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How I changed my son's gesture into words

My son was non-verbal till he was 3.5 years old and he communicated with me by lifting my hands to point something like snacks, water etc. He came to me only for the snack items and other things did not matter to him at that point of time. I was 100% sure that he would come to me at least for something he wanted.
Whenever he came to me and did the gesture of lifting my hand to point at something, I gave a word to his gesture. For e.g. He pushed my hands trying to point at the chocolate box at a top shelf that he could see but could not reach. At that time I said Chocolate and gave a chocolate immediately. I didn't expect him to say Chocolate, since it was a very big word to him. Slowly he started to make some sound for chocolate but not chocolate correctly. So then onward if he requested with the sound for chocolate , immediately I picked up the chocolate box and gave one but I gave the correct pronunciation “chocolate” and gave the chocolate immediately. Slowly the sound for Chocolate became “Chocola” and then “Chocolate” later.
I have made a matrix of how it evolved
My son
Original gestural communication
Pushed my hand to point at something he wanted
I gave the object he wanted
Introduced giving a word for gesture
Pushed my hand to point at something he wanted
I said the word for the object he wanted and gave the object as well e.g. Chocolate or toy
After some time
Pushed my hand to point at something he wanted and gave some sound(e.g. "cha" for Chocolate or it could be any sound)
I gave an expression that I comprehended him and said the word(i.e. correct one) for what he wanted and gave the object
After some more time
Reduced pushing my hands and he started giving a sound which was closer to the original chocolate
Similar as above
At last
The words came much closer to the original “chocolate” and pushing my hands almost diminished
Gladly I gave the chocolate to him and just repeating the word for his memory and reference 
In all the above stages, whatever is the form of request at that stage, I used to give the reward immediately, so that he recognized that his efforts were bearing fruit.
I would like to mention one another classic example of my son's request by gesture and how I changed into a word. My son liked to play with “Bubbles”. I used to keep Bubbles bottle in a way that was reachable. Whenever he wanted he took it and gave it to me. Here I didn’t use any Question like what do you want? Or do you want bubbles etc. Since I knew very well he would give the bubbles bottle to me. I waited in the position that is on my knees so that I could able to reach his level and I would be able to establish eye contact with him. Even though the eye contact was very few seconds I used the opportunity and said the word “Bubbles”. This was just to get started and I will start blowing only when he made the request.
For making this request I made him to stand/sit in one place and I was little away from him. He initially made request by reaching out and touching my hands. I took that as a request and immediately said “Bubble” and blew the bubbles. After the bubbles came out, myself and my husband used to play with bubbles along with him like saying pop pop and poking at bubbles. After all it should be a jolly game so that he will request for more.
Once he popped all the bubbles, again he touched me; I gave him the word “bubbles” and blew bubbles. In a few days, he made some sound for bubbles like “ba” sound and he stopped touching gesture. Now I took the “ba” sound as the request. I heard that sound immediately I said the word “bubbles” and blew it for him. Eventually “Ba” became “Bubbles” on a good day.

  1. List down the words which your kids show interest/request. For e.g. my son requested for snacks by pointing snacks box, sandals for going out, tumbler for water and bubble bottle for playing with bubbles. Since above are his needs, I was able to convert them to words. The key here is to use our kid’s interest. Their motivation is what makes this possible and not our motivations.
  2. We can do this activity at anytime and anywhere even in the friend’s/relative's houses or public places. That is wherever the kids find their objects of interest.
  3. Also one additional thing that can be done along with introducing words is to do an action(like showing drinking water) or flashing a picture of the object he is requesting(you should have it made earlier and keep the picture ready at the appropriate place). This could be one another useful tool to shift away from gestures and a useful step before full speech(this never impedes speech, it only aids and helps)
  4. Give the list of your kid’s interests and appropriate words also to other family members.
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