Brief Descriptions of Some Common Language Therapies

Communication Temptation

Communication temptations are a type of manipulating the environment or incidental teaching that involve caregiver tempting or luring child to talk.  These are good for increasing initiation, social skills, such as asking for help, or asking questions.  Communication temptations often require starting something, pausing, and waiting until child does something.Image

examples: Put a desired object on high shelf, encouraging child to ask for it. Put a desired object in a tight jar. Give child just a few legos and wait for him to ask for more.

“Accidentally” do things, like walk past the room, don’t turn on the light, etc.

Child Directed Speech

child-directed speech – aka “mothereseuses frequent questions, exaggerated intonation, extra loudness, lots of repetition of key words, slower tempo with more pauses – not “baby talk”

examples: Is that a car? That car looks fast. That car is red. Do you like the car?


choices/ forced choicecan be very specific to a specific child, and so are an excellent teaching tool – great for labeling in general, or for labeling/using specific language skills – ways to make easier or harder…

  • Hold desired object and a non-desired object. “Do you want the cookie…or the paper?”
  • Change the foil. “Is this a pencil or a perpendicularagram?” when you want to make it more obvious that the correct choice is pencil, versus, “Is this a pencil or a pen?”
  • Change the position. “Are you 4 years old, or 20 years old?” versus, “Are you 20 years old, or 4 years old?” It’s naturally easier when the choice is in the last position.


Chaining starts with part of a skill, then keeps that skill while adding another part, then keeps those two skills while adding another part, and so on continuing until the larger target is learned.  There are two main types usually used:  forward and backward.  Forward is sometimes used in teaching speech articulation, such as with mulit-syllabic words, and backward chaining is often used in teaching self help skills, such as brushing teeth or making a bed.  Chaining as a language teaching tool has been demonstrated to be effective, and it seems to carry a large untapped potential.  With chaining you’re basically using successive approximation, or gradually increasing the length and complexity of an utterance.

example: adult says, “Say, ‘I’m’” – child says, “I’m.” – adult says, “Say, ‘I’m three’” – child says, “I’m three” – adult says, “Say, ‘I’m three years” – child says, “I’m three years” – adult says, “Say, ‘I’m three years old.” – child says, “I’m three years old.”

Carrier Phrases

With carrier phrases, the caregiver repeats the same phrase, with substitutions for one part.  Use of carrier phrases is similar to focused stimulation.  These are good for increasing sentence length, and for working on specific target structures.

examples: 1)  When reading a book, the caregiver may say, “I see a dog. I see a horse. I see a car.” to try to entice child to use the phrase, “I see a ….” for other objects.  2)  “I have…” may be used as a carrier phrase for labeling body parts, such as:  “I have hands.”  “I have a nose.”  “I have shoulders.” etc.

Cycles Approach

The cycles approach is more a way of structuring overall therapy rather than a specific strategy. The therapist works on one or more specific skills for one or two sessions. Then she works on different skills the next sessions, and then goes back through each skill “cycling” through them, gradually increasing expectations. Goals are added or subtracted as needed for each cycle.  The cycles approach typically requires more intensity, and is good for treating multiple deficits, ensuring that no skills are missed.


Discrete Trials

Discrete trials is a method of intervention common to ABA therapy. Discrete trials intervention breaks up objectives into small repeated steps. This is useful for skills such as attending, imitation, and following basic directions. There are five distinct parts: (1) antecedent/ the set up and/or presentation; (2) the trainer’s prompt, or assistance; (3) the child’s response, (4) the consequence, and (5) a short pause between the consequence and the next instruction

example: Adult shows two cards, one for happy and one for sad. Adult says, “Who’s happy?” Child does nothing. Adult points to the correct card, and provides hand over hand assistance to the child to point to the correct card. If child points to the correct card, adult gives small piece of candy. Adult pauses and repeats and moves on when child no longer needs assistance.

False Assertions

These may be considered a type of communication temptation.  False assertions are (often) obviously incorrect statements made with the intent to encourage the child to correct.  They’re great for negation, and also underutilized for expanded negation.

example: “Look at the elephant!” when joint attention is on a cow, encouraging child to say “That’s a cow!,” and/or “That’s not an elephant!”

example of expanded negation: “I could have lifted that truck.” encouraging something like, “You couldn’t have lifted that truck.”

Following the Child’s Lead

This occurs when the teacher comments on things a child is looking at, and/or imitates play behaviors.  Following the child’s lead involves observing and listening to the child, and waiting for the child to talk – great for working on initiation.

examples: an autistic child looks at his hands, so you make comments about his hands – a child makes a play noise (such as a car zooming) and you imitate.

Focused Stimulation

The teacher picks a target and attempts to use it over and over again.  In focused stimulation you can use children’s books, songs, blocks, pretend play.  It encourages, but does not necessarily expect child’s production.  Several target words may be combined in a single activity.

example:  the target structures, “off” and “on” may be repeated by the clinician fifty times in a Mr. Potato Head activity in an attempt to elicit the words from the child, such as… “The eye goes on his face.  The hat goes on his head.  I’ll put a different hat on his head.  I’ll take this off his head.”

Expansion and Extension

Expansion and extension are two of the main types of conversational recasting.  Recasting, which is sometimes called, “responsive modeling,” is used to describe a larger category of techniques used to add or correct a child’s utterance without interrupting the flow of conversation.  Imitation and targeted questions are other types of recasting.

Expansion – Expansion takes what the child says, and adds grammar and semantics to turn into a comparable adult utterance.  The point is to keep the communication flow going smoothly, while not making the child realize that he is being corrected.

example: “doggy house” may become “That is the dog’s house.”

