School Blog

Teaching Labels to a Nonverbal Child

Teaching Labels to a Nonverbal Child

By Sylvia

January 11th, 2023

If your child has a language delay or is nonverbal, you are probably looking for ways encourage him or her to talk.  You will likely want to start with labels of common objects.

When first teaching labels, the best thing to do is start with actual everyday objects around your home.  Things your child encounters on a daily basis, spoon, apple, bear, cookie, socks, shoes, bed, toothbrush, etc.  Teach the label by itself, so there is no room for error.  Eventually, you’ll want to move to flash cards or photos of more abstract images.  However, before moving on to flash cards, you should consider setting up a matching program so that your child understands that the flash card is a representation of the object.

You’ll also want to make sure your child can generalize known objects.  For example, when teaching a ball, you’ll want to have a few different kinds around the house as well as in photographs, cartoons, magazine clippings, etc.  This way your child will not learn that a ball must not always be red, for example.  It might be small and yellow or have blue and white stripes.  They will all still have the basic label “ball” but they should all look slightly different.

To teach a label, you should always teach each object separately then eventually add in a few distractors, so your child can learn to receptively identify the object amongst an array of other objects.  Don’t start with a book full of photos, this may overwhelm your child.

Remember, once your child has learned to label an object, you should move on to another object but make sure you always review the objects your child has already learned.  You can do this by building a maintenance program.  Maintenance is important to two reasons; it prevents regression and ensures your child does not lose any skills previously taught.  You want to always move forward, not back!  It also allows your child to feel successful.  Reviewing those objects already learned will help build great confidence in your child.