Increasing Communication through Milieu Teaching

If you are looking for ways to increase your child's communication skills, milieu teaching is a strategy that will give your child a reason to communicate.  The idea is to create an opportunity for your child to initiate, request, or protest.  Children who are working on using signs/gestures, picture card exchange, or verbal communication should use this strategy.  

Please feel free to save the infographic above to help you remember the 6 options to this strategy.

Preferred toys and items

Before starting this strategy, you will need to identify your child's preferred toys, items, and activities.  Use these to your advantage in the options below.

1. Within view, but out of reach

Place the child's preferred toy somewhere that they can see, but cannot reach.  Please use caution with this option, especially if you have a climber!  Supervise the child as long while the toy is in the tall place.  

The goal is for the child to ask you (either through sign, gesture, picture card, or verbal expression) to get the toy down.  

2. Limited access

During this option, you want the child to ask you for the item because they are unable to access it independently.  Place the item in a tight closing plastic jar.  Wait for the child to request the item.  

3. Inadequate amounts

Give your child just a small amount of something, so that she asks for more.  This can be done with food, drink, or toys.  In the example above, I gave my daughter just one whale cracker.  I have done this with just one sip's-worth of water in a cup and a pinch of play dough. This option is highly motivating because the child is immediately rewarded with the item they want. 

4. Sabotage

Give your child only part of the needed materials for an activity.  Give your child the board to a puzzle without the puzzle pieces, the Mr. Potato Head without any pieces, a bowl of cereal without a spoon, or a paintbrush without any paint. Wait for the child to call attention to the problem.  Then prompt the child to ask for the needed items.

5. Wacky situations

Do something unexpected.  This will cause your child to protest and ask for the correct item or activity.  For example, when you are leaving for school put your child's shoe on her hand.  Or put her coat on backwards.  Wait for your child to say no and then praise them for catching your "wacky mistake."

6. Use wait time

All of these options incorporate the use of wait time.  After your child is presented with one of the options above, wait.  Wait for her to notice.  Wait for her to gesture.  Wait for her to speak.  Then build off of this interaction.  A good rule of thumb is to slowly count in your head, "1-one thousand, 2-one thousand, 3-one thousand, 4-one thousand" before giving another prompt.  

Would you like to hear me explain this strategy?  You can go to the link below to watch the video: 

Looking at your Routine: Finding ways to incorporate strategies

We are talking about strategies in our new series: Strategies to Blossom.  Before we dig into all the research-based strategies we are going to learn over the next series of Facebook Live videos, we need to start at the ground level. 

Starting from the Beginning: 

We are borrowing a method from early intervention (services for children ages birth-up to age 3 years).  At the beginning of early intervention services, providers conduct a Routine Based Interview (RBI).  This interview asks families detailed questions about their everyday lives.  
"How does your day begin?"
"How does your child participate in the activity?"
"How do you feel this time of day goes for you?"

 I love this method because it values each individual family and each individual child.  

List your daily routine: 

For our purposes you will first begin by listing all of your daily routines on a piece of scrap paper.  Your routines may be different depending on the day.  You can make several lists.  You might have a weekday list and a weekend list.  You might have a different list for each day of the week.  Do what works for your family. 

Plug this information into the Routines Chart:

If you want a PDF copy of this chart, be sure to email me at

Start with your first activity of the day and put into the left hand column: "Routine".  In the next column list all the steps needed to complete that routine activity.  In the third column, write what your child is currently doing during this activity.  Think about what your child is able to do independently.  Also note if your child is able to do some steps with assistance.  The last column lets you notate whether or not this routine activity is an area of concern for your family.

Example of a completed chart: 

Here is an example of a partially completed chart I did for my 2-year-old child.  I chose the "ride home" from childcare as a focus area.  

Look at all areas of concern: 

After you have completed this exercise for all of your routines, take note of the areas of concern.  These will be the times of day that you will use one of the research-based strategies from #StrategiesToBlossom

Since the ride home from childcare is an area of concern, I will look at strategies that I can implement to make this routine more enjoyable for everyone involved.  I may decide that an overall visual schedule of our day would be helpful for my daughter.  I may try to use task analysis to show her all the steps of riding in a car.  I may offer Quinlan choices of songs to listen to in the car on the way home. 

