Power of Tactile Prompting, Mango Elephants Pediatric Speech, Language and Wellness Services

The Power of Tactile Prompting

Expand your child's language by applying a simple 'tapping method' during talking.

Let’s talk about tactile prompting!  In the world of speech therapy, one of the most effective techniques to increase labeling and utterance expansion with kids is to use tactile prompts such as tapping out syllables in words and tapping out words in a phrase or short sentence. 


Tapping out the sounds and syllables allows children to tune into the sounds they are specifically hearing.  It naturally perks up their ears to syllable and word breaks to clearly articulate sounds, words, phrases, and expanded language.  It is an invaluable, simple technique that encourages verbal expression and imitation.  It naturally increases auditory awareness to sound production and makes speech more salient so that children are better able to grasp the word shapes. 

Whether your child has difficulty producing single words or expanded utterances, word approximations are always praised!  What is a word approximation? 

A word approximation is a child's best attempt at producing the word.  So even if 'cat' sounds more like 'cah,' we still honor that production or 'approximation' as a great attempt at producing the target word.  Not only did the child try to produce a sound or word that may have been difficult for them, but they were willing to even imitate and attempt it!  It is important to continue to encourage children to attempt to imitate words even if they did not produce it with 'perfect' clarity. 

Whether a child's production of the word or syllable-sound has adequate or inadequate clarity, I encourage parents to reinforce production of the word again in anywhere from one to three repetitions by saying the word and tapping out each syllable.  Have fun with it!  You can make the word that you tap out sound 'sing-song-y' and melodic.  

 Kids are present!

The wonderful aspect about being a child is how present they are.  They are living in the NOW!  They don't have all these extra to do lists and thoughts running around in their mind like adults.  Children are present in whatever it is that they are engaging in.  They are intuitive and able to pick up on positive and negative energy very quickly.  They are also able to pick up on your intention and whatever task you may be coaxing them into!

They know exactly when the 'fun game' turns to them being 'quizzed'.  These moments may often turn to a tantrum, meltdown or disengagement.  I encourage parents and caregivers to use mindfulness when communicating with your little ones.  Notice if and when they begin to disengage from wanting to imitate your language production, labels and sounds.  Rather than continuing with the task, switch the task or ease up on your commands before they get frustrated and feel 'tricked' into work!  Therapy should feel like play…not like work!  It is meant to be therapeutic.  Switch things up by taking movement breaks, doing silly yoga poses, pretending to be animals, jumping, dancing, or simply skip prompting them after every question or command.  Remember to be a play partner rather than a play commander.  They are the leaders in play after all. 

Acknowledge how creative your child is.  Perhaps they are moving sticks around in the dirt rather than making a perfect sand castle with the sand toys.  Instead of convincing them to play in the way you had in mind, try joining them in their play!  Move the sticks around too and add to making the play an enriching, bonding experience for both of you.  You can label what you see in the dirt such as, “dirt!  Dig dig…scrape! Ohh sticks!  More sticks…big stick, small stick, I see a…rock!  Dirty, wipe wipe, I see a…worm! Crawl, worm, crawl!”  Copy and add to their play.  What ideas could you bring to the table…or the dirt pile?!  Follow their lead and add to their play.  Imitate their actions so they feel the togetherness of the experience.  Be okay with parallel play! 

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