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Why and How to use Communication Temptations to Support Early Language Skills

Communication Temptations are a great strategy to use to support early language skills. It is one of the main strategies that I coach parents/caregivers to use to support their child’s language skills.  This post explains why and how you can use communication temptations in your parent-coaching/early intervention sessions too.

What are Communication Temptations?

  • Communication Temptations is a strategy where you structure or manipulate the environment in such a way that the child has to use spontaneous communication with another person, in order to get a desired item/result. For example, putting the child’s favourite toys inside a clear, hard-to-open box, so they have to request help opening it, so they can get their toys. Or, giving them a snack, but not opening the packet, etc.
  • Communication Temptations can be used in almost any situation (in play and daily routines).
  • May also be called ‘Sabotage’ or ‘Staging’. I personally prefer the term ‘Communication Temptations’ as I have found some (not all) parents/caregivers can misunderstand the purpose/meaning behind the term sabotage.
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Why are Communication Temptations Useful for Early Language Skills?

  • Communication Temptations provide the child with both a reason and an opportunity to communicate with another person.
  • They provide an opportunity for the child to initiate communication/interaction in some form. This is particularly helpful for young children who have difficulty using language to request and make their needs known.
  • If the child already consistently initiates interactions, the communication temptations provide opportunities for the child to practice new vocabulary, combine words, etc.

How to use Communication Temptations to Support Early Language Skills in your Parent-Coaching Sessions:

During your parent-coaching early intervention sessions, you will want to coach parents/caregivers to use a few different options for communication temptations. The communication temptations should fit in with their family routine and set-up. Observe the parent/caregiver and child in a play activity or daily routine first.  Look for opportunities where they could use communication temptations to encourage more communication from the child. Initially, they may want to start with just one or two communication temptations during the day. Encourage them to gradually build this up, so they are using a wide range throughout their day.

Here are a few examples:

  • Use toys that are hard to operate, such as wind-up toys.
  • Put desired items (toys, snacks, etc.) in view, but out of reach.
  • Put toys inside a clear, hard-to-open box, (such as a box with clip-locks on the lid, or a screw top).

Daily Routines:

  • At snack time, start eating the child’s snack in front of them.
  • Give the child their snack, but “forget” to open the packet.
  • Give the child their breakfast, but “forget” to give them a spoon.

Top Tips for Using Communication Temptations to Support Early Language Skills:

  • Think about what motivates the child; what are the “desirable items” or things you can use that will encourage them to initiate communication?
  • Reflect on the skills the child already has, and what they are working towards. Consider how the communication temptation you use will help toward this goal.
  • Consider how the child communicates, and their current level of communication.
  • Remember to model the target/goal, so the child knows what is expected.
  • Always respond to the child’s attempts at communication. Model the target word/sign/gesture, etc. But don’t insist that they use it.
  • Communicating should be a positive experience for the child, so if they become distressed when caregivers use this strategy, choose a different one. There are plenty of other language facilitation strategies to choose from!

Need More Ideas for Using Communication Temptations in Your Early Intervention Sessions?

Never struggle to think of an idea again! My Early Intervention Handbook for Speech Therapists contains hundreds of ideas for different communication temptations you can coach caregivers to use in play activities and daily routines.  There are also ideas for using a total of 24 language strategies, with 30 play activities and 21 daily routines. The EI Handbook also includes an overview of the latest evidence related to parent-coaching. As well as information and evidence-based therapy ideas for a wide range of EI topics.  You can check it out in my TpT store here.

If you want more handouts you can share with parents/caregivers after your coaching sessions, check out these Early Language Handouts for Play (also available in Spanish), and the Early Language Handouts for Daily Routine resources I have in my store too.

Finally, you can join my email newsletter and get instant access to a free handout all about communication temptations which is perfect for sharing with caregivers.