What is Focused Stimulation?

What is Focused Stimulation?

Focused stimulation is a research-based language therapy technique which helps children with early language delays learn to speak (or sign) their first words. Parents and professionals work together to pre-select developmentally appropriate, motivating, functional, and culturally sensitive target words. These may include nouns (MOMMY, DADDY, BABY), verbs (EAT, GO, OPEN), prepositions (UP, DOWN, OFF), and other types of words (MORE, NO, ALL GONE, BYE). High concentrations of the target words are presented to the child in meaningful, natural single words, short phrases, and short sentences.

Why does Focused Stimulation work?

Repetition of the target words in helps children focus on what we want them to say while reducing talk about other things.

How do I use Focused Stimulation?

To help your child learn to say the word OPEN, you can provide multiple models of the word while eating cheerios from a container like this:

Let’s OPEN the box. OPEN. I OPEN the box. Do you want to try? OPEN. OPEN the box.

Look, the box is OPEN! Here comes a cheerio. OPEN your mouth. OPEN. Here comes another one…


When should I use Focused Stimulation?

As much as possible! Pre-plan opportunities to use the child’s target words across the day. For example. OPEN can be used to OPEN the toothpaste, OPEN a drawer, OPEN the car door. Each time, present the model in a combination of single words and short phrases/sentences 5-10 times before changing to another topic.

Do I have to ask my child to repeat me?

No. In traditional Focused Stimulation, listening is enough to foster learning…but there is no harm in occasionally asking the child a question like “What should I do?” (OPEN) or helping the child produce the word by saying “Oh you want me to OPEN. Tell me OPEN.”

How can I use Focused Stimulation while reading books?

Once your child’s target words have been selected, look for books that repeat the target multiple times. For example, I CAN DO THAT (Lederer, 2014) uses Focused Stimulation to target the earliest verbs: EAT, DRINK, HUG, KISS, CRY, SLEEP.

This is a boy. A boy loves to EAT. Let’s pretend to EAT a treat. EAT, EAT, EAT. Again. EAT. EAT. EAT.

This is a girl. A girl loves to DRINK. Let’s pretend to DRINK something pink. DRINK. DRINK. DRINK. Again. DRINK. DRINK. DRINK.

A girl loves to DRINK. A boy loves to EAT. Let’s DRINK. Let’s EAT. Did you do that? Neat!!!


With wishes for words,

Dr. Suzy Lederer

Speech-Language Pathologist, Associate Professor, Author I CAN DO THAT