There are a number of methods and techniques for working with toddlers who don’t yet communicate effectively with others.  When we think about these methods, we often group them into two larger categories: indirect and direct. Indirect, or input-based, methods rely on adults providing lots of rich language in a child’s environment; with these methods, however, we don’t require children to do anything in the moment. There is considerable evidence to support these input-based methods, especially for late-talkers and toddlers and preschoolers who struggle with the grammatical aspects of language. Despite the effectiveness of input-based methods in some situations, there are times when these indirect methods of language facilitation aren’t all that are needed.  In these cases, we might choose to use a more direct method of helping a child to communicate.  Direct methods involve expecting a child to do something – to use a gesture, or a word, for example – right in the moment when we are teaching them. This is where prelinguistic milieu teaching enters the picture.

Within the wide range of techniques we SLPs carry in our speech-language toolboxes, the use of recasts is one we pull out frequently.  In fact, it’s a tool that many SLPs, parents, and teachers often use intuitively and with ease when interacting with young children.  But how valuable, exactly, is the use of recasting? What research guides the use of this technique in practice? And when do we need to use something more than recasts to help language grow? Recent research provides some clues to help us to answer these questions.