In young children presenting with a language delay…the understanding of and the labeling of body parts may be very difficult for the language impaired child. She may have difficulty with her ability to find her body parts upon request (a receptive language task…this means when you say: Where’s your nose?…..she may be unable to point to her nose)……or name her body parts(this is an expressive language task….you point to her nose and say: What is this…and she may be unable to say: NOSE).
Depending upon her skill level…there are many factors that come into play. For example…your little one may know that her feet are her feet…she may know that her head is her head….however…once the question: Where is your head? is asked…she is unable to locate her head. This MAY be because she is having trouble understanding language. Or it may be…..when you ask: What is this?…..when pointing to your head….it may be that she does not have the expressive ability to say the word: HEAD. A little confusing….so the goal of this post is to help you help your little one with both the receptive and expressive components of understanding and locating body parts.
As a speech and language pathologist…administering standardized tests for the little ones in early intervention….I ask children to find: nose, eyes, head, hands, feet, ears, hair…..and I also ask them to label body parts upon request….as I point to the doll’s: nose, eyes, hair, mouth….I ask: What is this? Now most children learn just by hearing language (incidentally)….they do not need a therapeutic approach to using and understanding of language. They hear language…and they eventually learn to use it and understand the words they hear. However, some children do not learn incidentally…..and these are the children that may end up qualifying for services and need a therapeutic approach to learning.
So how do we teach children to understand and name their body parts…..using the strategies of self talk and parallel talk….are both great strategies to help your little one with body parts:
Self-Talk: This is a fancy way of saying you can talk as you do something, just like one
of those TV chefs who say every step of what they’re doing. “It’s time for lunch.
Now I’ll put the forks on the table. Now I’ll put the spoons next to the forks.”
(During this one-sided conversation, pause after each statement so that Your child can respond.)
Parallel-Talk: You can use parallel talk so when Your child puts that book on the shelf
you can talk about what he’s doing. “Your child, you put the books away so carefully.
I see you put the big red book on the bottom shelf.”
HOW CAN YOU USE THE ABOVE STRATEGIES TO HELP WITH THE UNDERSTANDING(RECPETIVE) AND LABELING (EXPRESSIVE) OF BODY PARTS:
Bath-time is perfect for working on this skill. As you are washing her hair…say: washing hair.….or just the word hair….say it many times as she is in the tub. As you wash her body parts….label them and describe what you are doing with simple sentences (wash feet, wash belly)…..go through all of her body parts. After you have done this for a week or so….the next time she is in the tub….say to her: Wash belly…where’s belly? Does she look to her belly to show her understanding…..does she point to her belly…..look to see if she shoes any signs of understanding this question.
Dressing is also a great opportunity to work on this skill. Use the self talk and parallel talk strategies to help develop this skill. If she is putting her socks on her feet…..you can say: On feet….as you touch her feet….or say: socks on feet. Label her body parts for her as she is dressing or as you are dressing her. These strategies do not place any language demands on the little one. You can bombard her with the words she needs…..so that she will eventually start to use them and also to understand them.
If she is still struggling to understand the questions: Where is your head?….or Show me your feet?…..or Point to your belly?….keep using the above strategies to help her to understand the language and eventually use the words. If you continue to just ask her questions…she may become frustrated because she does NOT yet understand the language.
Parents somtimes say to me….I have been trying….I keep saying…..say CUP if you want your CUP….and she won’t do it…I keep asking her but she is not saying anything. Well of course not….if the word is not yet in her vocabulary….how can she possibly say it? If you wanted a cup of coffee….but had to ask for it in Mandarin….but do not have that word in your vocabulary….and are unable to say the word just yet…even when it is imitated for you….you probably will never get that cup of coffee. So….rather than questioning….use the self talk and parallel talk strategies to help her.
****First work on the body parts that she can see on her own body….for example….target: hands, feet, belly, and legs first….she can see these on her own body….she can not see her hair…so this makes it more challenging.
***Use a mirror for the body parts that she can not see
***Use Mr. Potato Head as a fun play activity to work on body parts
***Use play-dough to work on making your own Mr. Potato Head and work on body parts
***A baby doll or stuffed animal are also helpful to address body parts
A remember to have fun with your little one or big one!