Language Processing is a Continuum

Jan 17, 2024

Language processing is a continuum from analytic language development to gestalt language development. Some children may be “fully analytic”, some may be “fully gestalt”, and some may fall somewhere between the two. Our work here at Meaningful Speech is focused on those that fall more towards the gestalt language processing end and/or are “fully gestalt” and need language support. Not all gestalt language processors need support, but our work is for those that do. 

Analytic and Gestalt Language Development

If you’re not sure where your child or client falls on the continuum, we recommend still utilizing the strategies we discuss here at Meaningful Speech. Children that fall more towards analytic processing will take what they need from whole phrase models (single words) and children that fall more towards gestalt processing will get the appropriate natural language models they need (phrases/gestalts). All children can benefit from a child-led, neurodiversity-affirming approach to supporting language development that focuses on foundational aspects like connection and regulation.

Strategies for Analytic Language Processors

  • Labeling nouns (objects, pictures, books, flashcards) to increase word count/ increase vocabulary

  • Expanding utterances (e.g. modeling two-word combinations if the child says one word (e.g child says "Ball" Adult says "Blue ball" )

  • Using Cloze Phrase or Fill-in-the-Blank (e.g. The Wheels on the..._ and waiting for child to say "bus")

  • Asking WH-questions like "What's this?"

  • Focus on grammar early on

Strategies for Gestalt Language Processors 

  • In the first stage of gestalt language development, modeling more potential  gestalts that can be easily mixed and matched or trimmed down when the child is ready for stage 2.

  • Eliminate focus on single word modeling, asking questions and focusing on grammar in stage 1.

  • Acknowledging anything the child communicates without trying to change it. Smile, head nod, repeat it or say "Yea" or "Ok."

  • Model language naturally in child led play and focus on declarative language (narrating, commenting).

  • Don’t take gestalts literally, but investigate what they mean to the child (often tied to a meaningful experience).

Strategies that support all language development

  • A child-led therapy approach. Following a child's interests and allowing them to lead in your sessions. Rather than going into sessions with an adult-directed agenda, we enter the child’s world of play.

  • Proactively supporting sensory needs. 

  • Including the child’s interests in sessions (not using them as compliance-based rewards). 

  • Modeling language naturally without expectation (e.g. "Say _____”). 

  • Reducing questions and using declarative language (narrating, commenting). 

  • Using music and singing songs in early language development. 

  • Training parents and caregivers. 

  • Considering if the child could benefit from AAC. 

  • Acknowledging and honoring all communication. 

Want to learn more in-depth information about how to support gestalt language processors?

1. There are many free podcasts, webinars and articles to get you started. A comprehensive list of resources can also be found on our website.

2. Consider taking the Meaningful Speech course to learn more about how your child or client processes language, how you can help support them from echolalia to self-generated (original flexible) language, child-led therapy, and neurodiversity-affirming practices. Looking for something shorter? We have a 1-hour introductory course perfect for extended family, daycare or school staff.

3. Consider taking our AAC + Gestalt Language Processing course. It will teach you how to identify, evaluate and support gestalt language processors who use AAC or who you think might benefit from AAC.

4. Look for a speech-language pathologist (SLP) who "gets it" and can help you in supporting your child's language development. Check out our registry for SLPs who understand gestalt language processing and child-led therapy.

5. Are you a school-based or private practice clinician looking for intake forms for new clients/students or creative visual reminder posters for your space? Check out the Meaningful Speech Marketplace. 

Take me to