In speech therapy, a total communication approach is a combination of verbal (using our voice) and nonverbal (using sign language, gestures, etc) methods to facilitate and improve communication skills. This method is especially favored in children with Down Syndrome, who tend to develop nonverbal communication before verbal communication. Teaching a total communication approach uses skills your child already possesses to facilitate further speech and language development.
So how do you do it? Pair functional signs with verbal expression of people, objects, and actions. For example, at mealtimes, when your child signs “more”, reinforce the request by simultaneously signing and verbally saying “more”. This allows your child to match the verbally expressed word with the sign and provides an additional method for expression. This is a great method to introduce new concepts to your child as well; provide sign and spoken word simultaneously when talking about new foods, toys, feelings, etc. Practice makes perfect, so this method can be used across settings, such as at mealtimes, bedtimes, at the playground, etc. Everyone loves to be told they are doing a good job, so make sure you encourage and praise your child whenever and however they communicate!