Indirect Language Stimulation Techniques

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Blog by The Communication Clinic

Indirect language stimulation techniques are powerful, child-centered strategies to use with your kids to help them learn language. They are appropriate for ALL children (typically developing and those with communicative impairments), and can be used in many different environments. The focus is on the child’s interest and what he/ she is doing, seeing, and feeling. 

Indirect language stimulation does not pressure the child to provide a response. Instead, the adult uses simple, short phrases to describe each action or object while interacting with the child. This helps the child learn the language she/ he will need later to participating in the same or similar game. 

There are a number of  indirect language stimulation techniques, and they are all interesting and worth mentioning. In this post, I will review self-talk, parallel talk, expansion, expansion plus, and recasting. 


In self-talk, you talk about what you are doing as you are performing an action. The focus is on the action you are in the midst of doing. 


         Adult:”I am taking my shoes off. My shoes are wet. Where did my umbrella go? Oh, here it is. I found it. It was behind my purse.” 

          “I am washing the dishes. I am using soap. ” 

Essentially, you are pairing your words with the actions, thus providing an excellent model for your little one(s) to learn language. 

These strategies can be used in many different settings: at the grocery store, at the park, at home (e.g., cooking, playing together, doing chores together).   

It is important to use short, grammatically correct sentences when you talk to your toddler. 

Parallel Talk

The difference between self-talk and parallel talk is that in the latter you take the perspective of the child.  

“You are playing with the cars. The cars crashed.” 

How to use: Use on its own or pair up with another indirect language stimulation technique. In my speech therapy sessions, I often use self-talk and parallel talk in the same activity.


With this strategy, you add to what the child is already saying, making it sound more like how you would have said it.

Child: "Baby cry." 
Adult: "The baby is crying." 

How to use: Expansion works great for toddlers who are learning to combine words. This is a technique I use every day in my practice. It does wonders!

Expansion plus

 Like in the indirect language stimulation technique which was described previously,  the child’s utterance is expanded to make it sound like the adult model. What is different here is that we also add additional information. 

Child: “Baby cry"
Adult: “The baby is crying. He looks tired.” 


The focus is on the objects the child's engaging with. Take a moment to observe and listen. What does she/he seems interested in at the moment? Use short phrases to describe what the child is seeing. 

Adult:  “Cookies are delicious.”
"This is a big ball."
"This car is fast."

How to use: I usually use description with kids who already have a fairly good vocabulary. What I like about it is that it provides opportunities to teach a bit more advanced words: e.g., feelings, adjectives, etc. 

Recasting helps correct grammatical mistakes in a noninvasive way. Instead of pointing out what the child is doing wrong, we provide a model of what he/ she should be saying. 

Child: “The dog barking.” 
Adult: “The dog is barking.” 

How to use: I recommend recasting if your children have difficulties using grammatical markers (e.g., if you hear phrases such as “The dog sleeping”, “I goed to the park”, etc.)

I am sure you are already using some of these strategies when playing with your toddler. Which ones do you think would be most beneficial for your child?

Planning to see the indirect language stimulation techniques in action? Remember: there is no need to bombard your child! Choose  one or two of the strategies and spend some time in preparing they will be implemented in play. It might help to jot down some phrases before you start using them with your child. 

Example: Parallel talk ( play activity - playdough)
Adult: “You are squishing the playdough. Now you are cutting the playdough.”
“You made a horse. Wow!”

In order for the “teaching” process to be effective, you will have to dedicate some time to it. Spend 10-15 minutes each day playing while using the strategy. It might take a few weeks to see the effects, but it’s all worth it!

Happy playing!

Adapted from: Oh Say What They See:  An Introduction To Indirect Language Stimulation (1984). Educational Productions, Portland, Oregon

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