In a one hour introductory presentation, I think it’s key to not go into too much detail, but to really drum up some “I could do that” kind of excitement, with some practical nuggets thrown in.  Some strategies that I find helpful:

(1) Share a few case studies/stories that include unique but practical ideas.  One parent I know taught people how to walk behind her 4 year old (not yet talking or walking independently), with his hands in theirs.  He pushed on either hand to turn, and in that way took them to what he wanted to tell me about, ask for, etc.  That was only one of several strategies she used with him, but it got them past the problem of talking about something that wasn’t in sight.

(2) Help parents see and value what they already know – about communication and about their own kid, especially.  Brainstorm a list of all the ways we (& their kids) communicate already – talking, groaning, laughing, looking, pointing, etc.  How they know when their child is happy, sad, angry, tired – all of that is communication and can be built on.

(3) Give parents one or two things they can do immediately to help their child.  One idea (from the same mom above!) is to label toys with simple instructions so that no matter who is playing with the child, they can do so in a constructive way (“Gavin often puts the striker for his xylophone in his mouth. Gently help him take it out and strike the keys. Put the xylophone in his lap so he can feel the vibrations.”)  Tape the instructions on the toy with clear packing tape so they last, or laminate and pin to soft toys.  The same kind of thing can help with communication tools and strategies.  For example, you could add a few sentences above the picture symbols taped to the fridge, explaining how to use them – works for neighbors, grandparents, babysitters, etc.

(4) Bring some actual symbol boards, sign language, single message communicators, step-by-steps, multi-message devices, etc., and have people use them during the refreshment break – introduce themselves, ask for a snack, tell a joke, etc.

(5) Give some additional resources for follow-up – Jane Korsten forgot to mention her own terrific resource, Every Move Counts
There’s an intrinsic relationship between play and communication.  Share the resources at Let’s Play

Have fun!

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