Many people think that communication = language or speech. But in fact, communication has much more than language! Our interaction with the world is full of non-verbal communication. We use our eye contact, facial expressions, body postures and body gestures (sometimes also called gestures) to make clear to the environment what we want, think and feel. Studies show that strengthening children’s non-verbal communication also encourages the development of their verbal and social abilities in the long term. When it comes to encouraging non-verbal communication, there’s a whole world. Today we will talk about giving an object in order to request help, and how we can encourage our children to do so.
So, what do we want to teach? We want to teach our children to give us an object in order to ask for our help, while they make eye contact.
Take something your child likes. Put it in a clear jar or box and close it tightly (so he can’t open it without you).
Sit in front of your child, give him the jar and wait until he gives it to you in order to ask for help. If a long time has passed, and your child has not yet given you the jar, help him ask:
A. Reach out and bring it closer to him (this serves as a hint that he can ask for your help).
B. If that doesn’t work either, take his hand (which holds the object) and help him physically to perform the action of giving the box / jar.
Once your child has handed you the jar / box, reinforce him immediately! Open the jar / box and let him enjoy what was inside. Then, take something else your child likes and do it again.
Step 4 – Establish the skill
Practice these three steps until your child gives you the jar to ask for your help spontaneously, and without you helping him at all. Let it establish and do not rush to the next step if it is more challenging for your child. Once he has acquired this skill, proceed to the next step – attaching eye contact to the gesture.
Step 5- Adding the eye contact
Now that your child is giving you the jar in order to ask for help, do not open it yet! This time you have to wait for him to look at you too. If time passes and he doesn’t do it, help him: you can bring your head closer to the jar / box you hold. Your child is probably looking at the jar / box at this point, and if you enter his visual field he may make eye contact by chance. From the moment it happens – open the jar and reinforce him immediately! Even if the eye contact is quick and short at first, it is great. In time, your child will learn to combine the giving of the object and the gaze spontaneously and without you helping him at all.
Today we focused on non-verbal communication, but on this basis, your child can certainly be taught to ask for help through language as well. More about using the language for help, non-verbal communication, eye contact and shared attention in the following posts! See you soon.