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Using Positive Reinforcement to Encourage Language

October 08, 2018 by Kinetic Kids, Inc.

Using Positive Reinforcement to Encourage Language  [Pediatric Speech Therapy]


Language is a behavior. Just like with any other type of behavior, people are more likely to use language consistently when they are receiving their desired feedback. Therefore, to encourage children to use functional and desired language skills, it is beneficial for parents to use positive reinforcement along the way. Every child is unique and will respond to different types of positive reinforcement differently. Here a few types of positive reinforcement that you can try with your child when they use language!

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Here are some other related blog articles that we here at Kinetic Kids have created that may be of interest to you:

How to Encourage Positive Reinforcement Through Language

  • Grant their requests. If your child requests reasonable objects or activities (more juice, their favorite toy, playing outside, etc.) in an appropriate way, such as using their words or a sign, reinforce their language use by responding to their requests quickly. Your child will learn that using language is a much quicker, more effective way of getting desired objects than screaming and crying.
  • For very special desired objects and activities (such as a new toy, new game, or favorite dessert), allow your child to earn these privileges when they use language consistently. Earning larger reinforcements would not only improve your child’s language development, but it will give them a sense of accomplishment! 
  • Use stickers. Stickers are a simple and inexpensive way to reinforce language, and most children enjoy receiving them. Keep stickers that your child enjoys handy (superheroes, animals, princesses, etc.) and let them choose one when they use language appropriately.
  • For quick positive reinforcement, remember to cheer and praise your child when he or she uses functional language. Your happy and proud energy be contagious for your child, which will encourage even more functional language. Use dancing, clapping, and high-fives as ways to cheer your child on as language skills grow! 

Interested in how to encourage language?

Use the element of Surprise!

Nothing is more rewarding than seeing a quiet, hard-working but rather disinterested child suddenly come to life with exclamations of excitement, laughter and delight. The surprises do need to be varied and presented infrequently or they become, well, not very surprising. And some surprises might be startling or even scary for students, so you should closely monitor your child’s reactions. But the right balance  of surprise can be an extremely effective tool in fostering expressive language and meaningful connections with your student. Here are a few great ideas to elicit some great surprises:

  • Surprise idea #1: Motion sensor toys – We here at Kinetic Kids have had very good success with toys that come to life in song, dance moves or cascades of giggles. These toys can be found just about anywhere they sell toys.
  • Surprise Idea #2: Planned “accidents” – Accidents catch people off-guard and create instant reactions. I love hearing students express their surprise,  pleasure, or even worry as a train drives right off the track or crashes into another train. When a puzzle is “accidentally” knocked off the table onto the floor, I often hear complete sentences like, “Oh no, what happened? It’s okay, I’ll help you!”  We work together to remedy the problem, and their spontaneous language is reinforced in a very real-word situation.
  • Surprise Idea #3: Hidden objects – Find a bag and fill it with interesting objects, toys or theme accessories.  Be somewhat dramatic, creating an atmosphere of anticipation, mystery and eventual excitement/awe with a mere “something” hidden in a bag. Before the big reveal, encourage your child to guess what might be in the bag, accepting and reinforcing virtually any answer but also calling attention to the bag size and shape. Kids can reach in the bag and pull out  –whatever it is– which can be fun or even delightful to a curious child. Spontaneous language, as well as other targeted language concepts can be elicited as they react to what they have found. You can also hide objects buried in sand for students to discover as they dig,  use the computer or smartboard to reveal hide pictures that can be revealed with the click of a mouse or stylus. Hands-on, interactive activities like these create opportunities for spontaneous language that traditional flash card or picture stimuli do not.

Interested In More Speech Fun?


Download our UNO Articulation Game For /s/ & /z/ Sounds . . . for FREE!

This game is both a fun and engaging game for children who are learning to speak or for children who benefit from pediatric speech therapy services:

Download our UNO Articulation Game For /s/ & /z/ Sounds

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Topics: pediatric speech concerns

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