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Building Conversations
Follow Your Child's Lead
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BabyYou want to respond to your baby's communication, but you aren't sure what kind of response to make. The best response follows your child's lead.

Babies and adults are sometimes interested in different things. A mother wants to give her baby a juice cup and talk about drinking, but the baby may at first be fascinated by the condensation running down the outside of the cup. "Wet. Your cup is wet," or "The drop is going down, down, down," is closer to the baby's thought than "Drink your juice," or "This is a cup."

Babies are curious. They are constantly exploring their world. When we try to get their attention to talk about our own ideas, we are taking them away from their interests. They may even be confused if they are thinking about one idea, and getting communication about a different one!

Babies like to communicate about their interests. We don't want to do all of the communicating - that would be like "hogging the ball." Instead, when we see what a baby is attending to, and communicate about that, we teach the baby to start a conversation with us, and learn more about that very interesting drop of water.

One way to be sure that you and your baby are on the same wavelength is to establish joint attention. If your baby points to something, you point, too, before you try to add to the communication. If your baby looks at something and laughs, you look and laugh. If your baby vocalizes at a teddy bear, you do it, too. Then you can add a language turn. You let your actions say, "Your idea was interesting to both of us."

Practice Examples
Read about these situations and choose a parent response that follows the child's lead.

Baby touches wet high chair after it is wiped offPractice Example #1

Baby: touches wet high chair tray after it
is wiped off.

a. Mother touches the tray, and then says, "You spilled your milk."
b. Mother touches the tray and then says, "It's wet."
c. Mother says, "Does it feel wet?"
d. Mother says, "Don't touch."

Feedback: In b, Mother showed the baby that she shared the idea, and then talked directly about feeling the tray.

Baby playing
click on image to view movie

Practice Example #2
This eight-month-old baby is playing with a toy and she pushes the swing while vocalizing. How does her mother respond?

a. Looks at the swing with her daughter (joint attention).
b. Says, "push it again."
c. Says, "swinging" (follows her lead).
d. Both a and c.

If you picked "d," you are correct. This mom did a nice job of looking at what her daughter looks at (joint attention) and talking about her baby's interest. It is as simple as that.

Mom and son
click on image to view movie

Practice Example #3
In this next example, you will see a two-year-old who has bilateral hearing loss. He is playing with a playhouse. Notice how he makes comments about what he is seeing. How does his mother respond?

a. She talks about her own interests.
b. She repeats what the little boy says and says a little more.
c. She smiles and shows him she understands.
d. She looks at what he is looking at.
e. b, c, and d.

Did you pick "e"? Good - that is correct. Mom uses his idea and his words. She stretches his idea a little (kitty…yes that's a kitty). This looks like a volleyball game as they comment back and forth. They have nice turn taking because mom is following his lead.