Late Talker - Modeling/Tracking First Words

When working with a late talker, modeling words at home and during therapy sessions is a must! We know this. 

This comes natural to speech pathologists (after years of education) but not necessarily parents. To help parents work with late talkers, I created 50 handouts for common first words and more!

My child was a late talker and my speech therapy came in handy! I was able to raise my son and effortlessly weave in all my late talker strategies throughout the day. 

It was shockingly obvious that my genius husband did not go to graduate school for communication disorders as I observed their interactions. I realized in that moment that working with late talkers isn't as obvious or as natural for non-speech pathologists, duh!

I needed to be direct with him on what to do (I even wrote post-its!)

This experience taught me that we MUST be direct and clear with parents!!

Language Modeling

First things first, what is language modeling? I am always telling parents to "model words" throughout the day. However, what does that really mean?

Language modeling is when you present a word in a direct, meaningful way to a child during functional tasks. 

Let's break that down a bit more!

  1. Say one word during a task (i.e., ball)
  2. Say the word only when you have a child's attention
  3. If possible, bring the object your are talking about (i.e., ball) near your mouth so the child can see HOW to say the word
  4. After modeling the word, PAUSE (for 3-5 seconds) to let the learning take place and to see if the child will repeat the word.

That's it! We all know that it is a bit more complicated than that but that is the start. 


Know not what to do is an important as knowing what to do!

Make sure you don't:

  • quiz
  • drill words
  • talk in long phrases
  • say words out of context

Context is Key

Knowing how to model words instead of simply saying or quizzing them is a start. However, you must model words into daily, functional tasks. 

Children at this age, or any age for that matter, learn best when words are presented and practiced in meaningful ways. For late talkers, this means practicing words during play and daily tasks.

Guiding Parents on The Right Words & Context

I discovered how little background knowledge non-speech pathologists have in this area when I was working with my son during his toddler years. 

Many times we tell parents to practice words (we might even give them a list) during daily tasks and send them on their way.

However, they might not know HOW to do that. To remedy this I made a mega packet parents and for speech pathologists to share with their clients.

The handouts below are ways that I help parents track PROGRESS and make sure they model a VARIETY of words. If we only teach nouns, communication will be limited and 2-word phrases will be quite difficult!

To Wrap It Up:

  1. Review of Language Modeling: Handout on how to do language modeling, why it is important, and what not to do! Everything is written in a "parent-friendly" manner.
  2. Review of Common First Words: A handout of common first words divided by use (noun, verb, adjective, social) is provided. Parents can track progress and/or get ideas for words to try.
  3. Emphasizes the Importance of Learning a Variety of Words: Children must learn a variety of words including nouns, verbs, and adjectives in order move to 2 word phrases.
  4. Progress Tracking Sheets: A variety of handouts for tracking words is provided!
  5. 50 Common First Word Handouts: These 50 handouts explicitly explain how to practice a single word across playtime and common daily routines. They provide practical advice and signs (when applicable).

P.S. If you would like to access all the parent handouts and 2,000+ materials., you can join the membership here.

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