Speech Therapy Activity: Teaching your Child to use Action Verbs to Communicate-Part 1

Updated: Aug 8, 2020

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How can action verbs help my child communicate?

Let's say that your child loves cycling. How will he be able to tell you this, if he does not know the action verb "cycle".

This can cause both you and your child to be frustrated.

Is it difficult to teach my child to use actions verbs?

There is a simple method to start teaching your child these words using PICTURE CARDS.

What do I need to do?

Pick 3 activities that your child loves to do.

For example : cycle, swing and jump.

It's preparation time

What are the steps involved in teaching my child Action Verbs?

We need to remember to take it slow, so that your child does not get upset when he can't get to do the activity he wants.

Step 1:

An Example:

Your child cycles at 5 pm every evening. Prepare the "cycle" verb card in your hand. One minute before he goes out, show him the card and repeat the word "cycle". Follow him out when he goes out to get his bicycle and point to the picture again and say "cycle" repeatedly.

Since this is a new skill for your child, don't insist that he says "cycle" or points to the picture. We only need him to glance at the picture and hop on his cycle at this early stage. If he does more, it is a BIG BONUS.

Repeat this for a week.

My child is not paying attention to me and the verb card...

At times, your child may look like he is not learning anything...just remember that, some children with autism behave or look like they are not interested in what you are saying or doing. However, most of the time they ARE actually listening and paying attention.

What's next?

Use his brother or sister to model the correct behavior...tell them what to do earlier.

Many children with autism have a good sense of time. They can sense when it's 5 o'clock even without being able to tell time. So to avoid any tantrums, start the asking before 5.

So 1-2 minutes before his cycling time, ask him and his siblings the question below:

" What do you want to do? " or " Nak buat apa dik?" while holding the "cycle" card up.

(Tell his siblings what they have to do earlier on)

They need to point at the "cycle" card and say the word "cycle".

You say: " Nak cycle ya.. Ok go out and cycle" ( try to say the word cycle a few times).

Ask his siblings to wait for their brother to respond to the question before they run out.

Give your child time...if he does not do it on the 1st, 2nd or 3rd day it's ok...you can always hold his hand to guide him to touch the card.

After a few days of doing this, he may imitate his siblings, point to the card and say "cycle"

My child is able to point (or touch) the "cycle" card now...what's the next step?

Remember to go slow.....because once your child starts to protest while doing this activity, it will be very difficult repeat this activity.

The next step is to close the door that leads to the bicycle. Stand right in front of the door with the card and quickly guide his hand to touch the card. Then open the door as soon as possible.

* Try to make this whole process last less than 4 seconds if possible.

* Be consistent...every-time he touches the card, he must be allowed to go cycling. You can hide the card at times, when it is not possible for him to go cycling.

The shorter the time between touching the card and getting to the bicycle, the better it is.

Why is the timing and being consistent very important ?

It will help your child to:

1. Better understand the link between touching the "cycle" card and getting to cycle.

2. Understand the meaning and the benefit of communicating.

(communication can be by spoken words and/ or gestures-like pointing)

3. Believe that he will get to go cycling when he communicates that he wants it. This will encourage him to want to communicate more.

Do I need to start making it more difficult for my child to get his bicycle?

Yes you do, but only once he understands that :

All you want from him is to communicate his desire to go cycling by touching the card.

Where do I go from here?

Just do the exact same thing with another activity that your child loves...for example the "swing" card for when he wants to go to the playground....

Check out Part 2 of this Action Verbs Series...just click on the image below...


to check out our other therapy tips


Where can I get these Action Verb Cards?

If you are a member of Louis Center's "Parents As Therapists" FREE program, you can find the link to download various "Action Verbs" picture cards. It is located in the Speech Therapy Toolkit section. Just look out for a box named "verbs".

Then all you need to do is to print and laminate them.

How do I become a Member of Louis Center's Program?

This program is available only for parents who have children with special needs. Membership is ABSOLUTELY FREE.

Check out our other speech therapy posts for more tips and step by step instructions on various skills by clicking the link below.


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