Interview with Dr. Angelique Millette

Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by the wonderful Dr. Angelique Millette, a highly-regarded sleep consultant and family coach here in San Francisco.  Many of the families I’ve worked with and have met in the bay area have raved about Dr. Millette’s incredible help with infant sleep training and support through transitions and other difficult parenting challenges. Dr. Millette is known for her gentle, nurturing approach. She invited me for an interview about speech and language development, which was featured in her Father’s Day newsletter, which can be found here. To learn more about Dr. Millette and her services, visit

Building Language Through Daily Routines

Routine activities provide a wonderful backdrop for helping your child build his or her language skills.  Routines are just that, routine, meaning they have a sense of order and predictability, and they occur on a regular basis.  Repetition and multiple exposures lend to faster and more meaningful learning.

Routine 1: Laundry

Laundry, what a drag right?! Laundry never ends and there will always (always!) be a load to wash or a basket full of clothes to fold. Why not include your child to make the chore more fun for you and educational for her?

Laundry day is a great time to practice:

  • Sorting – sort by colors/whites, sort by category – separate pants, shirts, socks, etc.
  • Possessives - have your child tell you whether something is mommy’s or daddy’s
  • Basic Concepts - clean/dirty, wet/dry, hot/cold, empty/full, big/little, wrinkled/smooth

Routine 2: Getting Dressed

What better time to practice new skills than during something your child does every day? In my house, getting dressed is a long, drawn out process in which my almost-three-year-old daughter deliberates, coordinates, and changes her mind about her outfits multiple times. On any given day a minimum of two different pants, skirts, shirts, sweatshirts, socks and shoes get strewn about her room as she decides between the pink stripes or the purple dots, the tutu or the princess dress, the panda shirt or the mouse one. If your life is anything like mine, you will have infinite opportunities to build your child’s vocabulary during dressing.

Here is a list of my favorite getting-dressed words and concepts:

Stripes, dots, colors, animals, hearts, stars, bows, zipper, snap, button, tie, buckle, strap, sleeve, hood, long/short, shoes/boots/flip-flops/slippers, hat, sunglasses, scarf, mittens, jacket, raincoat, rain boots, socks, pants, shirts, skirts, dresses, sweaters, sweatshirts.

Routine 3: Setting the Table

Setting the table is a great time of day to help your child build his vocabulary and follow directions. Table setting time provides a great opportunity to learn categories such as “silverware” and “dishes” and to learn the names of all the items in each category.  It is also a natural opportunity to practice following different types of directions:

One-step directions: get the plate, give me the bowl, find your fork

Two-step directions: get the plate and put it on the table, get the bowl and give it to me, find your fork and bring it here

Prepositional directions: put the plate on the table, put the napkin next to the plate, put the fork on the napkin

Directions with attributes: get the blue cup, get a little spoon and a big spoon, put the white plate at daddy’s spot and the pink plate at your spot

These directions are naturally reinforcing because daddy won’t likely want the pink plate and your child will find it silly if her napkin is in her bowl or her fork is under her plate.

Therapy Tip: Helping a Child Respond to His Name

Helping a child learn to respond to his name is often one of the long-term objectives of children with autism spectrum disorders. The social motivation to respond when called may be diminished or lacking. Here are some tips for facilitating response to name:

  • Call the child’s name with a purpose. Avoid calling his name just to “test” his responsiveness. Call his name to get his attention for something he will enjoy.
  • Use high-interest toys and activities to “reward” your child with when he responds. For example, call his name and when he looks, blow a bunch of bubbles. Tickle him, shower him with kisses or give him a cookie – anything that will make him happy!

The combination of calling a child’s name with a purpose and making that purpose be for his enjoyment, will help the child develop a positive association with responding to his name.  In time, responding to his name will become increasingly automatic.