Use Modeling to Improve a Child’s Speech & Language Skills

Use Modeling to Improve a Child’s Speech & Language Skills

Modeling is one of the most simple tools you can use to help improve your child’s speech and language skills.

According to Merriam-Webster, modeling is defined as “an example for imitation or emulation.”

When viewed through the lens of a therapist, we focus on our actions and how they benefit the child. Specifically, as a speech-language pathologist, I strive to model the skills that my clients are working on, such as pronouns, verbs, production of speech sounds and more. Hearing these concepts being produced correctly provides them with feedback in functional situations.

4 Types Of Modeling

Recasting is repeating a child’s utterance into a more complete, phonologically, grammatically, and semantically appropriate word, phrase, or sentence. (Fey, Krulik, Loeb, & Proctor-Williams, 1999.) Doing so provides the child with an example of how to correctly convey their idea using additional language and correcting their errors.

If you have a preschooler who tells you everyday that her brother took her goldfish by saying, “Him took my fishys!” You can take this recurring opportunity to model, “Yes he did, he took your goldfish.” By responding to her sentence using the correct pronoun “he,” she is able to learn from the model you provided.

Let’s consider another scenario – your child is having difficulty producing the “th” speech sound correctly. You often hear him say, “It’s time to take my baf!” In response, you can say, “You’re right, it is time to take your bath. Let’s go to the bathroom and you can take your bath!” By modeling the correct production of speech sounds, along with him watching you say the word, your child will receive visual and auditory feedback supports.

The second type of modeling is self-talk. Simply put, talk about what you are doing, seeing, feeling and thinking. By narrating your actions and experiences, you are showing the correct way to talk about these things. For example, if you are preparing a snack, you can say, “This big red apple looks so yummy! I am going to cut up the apple. Cut! Cut! Cut! This apple is juicy and ready to eat!”

By simply commenting on what you are doing, you are providing rich language content for your child to observe.

Parallel-talk is the narration of what your child is doing. Similar to self-talk, in parallel-talk you are describing your child’s actions as they go about their day.

For example, if your child is showing off their artwork, you might say, “Yes, I see the picture you painted. You painted that picture with beautiful colors.” This example further describes the picture with focus on the concept of past tense (-ed) verbs.

Focused Stimulation
Focused stimulation should be provided in a natural environment while creating meaningful opportunities for integration of a concept (vocabulary, grammar, etc.). You should not be looking for your child to imitate you; rather, these moments are created to encourage spontaneous responses.

If you want to work on the concept of prepositions, you can do so with pretty much any toys around the house. For example, if you have a barn and a few animals, you can target prepositions while playing: “Look, the pig is in the barn. The sheep is next to the cow! The horse is hiding behind the barn.”

Our everyday lives are rich in opportunities to model. Whether you are expanding on their sentences, or narrating your actions or the actions of your child, you are doing something great for them by creating additional opportunities for learning. Make it fun, when possible, and keep it functional!

By Katie George, a speech therapist at LLA Therapy, which offers speech-language, physical, occupational, behavioral, and music therapy at its clinics in Fairlawn, Hudson and Medina. LLA is committed to guiding all individuals toward quality therapy solutions to improve the lives of their patients and their families in a collaborative, nurturing and supportive atmosphere. For more information, visit

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