Working with early learners who are struggling to find their voice is important work! One aspect of communication that you may work on is verbal speech. In the behavioral field you may hear the term echoic. An echoic is one of the verbal operants that B.F. Skinner addressed in his book Verbal Behavior (1957). An echoic can be defined as repeating what is heard, usually immediately. Work on echoics can help a learner say many different functional words. Echoics can also be worked on to systematically address saying different sounds and syllable shapes. SLP “Say cookie” Student “cookie” SLP “Say up” Student “Up” SLP “Say okay” Student “okay”
There are many ways to assess a student’s ability to verbalize when they are limited verbally. One of my favorite assessments is the Early Echoic Skills Assessment ( EESA) from the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program ( Sundberg 2008) . This was created by Barbara E. Esch PhD CCC-SLP/ BCBA. It helps to give a basis for a student’s current echoic repertoire. Once we have a repertoire of sounds a learner can say, we need to develop functional and motivating targets to address in therapy.
I work on new echoic targets in therapy sessions and once mastered put them in a maintenance folder for all of the educational team to practice. I have a folder for each day of the week. Once a target has met criterion it is moved to the maintenance folder. I train the team on how to work on the maintenance echoic targets. This system has proved to be very helpful for my students! It gives them embedded practice with speech sounds, words and phrases.
I know that at times it can be difficult to think of one and two syllable words that might be functional targets for students. It is important to note that targets should be chosen after analyzing student need, skill and motivation. To help you provide systematic language instruction with ease, I have created a list of one and two syllable words to use as a guide. Enjoy!