Strategies to Build and Generalize Language Skills

Strategies to Build and Generalize Language Skills

Do you have a child who is in speech and/or ABA therapy? They have fun during the sessions, and you are so happy with all of the progress that the therapist reports, but when you try to work with your child at home, they are not able to label nouns or actions like they do in therapy. How frustrating! When this happens, we need to analyze why the skill is not generalizing to the home or natural environment.

In order to provide systematic language instruction to students with autism and other complex communication needs, we need to make sure that we are exposing them to multiple examples of the language targets that we are teaching. We want to make sure that we aren’t just showing students one static picture each time we work on a labeling task. If we only present this one picture, chances are the student will not generalize this skill to other pictured examples or to seeing the item or action in a less structured setting.

Let’s say that your child is working on expressively labeling the action of washing. Instead of showing them one picture of washing, you should teach the language more systematically by presenting the child with several examples of the word “washing.” This may include washing hands, washing hair, and washing dishes. It is important to point out when we are completing these tasks in the home environment as well.

When we embed language instruction throughout a student’s day and present them with a variety of examples of the targeted language concept, we are planning for generalization. We want our students to be able to generalize the language targets they are working on at school or in therapy into more natural speaking situations. Following this simple tip is a great first step to helping your child expand their overall language skills.

Rosemarie Griffin is a speech language pathologist, board certified behavior analyst and product developer. She is the creator of the Action Builder Cards. The action builder cards can be purchased at Different Roads to Learning. To learn more about working with students with challenging behavior or to gather information about using applied behavior analysis to help students increase their communication skills, check out her website or like her Facebook page here: ABA SPEECH ON FACEBOOK