10 Tips for Language Development

While all of my students have different struggles, they all need intensive teaching to develop language and language concepts. Here is a list of tips to help you support your students with language based disabilities.

1.) Give students a reason to communicate by sabotaging their environment. There are many ways to do this depending on what type of language or request you are trying to elicit. For example, if I want a student to work solely on requesting then I need to have something that the student wants. The only way to get it would be by asking for it. Want students to be able to ask a question? Give them a reason. For example, if I ask a student to put up the sunny weather card then all of the cards will be in the pile EXCEPT the sunny card. ~Pam  @ Mrs. P's Specialties

2.) For nonverbal students, it is all about repetition. "Even if we spend all day learning one new button on their AT device, or even if it takes days, that's okay because in the end it all comes down to make the child more independent!" ~Stephanie @Mrs. D's Corner

3.) Once students have basic requesting down, target adding in adjectives. Snack time is a great time to work on this skill if you have choices that have different attributes. For example, regular goldfish crackers (big) versus baby goldfish crackers (little). A student might want the blue cup rather than the green one, and so on. ~Pam @Mrs. P's Specialties

4.) Have parents email pictures from the night before or weekend. Then, during morning meeting you can display the pictures on white boards, Mimio, Active boards, etc. Seeing the picture helps elicit more language & descriptions of their night to help students with limited or no verbal communication. ~Alyssa @Simply Special Ed.

5.) Do lots of modeling, count the number of words in a sentence, have them repeat after you, have students add or change words, etc. ~Sebrina @Burke's Special Kids

6.) When teaching vocabulary, make sure to choose vocabulary that is relevant to the student's life. "I'm more concerned that he can identify and name his shoes & backpack (things he uses everyday) than a zebra and giraffe." ~Christine @Autism Classroom News

7.) "To encourage language in early learners, make sure it's fun! Use lots of modeling, repetitive phrases & songs with 1 or 2 words left out for the student to fill in. For example, when playing simple games with the student which require you to complete an action for the student, say "ready, set,...", pause and then the student says, "go!" ~Nicole @Adventures in the ATC

8.) Take pictures of what the student or class is doing. Have students talk about what is in the picture. For example, take pictures of the class at recess. The photos can be looked at on the iPad, printed out, etc. First, let students talk about what they want. Next, move on to asking wh- questions about what was going on in the photos. Bonus- have students sequence the pictures. At home, parents can do this as a scrapbook. ~Pam @Mrs. P's Specialties

9.) "When focusing on language exchanges, use knock knock jokes and communication scripts. This has been very effective for my nonverbal students." ~Traci @The Bender Bunch

10.) Always teach & incorporate initiation when teaching students to communicate. For example, if a student is sitting at his desk signing bathroom under his desk then no one will know he needs to go. If little Bobby is in his bedroom saying "Help!", but his mom is in the kitchen then help won't be coming. It is imparitive that students know to get someone's attention, how to go to someone who has what they need, etc. ~Pam @Mrs. P's Specialties


  1. Great ideas and tips! Initiation was something that for the longest time I didn't even think about, but is so vital to making communication functional!

    1. Thanks! Initiation needs to be more of a focus in special education and in therapies. Too often kiddos have great skills with no idea how to use them!

  2. You presented great tips for structuring your activities to encourage varied communication skills! So important!