Supports Overview

Supports can be divided into tiers, from most readily achievable to more intentional or sophisticated. Let’s begin:

Our introductory conversation is casual yet profound. As Nellie embarks on setting up her new clinic, she is applying lessons that she learned about gestalt language development — and natural language development in general. Coming from an ABA clinic where she was the outlier and the voice and model of developmental therapy, Nellie explains what she would like to provide. A lot of it has to do with parents, specifically empowering parents to share their own intuition. Marge and Ereeni add their comments about believing in a child’s own process, and Marge outlines the intake procedures in her own clinic.

Please let this be a beginning point for your own thinking!

In the sections to follow, stories and thought-provoking comments will help you support your GLPs as they begin — and continue — their language development journeys at each Stage of NLA.

Since gestalt language development is natural, when ‘all the stars align’ it is well supported and can flourish. But exactly what does that mean? This section of our website is devoted to ways that people who have come before you have supported their GLPs: sometimes at one particular Stage, but often overlapping from one Stage to another, and often at all Stages. The stories here are myriad, varied, and real. That authenticity means that everything here has been tried and found successful. The ‘evidence’ for supporting natural development is that each child is allowed to flourish — and is celebrated all along the way.

Sometimes supports are intentional, but often progress only needs:

   1. understanding of the process of natural gestalt language development
   2. belief in the child’s innate ability to access that process
   3. using a bit more careful language ourselves

Tier 1:

1. Read enough about this natural process to believe in its legitimacy as the way GLPs develop language.

2. Recognize the Stages of gestalt language processing, and take heart in the consistency between the early research and the more recent research.

3. Recognize what gestalt processing looks like in your child — even if gestalts are unintelligible or expressed in ways that do not involve speaking: selecting the same songs over and over again, playing selected parts of YouTube videos, preferring gestalts/wholes of other kinds (whole sets of alphabet letters, whole collections of toys)

4. Believe in natural child development and language development — and know that individuals can develop language systems into their 20s. Know that you have time to support your child’s natural development!

Tier 2:

5. 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 language’ like ‘I’m thinking about dinner now,’ and ‘I’m going to get some vegetables,’ ‘I’m thinking about squash,’ ‘We love squash at our house, ‘We love vegetables,’ ‘We don’t want any bread today,’ ‘We’re not going to the store,’ ‘We’re gonna eat left-overs.’

  • Use “I” statements for what you were doing: “I’m thinking about dinner.” (you avoid pronoun ‘reversals’ that way)
  • Speak from your joint perspective: “We’re going to have spaghetti.”
  • Speak from a neutral perspective: “It’s almost time to eat.”

8. Know that narrating your day with ‘kid language’ might be all you need to do to support your GLP child!

9. Protect your child from well-intended, but misguided language practices intended for ALPs — especially those that come with compliance, rewards, or any form of ABA.

10. Avoid questions unless you know your child can answer them without interfering with their language development. Avoid asking questions, as it is a misguided technique for eliciting language. GLPs echo. Even your questions.

11. Eliminate any focus on single words when your child is at Stage 1. They will be processed as ‘unmitigable’ gestalts — and will be there forever. They do not lead to language development because they don’t break down. Remember that Stage 2 follows Stage 1. Prepare your child for it!

12. Once you’re ready, pick some of your language intentionally. Just 50% of the time, and ‘just talk’ the other 50%. Practice some easy sentences, ones that will give your child a good foundation for language development, then try one or more with your child. If they don’t resonate, try another:

  • Let’s +
  • I’m +
  • We’re + 
  • It’s +
  • What’s +
  • Look at +
  • How about +
  • Where’s + 

Tier 3:

This is just the beginning. You have incredible adventures ahead, so enjoy this one!

1. Think about why your child is communicating what they are. Know that the first reason (‘intentions’) any child communicates is to share their emotional experiences in the best ways possible to them — but for GLPs, that’s with language that many people don’t understand.

2. Listen deeply for what your child is sharing. These first communicative intentions for all children are probably to share what’s going on inside their minds. We have under-estimated children — particularly autistic children —  and thought that they lacked intention, and just wanted rewards, so we taught them to say names, and then to say ‘I want + .’  Now that we are seeing autistic children as capable — capable of natural language development — we would be wise to eliminate all compensatory strategies. They interfere with true language development, undermine it — and are a waste of precious time.


3. Consider the rich experiences inside our children’s minds. These translate into communicative intentions if our children have us as communication partners! 

Does your child communicate on these ways?

  • asking for comfort, affection, and safety — reassurance
  • asking you to 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 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, or something else they liked


Nellie explores the ‘policies and procedures’ for her new clinic — especially making sure that parents are involved in their children’s language progress. Marge adds that through teaching parents about gestalt language processing, we are empowering parents to understand their primary role in language development!