Early intervention to help toddlers and early learners find their voice is one of the best parts of a speech therapists’ day. How rewarding it is to help little ones with verbal limitation increase expressive language and skills! Working with toddlers and early learners, who are struggling with language, is such important work for parents, therapists, preschool, and special education teachers! Don’t make the workload even bigger, let me take something off your plate! Just enter your email address for a no prep, FREE Early Intervention Printable. The printable is great for distance learning, teletherapy, or speech therapy in person! 

Where to Begin?

One of the best places to begin with Early Intervention for increasing expressive language and verbal imitation is working on verbal speech. In the behavioral field therapists may use the term, echoic. More specifically, 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 – like an echo- usually immediately. Echoics are important for young learners to build their repertoire of functional words. Learning functional words makes a huge difference for toddlers and young students in being able to communicate! 

Sounds and Syllable Shapes

Echoics is also a great  asset for Speech therapists, teachers and parents to focus on addressing specific sounds and specific syllable shapes. Even better news, as parents, we already, naturally apply this strategy, when we model first sounds and words like “Ma-ma,” “Da-da,”  or, “Uh-oh.” All that cooing and baby talk is actually the beginnings of language development! Beyond the usual “Ma-ma and Da-da,” it may be tricky to think of other simple words to work on, especially if your little one is struggling to imitate you verbally right away.  Don’t stress though,  the FREE Early Intervention Printable includes some great one and two syllable words to easily provide language instruction as parents, teachers or therapists! Just add your email below and the Free guide is yours!

Ready for Some More?

You have the resource, and you have the background, but how do you know how to begin with each individual student or child? Assessment of course! When meeting a new student in speech therapy or trying to gauge where your own child with limited communication stands, assess the student’s current echoic repertoire. This will make it much clearer as to where to begin with expressive language activities!

When assessing children that are  limited verbally, there are some great,  easy to implement  ways to assess students’ abilities to verbalize. One of my absolute 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.

Once we have the information about the sounds a learner already can say, the next step is to develop functional and motivating targets to address in therapy. Another important note for therapists and parents alike, is to understand that target speech words should be chosen carefully based on skill, but also motivation. Motivation for our youngest learners is key. A really great word for students, that is two-syllables, and is very motivating is “cookie!”


Continuing to work on new echoic targets in therapy is of utmost importance, but mastery happens and our mastery words must go to a maintenance folder! I actually like to have a folder for each day of the week with different words to practice along with the maintenance folder for all of the successes we encounter! Obviously, the mastered words aren’t forgotten, but are put in a separate folder for maintenance that the team should have access to, so that the team can continue to reinforce those masterd words.Each team member should be trained on how to work on the maintenance echoic targets. Team work really goes a long way and this system has proved to be very helpful for my students! It gives them embedded practice with speech sounds, words and phrases.

Speech therapy for young students with limited expressive language is such an important responsibility we have. When words are mastered, it changes the daily life of these little ones! Take advantage of the great freebie available by entering your email below! Don’t wait! Get started with the echoic and one and two syllable words today! 

  1. Skinner B.F. Verbal behavior. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts; 1957.
  2. Sundberg, Mark. (2008) VB-MAPP. Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program: a language and social skills assessment program for children with autism or other developmental disabilities. Concord, CA; AVB Press

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  1. Sandi on May 22, 2019 at 12:14 am

    Thank you for supplying these fabulous resources!

    • abaspeech on May 22, 2019 at 11:34 am

      You are so welcome!

      • Dr. Dorothy on August 11, 2019 at 3:12 pm

        Thank you for saving me time to work efficiently.

        • Rosemarie Griffin on August 11, 2019 at 3:45 pm

          So glad this is helpful info!

    • Priscilla martinez on November 22, 2020 at 10:51 pm

      I need help desperately

      • Rosemarie Griffin on November 23, 2020 at 9:45 am

        Please feel free to reach out to use at support@abaspeech.org and we can provide you with helpful information.

  2. Kathleen Shipos on May 22, 2019 at 12:21 am

    Thank you!

    • abaspeech on May 22, 2019 at 11:33 am

      Glad this is helpful information!

  3. JiSu on February 27, 2020 at 1:23 am

    Thank you so much! These fantastic resources are very helpful for my kids!

    • Rosemarie Griffin on February 27, 2020 at 3:19 pm

      So happy to hear that!

  4. Nina on November 24, 2020 at 3:31 pm

    Thank you so much! This will be so helpful for my toddler.

    • Rosemarie Griffin on November 24, 2020 at 6:09 pm

      So happy to hear that!

  5. Chichi thelma on February 8, 2021 at 11:03 am

    I need help in the area for autism

    • Rosemarie Griffin on February 8, 2021 at 11:31 am

      Thanks for reaching out- please feel free to email me rose@abaspeech.org and we will share some resources to help

  6. Laura on December 31, 2021 at 12:26 pm

    This is so helpful!

    • Rosemarie Griffin on January 1, 2022 at 9:45 pm

      So happy to hear that!

  7. Lisa on December 31, 2021 at 6:26 pm

    I am currently completing one of your courses. The materials are wonderful. I am interested in this resource for ideas when working with my students.

    • Rosemarie Griffin on January 1, 2022 at 9:45 pm

      So happy that you are in our course Lisa!

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