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  • Writer's pictureLaura Brown

Three Cheers for Exclamatory Words!

It's SLP therapy magic!

There are so many reasons to incorporate these exclamatory words in early intervention therapy:

✨They are easy to say!

✨They are fun to practice.

✨They include a natural rhythm and emphasis that supports language learning.

✨They pack a TON of communicative power.

These qualities of exclamatory words make them perfect targets for a wide variety of speech and language needs.

1. They support functional communication for our emerging communicators and give them a way to comment on their environment and express feelings. These words are all about sharing! They are rooted in precious moments of joint engagement and shared experiences and we know how important these are for building communication skills.

2. These exclamatory words are also rich in intonation and can stand alone as a gestalt which makes them a great option for analytic and gestalt processors alike!

3. Additionally, they make great target words for young children with speech sound disorders because they boost communication and typically include early sounds and simple syllable shapes.

Now let's talk about how to teach these words in therapy!

➡ Pairing these exclamatory words with a gesture can support word learning and imitation skills. Ingersoll et al. (2010) found that children were more likely to verbally imitate when words were paired with gestures. Adding a gesture to each word also gives a child access to multiple modes of communication. They can use the word or the gesture to communicate.

➡ Use a naturalistic approach. Incorporate these exclamatory words in the context of everyday activities and play. Follow the child's interest and affect. Use their nonverbal communication cues and facial expressions to figure out how they are feeling and model an exclamatory word to match. Say, "ow!" when they bump their elbow or "whoa!" as they look at a water fountain with wonder in their eyes. You can (and should!) elaborate with other language as well. Ex: "Ow. That hurt. You hit your elbow."

➡Make sure to model these words with lots of rhythm and emphasis! How we say it is almost as important as what we say. When we highlight the word using the suprasegmentals of volume, pitch, and duration, children are going to be more likely to tune in and make connections about what the word means. They are also going to be more likely to imitate the word when it is spoken with emphasis. Just ask any parent who has ever slipped and emphatically said their favorite four-letter word in front of their toddler. 😆😅

Make sure to get your copy of this free handout to share with the families you work with! The QR code links to a video example of each exclamatory word paired with a gesture to boost word learning and imitation skills.

If you found this blog post helpful, share it with a parent, caregiver, fellow SLP, or early childhood educator. :)


Laura Brown, MA, CCC-SLP

Founder, Early & Bright


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