Early Childhood Intervention: Module One – Typical and Atypical Development

Expressive Language

Communication Development: Expressive Language1

Expressive language is what we use in order to get our message across to someone. This can be done verbally (e.g. by saying something) or non-verbally (e.g. by waving bye-bye to someone). Children develop their expressive language gradually and sequentially. In order to become experts in the expressive language domain, children will have to develop and master the following non-verbal, verbal and written language skills:

Nonverbal expressive language includes:

  • crying
  • smiling
  • laughing
  • frowning
  • waving bye-bye
  • pointing
  • throwing something (like a toy on the floor, in protest)

Verbal expressive language includes:

  • cooing (i.e. saying vowel sounds, over and over again: e.g., aaaaaaaaaaaa, uuuuuuuuuuuuu, eeeeeeeeee…)
  • producing guttural sounds when happy and content
  • babbling (i.e. saying consonant/vowel sound combinations, over and over again: e. g. bababa, dadada, badaga…)
  • imitating sounds and facial expressions
  • saying “mama” and “dada”, when referring to primary caregivers
  • repeating what others are saying
  • saying one word phrases (or “holophrases”): for example, “up” could mean “pick me up, please” or “see birdie up there”
  • labeling objects, animals, or people (e.g., “car,” “ouwee,” “cat,” “baby”, while pointing at these
  • saying please and thank-you
  • asking questions
  • answering questions
  • putting two words together (e.g. Mommy go, Daddy shoe)
  • using negatives (e.g. “no”)
  • using qualitative concepts (e.g. big/small, short/tall…)
  • using quantitative concepts (e.g. a lot, a little, all, none…)
  • using the present progressive (e.g. he is walking)
  • using pronouns (e.g. I, you)
  • using possessives (e.g. my, mine)
  • using prepositions (e.g. in, on, under, over)
  • using the regular and irregular past tense (e.g. walked, gave)
  • using the future tense (e.g. will walk, is going to walk)
  • putting three and four words together (e.g. I want milk, daddy go here)
  • putting more than four words together in a full sentence (i.e., I can read this book)
1. see References

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