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Language Expansion

Updated: May 7, 2020

Language Expansion is a technique that is done by the communication partner rather than by the child. It does not require the child to respond or imitate, instead, it provides the child with adult language for their previous utterance (Donahue-Kilburg, 1992). Language Expansion does not provide new information to the child’s statement; it only recreates the statement with adult language.

Some Examples of Language Expansion:

• “baby girl” becomes “baby girl hurt” • “open” becomes “open bag” • “milk” becomes “want milk” • “shoe” becomes “tie shoe” • “sock” becomes “sock off”

• “daddy” becomes “daddy work” • “mommy” becomes “look mommy” • “head” becomes “head hurts” • “all done” becomes “dinner all done” • “juice more” becomes “want more juice” • “truck go” becomes “truck goes fast”

Opportunities to expand your child’s utterances are everywhere. The most challenging thing about expansion is to remember to do it. At Simply Communication, Ltd. we encourage you to pick one activity in your daily routine and focus on just using Language Expansion at that time. Some examples of locations may be:

Riding in the Car: As your child sees a truck and says “truck,” you can say “truck stopped” or “truck go.” Similarly, when they said “music” to request a song, you can respond “music on” or “more music.”

Meal Time: When your child is eating and says “mommy cut,” you can share “want mommy to cut.” As the meal comes to a close and your child says “no chicken,” you can say “no want chicken” or “no chicken all done.”

Grocery Shopping: At the grocery store, as your requests “up,” you respond with “up in cart” or “pick me up.” Once your child sees a chocolate bar and says “want” and points, you can provide “want chocolate.”

Get Dressed: In the morning, your child pulls out a shirt and says “no this,” you can say “no want this one.” As they put on their socks and hand you one and say “sock,” you respond with “help with sock.”

Donahue-Kilburg, Gail. Family-Centered Early Intervention for Communication Disorders: Prevention and Treatment. Gaithersburg, Maryland: An Aspen Publication, 1992.

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