My child speaks in ‘gobbledygoop’!

Does your young child ‘sound’ as though he or she is telling you a long story and yet you can’t understand a word of it?

Perhaps your child uses amazing facial expressions and gestures to help communicate his or her message but you can only make out a word here or there.

This can be a pretty frustrating situations for parents, early childhood educators and children who have lots to say but insufficient vocabulary, speech sounds and motor skills to do so.

“Where do I start?” is a common question we are asked by parents and educators alike when I child is experiencing this type of communication difficulty.

Start by Acknowledging the Child’s Communication

This can be as simple as saying ‘yeah?’ ‘that’s right’ ‘uh huh’ and then repeating back what the child has said…even if that means that you also repeat the gobbledygoop.

Where possible, listen out carefully for any parts of the jargon that might sound like a single word.  Often these are louder or clearer than the rest of the message. This can sometimes give you a clue about what the child is trying to communicate.

Be a detective.  What has your child been watching or doing?  Context and shared experience can often give us clues about what a child might be telling us.

Listen closely for clues in the child’s use of intonation.

How is the child using gestures and facial expressions.  Do these give you any clues regarding the message that he or she is trying to relay?

Why do some children use gobbledygoop instead of words to communicate?

Some children just go through this stage on their way to developing intelligible strings of words.

Others are trying to communicate more than their ‘young’ motor systems can cope with in terms of motor coordination for the articulators.

Some children are what we refer to as Gestalt Language Learners.  They tend to learn larger chunks of language, tunes and repetitive sayings quicker than they do single words.

Other children are late talkers.  By the age of 2 years, they are yet to start combining words into clear, telegrammatic phrases.

Help your child by acknowledging their attempts to communicate and then modelling simple, repetitive ‘scripts’ that they can eventually learn to use on their own.  Keep your language simple, ‘tuneful’ and repetitive.  Don’t insist upon your child imitating you.  Simply use these scripts as conversational commentary as you interact with your child.  For example, your child rushes up to you and provides a string of gobbledygoop.  Using your detective work, you make a smart guess that this is in some way related to what just happened to the tower of blocks your child was building.  You can say “Look over there!  Oh no….Blocks fall down….Oh no….Build it up…Mummy help?”

By tuning into your child and first connecting by acknowledging any attempt to communicate, you will set the foundations for your child to absorb what you say next.

More information about the Gestalt Language Learning which is common in many of the children we work with at Learn2Communicate, read […]


Kicking Goals in Early Childhood Communication

So now you have profiled a child’s communicative strengths and challenges

and have some ideas brewing for where you would like to start.

Things can get pretty overwhelming at this stage so here a few helpful suggestions for communication goals that can be targeted in early childhood settings during natural routines and play:

“What will make the most difference to this child’s life?”

When looking at your profile of communication strengths and challenges, this is a vital question to ask as you sit back and reflect upon where to start.

SPEECH:  What speech sound difficulties are those that are most impacting intelligibility and clarity for this child?  These might be good sounds to start working on if developmentally appropriate.

RECEPTIVE LANGUAGE:  At what times of the day does the child’s difficulties with understanding language most impact his or her capacity to engage with activities, routines and play?  Perhaps it is when needing to follow instructions during transition times.  Maybe it is when required to listen and respond during story time on the mat or when responding to questions for early morning circle time.

EXPRESSIVE LANGUAGE:  Are there situations where communication breaks down because a child is unable to effectively convey his or her ideas using words or short sentences?  Does this ever result in frustration for you or for the child?

SOCIAL COMMUNICATION:  Have you noticed particular patterns of challenge related to the child’s difficulties in understanding and using the many unwritten rules of social interaction and play.  Perhaps the child is struggling to understand the concept of turns or does not seem to comprehend when his or her actions have upset a playmate.  Maybe the child’s ability to play has stalled and the child is yet to play with a variety of items in a reciprocal and imaginative manner.  This may be restricting their ability to positive engage with peers.

Take Small Steps to Achieve Communication Goals

As I have often said…my advice is that less is more.  Choose no more than 3 small things to start working towards the child achieving in your early childhood setting.  Choose goals that are important, that have meaning to the child, are developmentally appropriate and that will make a significant difference for your child.

Keep goals small, really specific and achievable to target in natural early childhood routines.

Achieving these small goals helps the child to inch towards achieving those big, longer term goals whilst being motivated by small wins and success along the way.

Some examples might include:

XX will understand and follow 2 step instructions during lunch time e.g. “Get you lunch box…..and get your hat”.

Remember to also note the supports that you are going to infuse into these goals to set the child up for success.  In the above example it might be that you will call the child’s name first, get down to their level, place yourself face to face with the child when giving the instruction and slow your speech down.  You might also include gestures such as pointing and pictures of the items that the […]


A Lazy Talker?

We hear this so often in our work as Speech Pathologists; a comment often made or question posed by parents or educators about children who have speech, language and communication challenges.

Yes, children may have delays in their development.

They may have specific challenges in areas of communication.  They may have speech sound disorders which result in them being difficult to understand.  They may not talk much at all.

None of these scenarios suggest to me, however,  that a child is choosing to be lazy.  In fact, quite the opposite.

Using clear, spoken language is the most efficient and effective way for us to communicate with others.

Not using clear, easily understood spoken  language creates far more ‘work’ for a child than does using words.  Think about it for a moment as we put ourselves in a little child’s shoes.  If you were limited to pointing and grunting / whining to communicate your needs to another human….imagine the scope for misinterpretation and the limited range of methods you would have access to in order to then clarify your message.  Incredibly frustrating, right!?  If you were learning how to say a new sound and could finally say that new sound correctly in words AFTER your parent WHEN your parent was using lots of gesture and support (phew, that took lots of work) …it would take lots and lots of practice before you could use that new sound in words and sentences during everyday conversation when that adult support was not readily available.  Imagine for a moment that I requested you to say all of the words you currently use that start with a /b/ sound and to change these to starting with a /f/ sound.  I want you to do this at all times, with all people in all situations.  You can say a /f/ sound right?  Okay, so what is the problem?  Are you being lazy?  Hmmmmm…..

In each of these scenarios,

laziness is simply just not a factor when we really boil it down and look at what is going on for a child.  Learning to use speech and language happens gradually and when children experience hiccups in their development for whatever the reason may be (yes, a topic for another blogpost), we do them a disservice if we describe those challenges as arising due to a child being lazy.  Would we describe a child learning a new skill such as how to ride a tricycle but stumbling along the way  to achieving this goal as ‘lazy’?  No, we would see this for what it is…a child learning a new complex motor skills and needing lots and lots of practice until this skill becomes automatic.  Learning to talk and to communicate takes practice. Young children are still learning.

Yes, all of us can be lazy from time to time and display this in our mood and behaviour but rarely is it a cause or even a factor when working with children who have genuine challenges with speech, language and/or communication skills.

So, what can […]


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