Extension – Extension takes what the child says and adds information.  Extension is typically used in conjunction with expansions.

example: “doggy house,” may become “That is the dog’s house. He is a large dog.”

Expansion and extension are extensively confused.  It helps for me to think of when a balloon expands, it stays the same.  It does not add anything as would, say, an extension on a deadline.

Graphic Organizers/Semantic Mapping

I usually think of Venn diagrams, main ideas, and/or details when I think of these, but graphic organizers actually come in tons of different forms.  As opposed to many language therapies, graphic organizers are often for older students. These can be useful for organizing, learning, and/or remembering a variety of language skills, as well as writing, reading, math, etc.  Many great examples of graphic organizers can be found on the Internet, on sites such as and

Semantic mapping is basically using graphic charts to enhance vocabulary or semantic skills. It helps with word associations, categorization, characteristics, describing, and defining.


Venn Diagram
Semantic Map
Semantic Map

Incidental Teaching

Incidental teaching overlaps or is often used interchangeably with manipulating the environment, naturalistic teaching, communication temptation, and milieu teaching.  It uses changing the environment, or changing the routine, to encourage initiation.

examples:  wear a hat, put the trash can on the table, instead of giving a pencil for a writing assignment give a ruler, walk past an intended door

Interrupted Behavior Chain

This is a type of communication sabotage, or incidental teaching.  A specific routine is identified that the child knows well, and one step is intentionally omitted – intended to elicit protests or requests.

example: child is taught to prepare her own breakfast by getting milk, cereal, spoon, as well as the steps involved – one day one step is “sabotaged,” for example the adult may place the box of cereal out of child’s reach

Literature Based Language Intervention

Literature based language intervention involves using books that do not specifically control for reading difficulty to address other skills, such as sentence structure, vocabulary and comprehension.  It saw increasing popularity in the 1980s and 1990s, when language therapy in general saw a shift from skills based intervention to “holistic” “collaborative” models.  Literature based language intervention is effective as one component of an overall approach, especially when the book is determined by the skill.

example: the therapist decides to work on questions, and so chooses the book, “Who’s Your Mommy?” which has repeating stack

Mand-Model Approach

This is an extension of the incidental teaching model.  The mand-model approach involves the teacher or caregiver modeling and/or manding (requesting) a response from the child.  In modeling, sometimes known as child-cued modeling, the teacher or caregiver observes the focus of the child’s interest (e.g., a ball) and models the correct verbalization (e.g., “that’s a ball”).  If the child makes the correct verbal response the teacher or caregiver then praises the child and provides the object of interest.

example: child reaches for a candy – caregiver keeps candy out of reach, while saying “candy. Say, ‘Candy please!” – caregiver gives candy immediately if child requests, or after a time delay, while modeling correct request if child doesn’t request

Milieu Teaching


Milieu Teaching -As a naturalistic, conversation-based teaching procedure, in milieu teaching the child’s interest in the environment is used as a basis for eliciting elaborated child communicative responses.  Milieu teaching includes other strategies, such as incidental teaching, mand-model, and time delay.  It is based on behaviorism, but rewards are from natural environment.  With incidental teaching the teacher waits for response, while mand-model requires asking (mands) for response.  While often the subject of research, few SLPs seem to actually claim to use milieu teaching.  Maybe it’s the odd pronunciation.

Parallel Talk

Parallel talk is a great method for motivating children to talk without the frustration of high demand – the child is given opportunities to engage in activities that he finds interesting, while the caregiver talks about what the child is doing -the caregiver uses language that is at or just above the child’s level – often used in collaboration with self-talk

examples: for a child playing with a plane, say things such as, “You’re flying the plane. The plane is high. The plane is low. You gave the plane to me.”

Play Therapy

very useful for initiation, social language, turn-taking, sharing – can involve moving child from lower levels of play (such as banging or shaking toys) to higher (such as self directed play, play directed toward others, relational play, and symbolic play) – strategies are taught to caregivers, often involving allowing child to lead play, with adult redirection as necessary


introducing topics beforehand – can involve stories, index cards, explanations, or anything that can quickly familiarize student with upcoming material – can occur immediately preceding the lesson, the prior morning, or the prior evening – especially effective when part of a routine

example: an autistic child’s anxiety increases in response to certain things, such as handwriting, so the morning activities are briefly explained to the child ahead of time each morning, including handwriting

Rehearsal/ Role-playing

obviously good for pragmatic skills – just some of the examples of how this can be used to practice language skills include: ordering from a restaurant; calling to ask for a store’s hours; politely interrupting a conversation

Recasting/ Conversational Recasting

any of a number of techniques used to add or correct information, without interrupting the flow of conversation – includes expansion and extension, as well as imitations, and targeted questions. – “Responsive modeling”

example: child says, “Doggy gone.” expansion – adult says, “The dog is gone.” extension – adult says, “Yes, the dog is gone. The dog went behind the house.”


“fix my mistake” – a distinct advantage is its versatility – good for higher level language

examples: for irregular past tense verbs, teacher says, “Fix what I say. Yesterday I eat candy.” with intended child target of, “Yesterday I ate candy.” – for expanded verb tense, teacher says, “I could have picked up a house,” with intended target of, “You couldn’t have picked up a house.”

Cumulative lists for printing or sharing:

With this list no one can ever again say, “I don’t have any ideas for teaching language.”

Long description pic:      35 language therapies long pic

Long description pdf:  35 language therapies pdf

Short description pic:   35 language therapies shortened pic

Short description pdf:  35 language therapies shortened pdf