Defining Receptive Language

Children’s receptive language (ability to understand language) typically develops before expressive language (ability to use language to express wants/needs). For example, by 18 months, typically developing children understand approximately 200 words (receptive language), and produce approximately 50 words (expressive language). Receptive language is important because it helps children understand what is happening around them and in learning to identify desired objects/actions in their environment. Playing, talking, and reading books to your child will certainly help increase your child’s receptive language. There are more specific strategies that a speech-language pathologist might use during language therapy to focus on improving your child’s receptive language. Some of these are listed below!

  1. Hold objects/pictures in your child’s field of view and verbally label each one so that he/she can learn to associate a verbal word with a real object/picture.
  2. Model how to point to objects so your child can observe how to identify objects using hand and finger movements. If necessary, you can help your child by guiding his/her hand to an object (hand-over-hand movements).
  3. Present 2 or more objects/pictures (apple, train) to your child and ask him/her to show you one (“Show me apple”). Encourage your child to grab or point to the named object. You can also use this as an opportunity to allow your child to indicate his/her wants or needs by asking, “What do you want?” and encouraging him/her to point to it. Immediately give your child the object that he/she chose to teach him/her that his/her actions can bring about a change and get him/her want he/she wants (cause and effect).   
  4. Use errorless teaching to limit frustration and increase your child’s success when you ask him/her to identify objects. Errorless teaching means you give your child as many cues as he/she needs to be successful and not make any errors. For example, while completing a puzzle with your child, hold up two objects (truck, car), and say, “Show me truck.” If your child starts to reach for the car, move the car out of his/her reach, so that he/she reaches for the truck and therefore successfully identifies the correct object. Praise your child for choosing the correct puzzle piece and immediately give that piece to him/her as an award. From here you can increase the complexity as their ability increases in order to attain their specific goals.
  5. Ask your child to find things in your home. For example, you can ask them to find a specific food on his/her plate or in the refrigerator. You can also ask your child to find their body parts, clothing items, toys, or other household objects. 

Try implementing some of these strategies into your daily routines to help your child learn new words. Learning really can be fun! Good luck!

-Andria Burris, M.S. CF-SLP

**If you have any concerns with your child’s speech, language, hearing and/or feeding development, please contact Curlee Communication Consultants at (865) 693-5622. We have a team of experienced speech-language pathologists that would love to meet with you and discuss options for your child. **