Expressive Language Disorder: At Home Vocabulary Building Activities

When my eldest son, Douglas, was three years old, he didn’t speak much English, he was fluent in gibberish. More and more of his developing verbal communication began to sound like a foreign language.

I immediately suspected a problem with his hearing, but following a thorough evaluation, he was diagnosed with high functioning autism, an expressive language delay and a disorder called echolalia.

Echolalia is the repetition or echoing of verbal utterances made by another person. In my son’s case that meant, when I asked him a question, he would repeat the question instead of answering it. (

Speech therapy was necessary at home and in school to assist in building his vocabulary, but we were a one income household with another son, who was diagnosed with low functioning autism and language delays as well.

After researching therapy options for children afflicted with autism, we realized we couldn’t afford the at-home treatment needed for both children.

Discouraged, I decided to take control of our circumstances. Since Douglas did have a small vocabulary and the ability to repeat words, I devised a vocabulary building activity plan that was inexpensive, but highly effective. Here are my suggestions:

Alphabet and Picture Words Flashcards
Set aside time everyday for vocabulary building activities like studying alphabet and picture words flashcards. These cards are very easy to find. I buy mine from Schoolzone publishing company.
Once you’ve purchased your cards, paper clip them in groups of ten. (Write the name of the object on the front of the card if it isn’t already there.)

Let your child designate the study area. Then, sit next to your child and pronounce the object/animal on each card. Have your child repeat after you. Every day, spend as much time as you can on the first set of cards until they are memorized, and your child is capable of saying each word properly. Then, move on to the next set. Repeat this activity until the entire set of cards are memorized. (

Baby Bumblebee Vocabulary Builder
For parents who may not have time to sit and study flashcards daily, this collection of vhs tapes and dvd’s are a winner! Baby bumblebee helped my son’s speech with their vivid and pleasant-sounding vocabulary building series. It’s simple; play one dvd/vhs tape everyday. Showing a tape or dvd during lunchtime or playtime is perfect. Each word is pronounced in a crystal-clear voice by a narrator, so you don’t have to be concerned that your child is not properly learning a new word, when you’re unable to enunciate them. The best part about baby bumblebee vocabulary builders is your child will want to watch them repeatedly. Soon, each word will be committed to memory. (

Beginning Sight Words
Every young reader should know several beginning sight words. These cards can be purchased at a teacher supply store or online.

Try this vocabulary building activity: Grab three to four sight word cards and place them on a table. Sit across from your child and say each sight word. Have the child repeat the words after you and study them everyday until they are mastered. After your child is able to recognize the first sight words, add a few more words. Mix the cards up for an extra challenge and have your child pronounce the word on the cards you choose. (

This isn’t a solution, rather a supplement to therapies you may already have in place. I was home with my son to implement these activities intensively, so I saw extraordinary results, but even 10-15 minutes a day of reviewing flash cards will help. Today, Douglas is a bright, happy honor roll student with a huge vocabulary. Now that he speaks in a dialect we can understand, he won’t stop chatting. But you know what? I don’t mind one bit.

Try these other sites for great deals on other vocabulary building products!

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