Supports: Stage 1

First do this!

1. Review the NLA Stages; know where Stage 1 gestalts fit in; be ready to listen for them!

2. Listen for gestalts your child already has (or accesses). They are language, real language! Take note of:

  • video clips they rewind
  • songs they love to hear
  • stories/rhymes/jingles they listen to over and over
  • stories/rhymes/jingles they say over and over, even if you don’t understand the words (this might sound like ‘jargon,’ but it’s actually gestalt language
  • things they love to hear the same way each time
  • melodies or intonation they love to hear
  • melodies or intonation they love to sing/say

3. Acknowledge your child’s gestalts:

  • sing them back if you can (your child may not want you to, though, if they have perfect pitch and you don’t!)
  • repeat back what your child says, even if you only understand a little, or just part of the intonation or melody
  • smile with recognition that your child is communicating!
  • watch for a sign from your child that your interpretation is on the right track (the sign could a look, a smile, a glance in your direction — maybe even eye contact)
  • don’t worry if you don’t get a sign yet; it may take time; but once you do, your child will trust that you are a good listener/observor, and will want to share more with you
  • celebrate your connection! It is the most important step in this process!

4. Narrate your day with your child.

  • Talk about what you’re doing and thinking. Practice by yourself first, so you can sound natural when your child is present. 
  • Get used to saying things in ‘kid-friendly’ sentences that are animated, and sound distinctive. They are part of your child’s experience. Make them count!

For young toddlers use just a few gestalts at fun, high emotion times. Use intonation and melody your child will like:

  • That was fun!
    • I love that!
    • Look at that!
    • I’ll race you!
    • Let’s go!
    • It’s wet!

            For older toddlers and children, think about using a little more variety. But if variety doesn’t seem to resonate, drop back to the simpler gestalts. Always pick your gestalts with your child in mind:

            • ‘I’m thinking…snack time!’ 
            • ‘I’m gonna get…chocolate!’ 
            • ‘How about mac-and-cheese?’ 
            • ‘We love…ice cream’ 
            • ‘It’s a party!’
            • ‘What a cute kitty!’
            • Reflect on what you’ve accomplished. Write down your gestalts and post them on the fridge for others to use too. Write down your child’s reactions. Enjoy the process!

            Then do this!

            1. Congratulate yourself, because you’re now modeling language for your gestalt language processor! Your language will be useful to your child because it’s real language, and your comments match meaningful situations. Your child can benefit from what you say, because you’re ‘speaking their language.’ You are supporting them to hear your comments, and continue language development!

            2. Model language 50% of the time .The rest of the time, just talk naturally. Your child also needs you to just be yourself!

            3.  Make your language models count. Practice some easy, short sentences, ones that will give your child a good foundation for language development, then try one or more with your child. If one doesn’t resonate, try another: 

            • Let’s +
            • I’m +
            • We’re + 
            • It’s +
            • What’s +
            • Look at +
            • How about +
            • Where’s + 
            • Don’t +

            4.  Pick statements your child can use (from their perspective, your joint perspective, or a neutral perspective):

            • Use ‘I’ statements to talk about what you’re doing: ‘I’m thinking about dinner.’ (avoiding pronoun ‘reversals’ that way)
            • Comment from your joint perspective: ‘We’re having spaghetti.’
            • Suggest fun ideas from a joint perspective with ‘Let’s +’ (‘Let’s go to the park!’) Your child can either store your gestalt if it fits, or show you that it doesn’t. (this offers you a way to gather information without asking a question)
            • Speak from a neutral perspective: ‘It’s time to eat!’

            5. Protect your child from well-intended, but misguided language practices that are commonly used with analytic language processors (ALPs) — especially those that come with compliance, rewards, or any form of ABA. No single- word training; no questions; no prompting; no fill-in-the-blank.

            6. Avoid asking questions at Stage 1. Asking questions is a misguided practice for trying to elicit language. Understand that GLPs echo language. Even questions! Figure out what they want, or would choose, or agree with, or disagree with another way. Model something they want and see their eyes light up. Model something they don’t want and watch their reaction. There are other ways of figuring things out besides questions!


            7. Eliminate any focus on single words when your child is at Stage 1. Single words will be processed as ‘unmitigable’ gestalts — and will be in your child’s head forever. They do not lead to language development because they don’t break down. They are not building blocks. They are what is known as ‘stuck gestalts.’ 

            Finally do this!

            1. Think about ‘communicative intentions.’ That means asking yourself why your child is communicating something particular. They can be communicating with songs, scripts, accessing media clips, leading you to something they like, laughing when they hear something they like, standing or sitting next to something they like. Look for the meaning your child has, and the reasons they have for communicating to you.

            • Know that the first reason a GLP communicates is to share their emotional experiences in the best ways available to them 
            • But their attempts may not work for them, because their speech or other attempts may be hard (or impossible) to understand. Be the detective your child needs!

            2. Listen/watch deeply for what your child is sharing.

            • We have under-estimated non-speaking and unintelligible children — particularly autistic children. We thought they lacked ‘intention,’ and just wanted rewards, so we taught them to say the names for things they liked, like food items, and then to say ‘I want + .’  
            • Now we know autistic children are capable of natural language development — so we must eliminate all compensatory practices. They interfere with true language development, undermine it — and are a waste of precious time.

            3. Consider the rich experiences inside your child’s mind. They are what your child wants to share. And they translate into successful communication if our children have us as communication partners! 

            • Ask yourself these important questions. Which of these ‘intentions’ does your child communicate?

            • asking for comfort, affection, safety, and reassurance
            • hoping you enjoy what they enjoy — maybe a special song, or a tickle, or a sound they hear
            • expressing emotions like joy, happiness, fear, and confusion. 
            • suggesting something fun to do, maybe together
            • sharing what they notice around them
            • asking you a question they don’t have the words for yet
            • sharing a favorite story, song…anything they like!

            4. Remember that Stage 2 follows Stage 1, so: 

            • Think ahead. Prepare for Stage 2. Once you can provide some variety with these gestalts, they can give your child a nice foundation for Stage 2. You’ll find plenty of information under Stage 2 Supports.
            • Take plenty of language samples so you know when your child is moving to Stage 2. Look at the NLA book for more guidelines.

            Remember that Stage 1 is just the beginning. 

            You have incredible adventures ahead, so enjoy this one!