Another concept I've learned from Play to Talk by James MacDonald and Pam Stoika is matching my son's communication level.
I tend to use long sentences and big words. I love language (one of the reasons why I'm a writer) and I love to play with words. I tend to speak in complete sentences even to my young children. I do participate in "baby talk" with infants, but that's as far as it goes. I don't favor "baby talk" with toddlers.
I've realized that my son's speech delay means that he needs me to forget my "adult" language and look specifically for ways to match his skills. Instead of saying, "Oh, look at that soccer ball rolling down the field," I need to say "I see a ball."
I need to match him in what he says and in what he wants to talk about. I've learned enough signs to have simple conversations with him and when I do that, it seems to reach him better. He understands more complicated language but he doesn't respond as well to it.
I've now started commenting on things around us in one or two words or signs. Instead of giving him a complicated set of instructions, I give him one or two words so he can respond to me more easily.
The other day, he had a runny nose. Instead of launching into a long, detailed command to get a tissue I simply said, "Bathroom, tissue," and then I acted out blowing my nose. He scampered off and returned shortly with a tissue and blew his nose for me to watch. In that exchange, we were matched.
It's important for me to remember that there's a reason he has a speech delay and that I need to rethink my communication interactions with him as opposed to how I communicated with my other kids.
A recommended exercise from this book is to imitate your child for five minutes. This will help you learn what words/signs he can and does use.
Another suggestion is to be a "living dictionary" and teach the word of what my son is doing so he begins to learn new words. When he does an action, such as kicking the ball, I'll say, "Kick ball." He already knows "ball" and now he knows "kick." I watched him to see what he was already doing and then assigned a word to that action rather than trying to teach him a word first and then the action.
Matching him means to observe what he is already doing and then use words or signs that mean something to him in a way that he can understand them.