highlights the importance of a child’s participation in communication interactions as opposed to solely hearing words spoken to him or her. It showed that the areas of the brain involved in speech production and language development were more activated when the child took turns conversing with another person.
Turn taking is the foundation of conversation.
Gestures, vocalizations, and signs count as turns. Children who are minimally verbal – who communicate in gestures, vocalizations, Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) tools, or eye contact – as well as preverbal children can all take turns when they are communicating. The important component is the act of going back and forth. Here’s an example:
You can encourage turn taking by:
Parents and caregivers can encourage turn taking by tuning in and responding to their child’s interests and providing them with ample opportunity to communicate.
By Paul Simeone, MA, CCC-SLP
May Institute is a nonprofit organization that is a national leader in the field of applied behavior analysis, serving individuals with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities, brain injury and neurobehavioral disorders, and other special needs. Founded 65 years ago, we provide a wide range of exceptional educational and rehabilitative services across the lifespan. For more information, call 800.778.7601 or visit www.mayinstitute.org.