Please join us: 

Thank you for putting on your detective hat and looking closely at your daily routines.  I hope you continue to join us for our Facebook Live series #StrategiesToBlossom.  You can find me at Branch & Blossom Atelier on Facebook.  Our next Live video will be talking about using choice boards.

How to Shower: Visual Schedule

On New Year's Eve, my mother asked each of us to write down something we want to leave behind in 2019.  My 5 year old son asked for help to spell "bath." This concerned me a little, so I asked a few questions.  Turns out, Brickston no longer wanted to take baths but instead wants to take showers like a "big kid."

During his first 2020 shower, I stood at the shower door and told him each step.  How to wash his face BEFORE he washed his behind.  How to put soap on his washcloth.  Then it donned on me...he would do so well with a visual schedule.

I asked my 9-year-old son to illustrate some pictures for me.
Then I created this visual schedule: 
For Brickston, I kept the schedule as is.  You could cut this apart to make it one long horizontal schedule.  You could also cut each task card out and hand the card to the child as it is time to do each step.  I would suggest laminating or covering your schedule with clear contact paper.  I used a reusable dry erase pocket from my favorite store, Dollar Tree.

You can watch me prompt Brickston to do each step in this short video:

Find out more about visual schedules in this post and by watching this video:

Using Task Analysis Charts: A type of Visual Schedule

After my Facebook Live on Visual schedules, I thought it would be helpful to give you some more information about one of the types of schedules we discussed: task analysis charts.  Here is a past post that I hope is helpful!

Are you tired of repeating yourself? Do you have to tell your kids the same thing 100 times a day? If this is you, I urge you to try these handy charts!

Task analysis looks at all the necessary steps it takes to complete an activity. It breaks down the task into manageable chunks. Think of it like a recipe. 

Some things I use task analysis for in my home:
Brushing Teeth
Using the restroom 
After school procedure
Getting ready in the morning 

For us, it seems like these times a day often lead to nagging. Did you rinse the toothpaste out of the sink? Don't forget to put the toiler seat down!

 Hang your backpack on the hook. 

These situations can easily turn into a power struggle. Instead, we put our kids in control by having THEM follow the task analysis charts. These visual charts work wonders, because children respond better to visual instructions versus verbal instruction. This is especially true for children with communication delays or children on the autism spectrum.
1. Determine the activity that you want to use. 
2. Write down the specific steps to complete the activity. How specific you are depends on the age and ability of your child. A morning routine actually consists of several tasks, but for my (then*) 8 year old daughter I combined all the tasks for one chart.

 For some children getting dressed could be a chart all on its own. 
  • Put on pants
  • Button pants
  • Put on shirt
  • Put on socks
  • Put on shoes
  • Tie shoes

3. Create the chart. Find clip art, draw pictures, or take photographs to illustrate each step. I prefer to pair the picture with the written words. This aides in reading development and keeps your prompting consistent.  I used Boardmaker symbols (this subscription can be expensive, check with your child's intervention specialist or speech therapist to see if they have access to these symbols).

4. Introduce the chart. Show your child the chart. I would suggest doing this in a calm moment. Do not try to introduce a new "Get Ready for School Chart" when you have woken up late and are dangerously close to missing the bus. Show the chart to your child the night before. Tell him/her that in the morning you are going to play a game to see if he/she can get ready without Mommy saying a word. Role play that night.  Talk about each picture and what it means. Point to the steps as your child carries out the action.
5. Implement the chart. I suggest using a system of least-to-most prompts: Verbal, gestural, model, physical prompts. First start with verbal prompts, because it is the least intrusive.  If needed, move to the next type of prompt.
Verbal: What is the next step on your chart?. 
Gestural: Point to the next step.
Model: Show the child how to do the step.
Example: Show the child how to put the toothpaste on the toothbrush.
Physical: Hand over hand help the child put the toothpaste on the toothbrush.

 I post these charts in places that the children can see and access independently. The toothbrushing and bathroom charts are posted on the mirror in the bathroom.  The "After School" chart is posted on our door that leads in from the garage (right beside where I want the kids to hang up their coats).

Have other routines in mind?  Send me a message, and I would be happy to help you!