As a novice speech-language pathologist, I used to think there was really nothing I could do to spark speech in a non-verbal child. I was wrong. Research shows that alternative augmentative communication, such as sign language, promotes VOCAL language. In addition, a procedure known as stimulus-stimulus pairing may also prompt talking.
Stimulus-stimulus pairing is essentially the association of two different stimuli. For our purposes, one stimulus is always speech. It may be just a sound, like “ahhh,” or it could be a word, such as “apple.” The other stimulus is an item or activity that is highly preferred by the child. An example may be Thomas the Train or jumping on a trampoline. The goal in this procedure is to associate the two stimuli so that in the context of a child’s favorite item or activity, the child produces the sound or word you’re deliberately associating with it.
An Effective Procedure for All Children
This is why it’s important to envelop all young children with spoken language and narrate your actions and their actions throughout the day. Even for typically developing children, it’s an effective procedure to aid in the development of speech and language that most parents do instinctively. In late talkers and nonverbal children with developmental disabilities, the science behind the procedure can be harnessed in a more focused, tactical manner to jump start spoken language.
Watch the video below for more information about stimulus-stimulus pairing and how the procedure is implemented at Access Behavior Analysis to trigger the production of vocal language.