Recasting stimulates expressive language development

Recasting is a technique used by SLPs that has been shown in research to be highly effective for improving language ability in children with expressive language disorders. The best news is that it's cheap and easy. No special equipment or training is required—you can start right now if you want.

Here's an example of an exchange illustrating this technique:

Child: "Baby crying."
Adult: "Yes, the baby is crying."

That's all there is to it—you don't need to emphasize THE or IS as if you're correcting the child, and you don’t make the child say it back to you correctly; you just say it matter-of-factly, as if you’re simply repeating what the child said.

Don't expect instant results—in research studies, imitation got quicker results, but repeating using the correct form resulted in better long-term growth in expressive language development. In other words, children who imitated went back to their old habits as soon as the adults stopped prompting them to imitate. Children who received recasting treatment took longer to begin using the correct forms, but continued using the correct forms independently once they started.

We're not completely sure why this works so well. Apparently, it sends the child the message that you are listening and paying attention to what s/he is saying, so the child’s confidence may increase as a result of this success. Also, since what you're doing is essentially echoing what the child just said, or meant to say, it stands to reason that the child is going to be interested and paying attention (by comparison, if you say "The baby is crying" while the child is building a block tower, your words will probably go in one ear and out the other with no effect on the child's language development). Ultimately, though, it doesn't much matter why it works—the important thing is that it does work. Give it a try!

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