Parent Tip: Encouraging Speech with Parallel Talk and Self Talk

As the saying goes, ‘Children are like sponges,’ this is because they tend to absorb and mimic just about everything that their parents say or do. This is a great analogy for how important it is for us to talk to our children, to help them learn to speak. This is especially true if your child is a late talker, has a developmental delay or is in speech therapy. 

Before he turned 5, my son was pre-verbal. One of the first things that I learned from my son’s speech therapist was how to use Parallel Talk and Self-Talk. Both are beneficial language-stimulation strategies for parents to engage in, as they strengthen language-rich environments, support vocabulary development, and support relationship building between parent and child.

Let’s take a look at how these strategies can benefit emergent communicators and some tips on how to do them at home.

What is Parallel Talk? 

In Parallel Talk, parents use child-friendly language to narrate or describe their child’s actions, thoughts or feelings as they are happening.

Example of Parallel Talk

When your child is playing with toys, you could say: “Oh, Arif is stacking the yellow block on top of the red block!”

“Wow, the tower is getting taller!”

“Now Arif is putting the blue block on the top!!”

“Arif is pushing the train on the tracks.”

“Yay! Arif found the right puzzle piece!”

Tips: Autistic children often struggle with the pronouns ‘I’ and ‘you.’ To avoid confusion, I tend to start by using names e.g., ‘Arif is…’ and ‘Mummy is…’

Give your child opportunities to initiate and lead conversations. You can also ask open-ended questions or engage in reciprocal dialogue to offer your child a well-rounded language development experience.


What is Self Talk?

In Self Talk, parents use child-friendly language to narrate or describe what they are seeing, doing, hearing or feeling etc., when their child is nearby. 

Example of Self Talk

When you’re making cookies and your child is nearby, you could say:

“Mummy is making cookies.” 

“Mummy is putting flour in the mixing bowl.”

“Mummy is adding more sugar to the mixing bowl.”

“Mummy is going to mix the batter well.”

“The cookie mix smells delicious.”Tips: Speak slowly and clearly. Use simple words or phrases that you know your child can understand. There should not be any expectation for your child to pay attention to or respond to you.

Benefits of Parallel Talk & Self Talk

This article was reviewed by Stacey Shah, The Energy Source’s Principal Speech and Language Therapist.

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