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The strategy of waiting

One of the best strategies to utilize during your child’s key developmental stages is to simply
wait. This strategy can and should be used throughout everyday routines and interactions.
When you start to evaluate how much you are waiting throughout your daily routines, you may
realize that it’s more difficult than it sounds. But it is SO important.

1.Problem solving

Waiting provides opportunities for children to problem solve. Whether it’s figuring out a toy,
opening something, putting clothes/shoes on, or getting what they want, wait and see how
they problem solve instead of stepping in immediately or prompting immediately. It is definitely
okay to provide an initial model if something is new, but after that initial teaching/modeling,
wait and see how your child does when trying to figure it out independently. Yes, it likely takes
longer than it would if you just helped/did things for them, but problem solving and having the
patience to problem solve is a key life skill that will benefit them as they continue to grow.

2.Communicating the need for assistance

Waiting provides increased opportunities for children to learn to ask for help when needed. If a
child is unable to problem solve a certain situation, that’s okay! It’s important for children to
know that that’s okay! When they are unable to do something, this is when they need to learn
how to ask for help. Many adults are quick to step in and help before a child asks for
assistance. This eliminates that opportunity for the child to problem solve, realize they may
need help, and to ask for assistance. If an adult has provided enough wait time and sees that a
child truly does need help and isn’t asking for it, make sure to provide an exaggerated model of
the word “help!” before helping.

3.Early language development

When a child is learning to communicate, whether this is via words, signs, gestures, or AAC,
wait time is important. We do not want early communicators to learn that someone will do
things for them or they’ll get everything they need without having to communicate that need. If
every need is met all the time, why would they communicate? For example: if a child’s cup of
juice is empty and it gets refilled before they even notice or ask for more, why would they ever
learn to communicate that they need more juice? It was already done for them. It would be
better to wait until they notice the empty cup, and continue to wait to see what they do about
it. They may try to problem solve and do it themself and they may ask for “help” or “juice”,
which is excellent communication! If a child does not have these words quite yet, that’s okay
too. You can still wait to allow for a communicative gesture, then model the words as you show
them and fulfill the needed action. Remember that repetition and routines are very important
when using wait time to increase language skills. Make sure to practice daily and in a variety of
situations (daily routines, playing with toys, meal times, running errands) to help your child
reach their goals.

4.Overall language development

Wait time is key for providing as many opportunities as possible for a child to communicate. It
is important to remember that children’s brains, skills, and knowledge are developing rapidly.
This can decrease their response time as they are processing the environment and a spoken
message. Waiting when interacting with a child helps them learn how they should act and
respond in a variety of daily situations. It can provide time for them to become more self aware
and evaluate their own actions. It also provides more insight into their true independent skills
so you can know what to continue targeting at home!

Written by: Madison Malone, MS, CCC-SLP