PREVERBAL SKILLS

 EYE CONTACT: This is a basic skill beginning shortly after birth.  Eye contact is a form of nonverbal communication  Eye contact enables a child to focus on people’s faces and objects.  Children watch the mouth movements of the speaker and then attempt to copy them.

ATTENTION: A child needs to be able to focus on objects or people in order to learn about them.  Attending involves:  Turning towards an object  Gazing at the object  Sustaining gaze for a period of time  Maintaining interest in an object with the time increasing with the child’s age  Attending to an activity initiated by both adults and other children as well as self initiated activities.

OBJECT PERMANENCE: This occurs when a child understands that people and objects exist even when they aren’t visible.  It is important for the development of language. It also reflects cognitive development.  It means that if a ball rolls under the table, the child realizes it still exists and will begin to look for it. It enables a child to label things not present.  Children’s early words may indicate development of object permanence, such as ‘gone’ when an object is removed from sight.

CAUSALITY: A child realizes that they can make requests and expect a result (cause and effect).  It begins as a nonverbal skill.  For example: ‘I push this button and a sheep pops up’ or ‘I cry and mum comes in’ or ‘I point to that cup and dad gets me a drink.’   Once first words commence, children realize that when they say words people respond immediately.

PLAY: A child needs to explore and learn about different objects before they can use and understand the labels.  There are various stages in acquiring play skills.  Children begin to explore toys via trial and error.  If they have difficulty, they will allow adult assistance.  Auto symbolic play will follow where the child pretends to do daily activities such as pretending to drink from a cup. Symbolic play is where one object represents another, such as using a banana for a telephone.  Representative play (role playing) begins around 24 months, e.g. playing roles of people in families e.g. Mummy and Daddy.

MOTOR IMITATION: In order to imitate, a child is required to complete 3 tasks – turn taking, attending to the action and replicating the features of the action.   It is helpful to develop the child’s ability to copy actions because motor movements can be totally physically assisted unlike speech. The transition from copying actions to copying sounds can be made, eg: rubbing our tummy while making an ‘mmm’ sound or acting out animal actions while making the animals noise. Use of gestures represents early labeling.  Joining words often follows.

SOUND IMITATION: Vocal imitation and gestures are closely related at around 9 months.  Gestures are learnt with motor imitation and an increase of one will generally increase the other. Children play with sounds long before they imitate.  As they begin to copy sounds, they may relate them to real words.  This may facilitate the transition from sound imitation to word imitation.

INTENT: There needs to be a purpose to communicate.  For example:  Seeking attention to self, seeking attention to events, objects or other people, requesting objects, greetings/farewells,  protesting/rejecting, informing and answering .

TURNTAKING: This is the basis of communication and interaction.  It starts off as taking turns in an activity and moves to taking turns in a verbal interaction. For e.g.: the adult pushes the ball towards the child and the child recognizes they should push it back to the adult.  As the child becomes older, they recognize when the adult asks for/requests a response.

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