Last week I shared the definition of language in general, how spoken and written language are further divided into listening, speaking, reading and writing, and how the 5 domains of language (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics) manifest across those areas of language. If you missed it, you can read about it here.

A reminder that receptive language has to do with how we process language.  Difficulty in processing language can be due to a variety of delays and disorders including: Central Auditory Processing Disorder, Stroke, Traumatic Brain Injury, Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder, Hearing Impairment, sensory issues, emotional issues such as anxiety and trauma, or other cognitive, behavioral or environmental issues that impact development and learning.

Receptive and expressive language are so intertwined that it is difficult, and not my preference, to separate them. However, it is good to know how to address them “individually” since receptive and expressive languages have their own particular set of skills, in spite of many crossovers.  It is from here that I can share some particular speech therapy interventions to target receptive language skills, along with some strategies to use.  

Reading Together

Reading and discussing the story page by page helps to develop comprehension and critical thinking skills, build vocabulary, support literacy skills, and deepen relationships by having fun and sharing special time together.

WH Questions

Answering WH Questions builds many language skills all at once and can be adapted for any age and skill level.  You can also practice WH questions in any environment, situation or on any task: fun, academic, social, mundane.

  • Understand the question word 
  • Understand the grammar of the question
  • Understand each vocabulary word (not just the question word)
  • Makes sense of the information and the social context
  • Formulate a response
  • Put the words together (syntax & semantics)
  • Give a response

Build Working Memory

Techniques to learn:

  1. Visualization: Make a mental picture of something you hear. Pairing auditory information and verbal imagery help support recall of information.
  2. Rehearsal: To remember something, it helps to repeat it a few times.  Subvocalization is this process with low volume, so that it doesn’t disturb others around us.
  3. Chunking: Remembering items in groups is easier than remembering items separately. It is easier to remember a phone number in 2 chunks, 555-2929, instead of 7 separate numbers 5552929.  We also do this when we categorize information.
  4. Visual Reminders:  Visual reminders include post-it-notes, calendars, schedules, alarm clocks, etc…

Memory games and describing/guessing games are good at supporting working memory, especially when paired with a visual support.  

Fast ForWord

Fast ForWord is a gamified approach to rewiring the brain in order to increase processing speed, build working memory and attention skills, improve reading and listening comprehension, and support development in all 5 domains of language. It is an excellent tool and supports many different learning and reading delays and disorders.

Following Directions

You can make a game out of seeing how many steps of directions they can follow or just take it one step at a time, whichever works best for the individual and the environment.  Simon Says, Treasure hunts, cleaning up time, and cooking together are great ways to practice following directions.  Playing games such as Twister, card games and board games are also fun.  You can make the directions silly (go hop on one leg around the room), competitive (any game or sport), instructional (do your math homework first, then spelling and your reading last) or practical (please clean up your room after you clear the table) . Whatever suits the age of the individual and the moment you are in.


Naming items at home, on a car ride, in a book, anywhere out in the community or when traveling, provides opportunities to learn new vocabulary and build present language skills into more complex phrases and sentences. 

Here are some strategies you can use to support building receptive language skills:

Simplify your language

Break your language down into simple, short sentences and phrases.  Think about learning a foreign language.  We start with very simple words and phrases and build up from there.

Provide Repetitions

Repetitions don’t have to be exhausting.  When they are provided in a targeted way, in context, with visual supports and simplified language, they can really work.  Ask the individual to tell you what was asked of them to support them receiving the information, strengthening their neural connections, and also having them take responsibility for their part of the conversation and to practice their use of self-advocacy skills.

Use Non-Verbal Cues

Pairing gestures with words is very helpful in supporting language development.  Pointing, gesturing, and moving your body to demonstrate meaning all help to support comprehension.

Combine Speech and Movement

When learning new words, it is helpful to make the movement in the body to support the neuromotor pairing of speech and motor skills.  For example, you can instruct the individual to sit down, while they make the motion to do so.  This also works well for naming tasks and following directions, such as “pick up your fork”. You can also do this in a physical game such as any sport, playing on the playground, or attending an event.

Teach Self-Advocacy

It is important that the individual learns how to communicate if they don’t understand someone or something. This will help them develop confidence and responsibility in their communication. There is no need to feel bad in not knowing or remembering something. They can ask for a repetition, say they don’t understand, use gestures or even describe what they do know (which also helps with word finding and expressive language).

As you can see, language support can be integrated into everyday situations or used in specific activities. Be creative, have fun, be flexible and understanding.  We all learn better communication as we learn and grow together!  

At Vibe, our speech therapists are trained to work with children and adults of every age, in every facet of speech and language.  We are experts in our field. The clinical and personal relationship we have with you is at the core of everything we do. From the resources we bring to support growth in all areas of your life, to the highly individualized therapy sessions, and the collaborative partnerships we make with other providers and family and caregivers, we are committed to exceeding your expectations. We look forward to helping you bring your best self into the world!

Contact Vibe Speech Therapy to learn more about how we can help you!