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Why You SHOULDN’T Say “Use Your Words”

Jan 15, 2022 Speech Blubs presents the second of a three-part video series with Kacy Wickerson CCC-SLP@TeachSpeech LLC on helping parents understand communication development.

Speech Therapy Activities for Toddlers at Home

Kacy Wickerson is an ASHA Certified Speech-Language Pathologist. She helps parents and caregivers grow their child’s communication skills and confidence in the classroom. She has also helped hundreds of parents understand communication development, why it is important, and how they can take an active role in growing their child’s communication skills at home. Speech Blubs thinks she makes the perfect partner in providing speech therapy at home.

Why You Shouldn’t Say “Use Your Words”

Today’s video episode explores improving communication when a child struggles to speak. Often, (not just speech delayed) children get frustrated and act out. They do something physical because they have trouble finding and saying the proper words in real-time. In the past, those children have been told to “use your words” as a reminder to stay in the moment, take the time to think about what’s frustrating and use words to express their feelings in a non-physical way. Kacy believes that saying “use your words” is “not always the most effective way to get them to communicate.” 

This Phrase Doesn’t Always Work

Kacy goes on to break down two reasons why using this phrase doesn’t always work, and what you can do to elicit speech instead. She asks, “In what situations do you find yourself saying, “Use your words” the most? I typically hear it being used in three types of situations: 1) In times of tantrum; 2) In times of request; and 3) In times of frustration.” However, she says that “We tend to tell our kids to use their words when they’re flustered, and for some of our kids who already have speech difficulties, this can be a really unfair “ask.”

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Part of learning to communicate is learning to deal with the social situation in which the child is trying to communicate. This is almost always stressful. Kacy says that stress is different for children who already have a speech delay. “They have a smaller or limited vocabulary, so saying . . . “use your words” can be a vague direction.” 

Our children haven’t fully developed emotional intelligence yet, so Kacy says: “1. We must model the words we want to hear used. Keep it relatively simple and say something like, “Oh, you’re feeling sad.””

Kacy goes on to explain that “The idea is to start to get them to internalize that we use words to express our feelings. We use words to solve the problem.”

The second solution is to “teach them how to use the words you’re modeling, and have them imitate.”

The Speech Blubs 2 App

Speech Blubs 2 provides targeted activities that encourage children to take chances in order to become confident speakers. Kacy also advocates that “When a situation occurs, don’t just step in and solve the problem, make your child a part of the discussion that helps with the problem-solving.”

She says it is important for two reasons: “1. They’re learning the words, they’re using the words, they’re practicing the words that you are modeling; and 2. Self-advocacy skills . . . As they grow up, you are not going to always be there. So you definitely want to make sure your child is armed with the communication skills that they need in order to express their basic wants and needs.”

Stay tuned for part three of this video series with Kacy, when she gives even more insightful strategies for helping children communicate. Thank you, Kacy!

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The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not necessarily reflect the views of Blub Blub Inc. All content provided on this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgement, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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