As a parent you’ve noticed how your child will mimic many things you do- whether it’s hand gestures or phrases, your children are certain to learn the good, and the bad, things that you say or do. That’s why using imitation to teach speech is a great way to start your child’s language development. But it’s not just for verbal language, it can be used with sounds, actions, and facial expressions. Using imitation to teach speech is something that parents, and therapists, do daily with their child and it is extremely beneficial to children to help them learn to speak.
Why We Use Imitation
Imitation is a strategy used to help develop a child’s receptive language. Receptive language is what we hear and how we interpret that information. Imitation is a communication technique that includes sounds, actions, and facial expressions and is crucial for young children before they start to really speak. Imitation helps children to mimic verbal language, which is a step to further their language development. When used correctly, it will show children how words connect to actions and behaviors which helps children learn to associate specific tasks with words. For example, child will often imitate their parents picking up a phone while saying “hello”. It can also help children to develop cognitive, language, and social skills.
Imitation can start being seen as early as 8 months of age when a child will imitate hand gestures like clapping their hands. Around 18 months of age children will begin imitating simple actions they see people doing such as using a toy broom to sweep like they have seen their parent do. When a child is around 36 months of age, they will start to reenact bigger things they have seen such as making a meal in their play kitchen. Imitation can be taught to kids in a variety of different ways:
-Gross Motor Imitation: Clapping hands or touching
-Play Imitation: Driving a toy car or pretending to eat/drink
-Sound Imitation: Imitating sounds during play (animal sounds or car sounds)
Working on Imitation
Imitation is a skill that can be worked on in therapy, as well as at home. Some ways to practice imitation at home is to first sit face to face with your child and maintain eye contact. We all know the trick of holding an interesting/fun object by us to keep their gaze! Once you have their attention it will be easier to get them to follow along with what you are doing. A great trick is to imitate your child as well. Try imitating the things that they do so that they understand what you are doing: laugh with them, copy their facial expressions, or clap your hands with them. From there you can try making animal sounds and encouraging your child to do them after you. Another fun way to teach imitation is by singing small songs to them like ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ until they learn the words and can hum or sing along. When working on imitation at home, or even in therapy, it can be helpful to use positive reinforcers with your child to reward them when they correctly imitate you. You can use things like small toys or objects that you know they like!
Speech Therapy at PediaPlex
Imitation is an important skill for children to learn to help develop their language. But it’s not the only thing that we can help with in speech therapy. During speech therapy we can also help children with articulation, stuttering, pragmatics, social skills, and even feeding therapy. When starting speech therapy services at PediaPlex we will begin with an evaluation to determine your child’s needs. This will help us build a plan of care to help your child reach their goals. After each session we will briefly tell you about your child’s session and send you with things to work on at home. Continuing to work on speech skills at home will help your child to develop their speech skills.
PediaPlex is a pediatric therapy center in the Dallas/Fort Worth area offering ABA therapy, speech therapy, feeding therapy, and occupational therapy. We have locations in Southlake, Fort Worth, and Frisco. If you think that your child could benefit from pediatric therapy, visit our website today to learn more about our services and fill out an intake form!
-The PediaPlex Family