Why is Turn-Taking Important in Speech and Language Development?

As children progress through early childhood, acquiring communication is one of the most pivotal developmental milestones. Communication starts with basic elements, such as babbling and one-syllable words, and children slowly learn more complex aspects of development, such as full conversations and exchanges. When children develop conversation skills, they also learn the skill of turn-taking.

What is turn-taking?
Turn-taking occurs in a conversation when one person listens while the other person speaks. As a conversation progresses, the listener and speaker roles are exchanged back and forth (a circle of discussion).

Why is turn-taking important?
Turn taking is an important skill for children to develop, in order to effectively participate in social communications. If a child is not able to take turns during interactions, they may interrupt the other person who is speaking or may not actively listen. Children who struggle with turn-taking in social situations may also experience trouble building friendships in class.

How can a therapeutic preschool program help with turn-taking?
If a child experiences speech or language delays, they may struggle with turn-taking. Children with developmental delays or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may have challenges with this skill, because children on the spectrum often exhibit delays in communication and social skills.

If a child is enrolled in a therapeutic preschool program that offers added support for speech and language, the teacher may emphasize turn-taking in class. If a child is struggling with this skill or speech (in general), a speech-language pathologist may also work with the child to develop their communication skills.

Engage in play: Teachers and parents can model turn-taking for children when they engage in play time. The adult should make it very clear to the child whose turn it is. For example, the adult might say, “First you can have a turn with a toy,” or “Now it’s my turn to play with the toy.” Using direct language and explicitly stating when it is time to take turns helps the child learn to appropriately take turns.

Games: This skill can also be illustrated when playing games. When a teacher or parent is playing a game with their child, they should state each time it is a new player’s turn. For example, “Now it is your turn, and next it is Kevin’s turn.”

Social stories: Teachers in a therapeutic preschool program might create social stories about turn-taking, in order to help their kiddos better understand this skill.

Magic wand: To teach turn-taking in conversation, a therapeutic preschool teacher might use a magic wand that children hold while they are talking. This way, children learn to take turns and listen to the speaker holding the magic wand.

There are many different techniques that may be effective for children, depending on their unique learning styles. Are you interested in learning more about therapeutic preschool programs for your child? Contact CST Academy by clicking the purple button below or calling 773-620-7800 to learn more about the wide range of services we provide for children, including speech therapy, occupational therapy, feeding therapy, and ABA therapy in Chicago.