Raise Bar: Telegraphic vs. Grammatically Simplified Input

The ASHA Leader published a great little article recently about Telegraphic vs. Grammatically Simplified Input. You can find it in its entirety here: When is simplified too…simple? .

Briefly, telegraphic speech includes phrases like, See dog.,  More cracker?,  My turn car.,  Daddy push ball., and the like. These phrases are content driven (they use nouns and verbs) but ignore function words (articles, etc.).  Grammatically simplified sentences are shorter utterances that DO NOT ignore rules of grammar. Examples of these would be See the dog., More crackers?, It’s my turn to hold the car., and Daddy’s pushing the ball.

The article presents the pros and cons of both types of input, but generally lands on the side of using grammatically simplified utterances, and I agree.

However, is it ever okay to use telegraphic phrases? The short answer is “Yes, but it’s complicated.”

It all depends on the child. There are kids who initially do well with telegraphic input. It may be easier for the kiddo to understand and reproduce More eat. at meal time than it would be for them to understand and reproduce more grammatically complex sentences.

The danger of telegraphic phrases, in my mind, is in growing comfortable with them. What I don’t like to see is therapists, family members, and teachers stalling out at the telegraphic input level. Family members might see that this technique is working, and may get nervous about pushing the child further for fear of regression or plateauing of skills. However, if you don’t raise the bar, can you every really know the kid’s potential?

Telegraphic phrases are great a bridge between the early stages of language development, as the article notes. But don’t stop there. Don’t be afraid to push the child. There is nothing more disheartening than meeting an autistic adult who has speaks in telegraphic phrases, and wondering “what if.”


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