NLA Stage 1

Stage 1 is exciting! It’s the beginning of the NLA journey…so, regardless of where your child is now, regardless of how much you understand about the process, Stage 1 is where this language journey begins! So far, the language in your child’s head may be something like, “Fivelittlemonkeys jumpingonthebed…” all blurred together. Or “Tickle tickle!” Or “Where’d you go?” Language gestalts come from important lived experiences. They are the soundtrack of emotional experiences, and whenever you get to hear one — either when your child says/sings one or when they play a media one one again and again — know that your child’s first communicative intention is to relive that emotion — and share it! The best thing you can do is to be there so it will be shared!

That’s the most important thing you need to know about Stage 1! Everything else will take a little bit of time, but this foundational piece is what you really need to know to value gestalt language! So, ask yourself: have you spent plenty of time appreciating your child’s gestalts? Live with them now! Live with them in your head until they become a part of you. Think about why are they might be important to the child. Were you there when the child first heard them? Were the little monkeys having fun? Was it funny that momma monkey called the doctor? How does this feel to you? Can you live your child’s feeling?

And how does it feel to communicate back to your little Stage 1 processor? Can you smile or chuckle with authenticity? Or hum along? Did that make your child happy? Don’t worry if it didn’t. Our musical kids often like it better when we just appreciate their song silently! But here’s the prize. When we find the just-right reaction, what did you child do? Did your child look at you like, ‘Wow, you get it!” If so, congratulations! That’s the ‘buy in’ from your child that gives you permission to go to the next level. Trust began the process — appreciating your child’s choices, play, language, everything — truly appreciating and enjoying it all! With that ‘bingo’ eye contact, your child says, “You get me.”

So what’s next? Your little one may ready for you to start a new experience, share a new memory! Can you introduce a new song at just-the-right moment? Or accompany a new activity with a new bit of language your child might like? “Come on!” or “Let’s go to the top of the hill!” as you join your child and run together. Or “How ‘bout some ice cream?’ as you spoon some out for both of you. Or, “It’s blue! I love blue!” as your child picks the blue paint to try. Think of one you might try — when the time is right. First comes the right occasion, then comes the language that goes with it. And here’s the logic: that way, language is part of the experience, not something we introduce outside of experience, and then have to generalize! It’s the organic way, and it works for GLPs!

Whether the time is right now — or later when your child is ready — the reward is enormous. When it happens, your child will be listening to you! Choosing to listen to you! That’s an incredible gift for both of you, because you will be able to be an important source of language that your child can use to grow. With trust, you will be in a favored position to suggest language you think your child might want like. “I love that color!” “I love blue!” “What’s for dinner?” “What’s happening?” “Let’s look!” “Let’s cuddle up together!” You’ll plan activities and provide the sound-track! You’ll pick easy-to-mitigate language and help pave the way to Stage 2.

Please see the NLA Handout, and the Stage 1 Supports, for further suggestions!