Show cover of The Interaction Coach

The Interaction Coach

You can help your child learn to talk with speech-language pathologist Joyce Olson of The Interaction Coach. Listen to daily tips that make every interaction a learning opportunity for speech and language development. Whether your child needs to start using words, make longer sentences, or improve social communication, this podcast is for you.


1.001 Welcome to The Interaction Coach
Welcome to The Interaction Coach podcast, part of a collection of resources for parents of a child with a speech, language or communication challenge. The podcast is for parents like you who want to know what to expect in their child’s development, how they can help their child at home, and how to make informed decisions if they need to find speech and language therapy services. You’ll get practical, easy-to-use ideas that will help your child boost their communication development—starting today. Stop worrying and start celebrating all the changes you’ll learn to recognize that your child is making as you interact together. You’ll also feel more confident and informed if you need to search for therapy services, so you can work as an equal part of the team if your child is receiving therapy. I’m speech-language pathologist Joyce Olson. I’ve got over 40 years’ experience working with children from birth to age 22 and with adults with significant communication challenges. My mission is to get information and support to as many parents as possible by removing roadblocks that so many parents experience. You’ll find the podcast helpful if You wonder or worry if your child’s speech & language development is on track You believe your child has a communication difficulty but don’t know where to turn for help You want to know what you can do at home to support your child’s communication development you want to learn about recommended, research-based therapy approaches that would best meet your child's specific needs Season 1 starts with essential information every parent should understand about how communication skills develop and what you can do in your everyday activities that will help build those skills faster and stronger. Future seasons will explain later language development and effective therapy approaches that address a variety of communication challenges. The field of speech and language is huge, so we’ll also have guests to explain their areas of specialization in diagnosing and treating communication disorders. Learn about more parent resources at  Welcome to The Interaction Coach. I’m looking forward to communicating with you!
02:11 10/16/19
1.002 Who Is Joyce Olson and What Is The Interaction Coach?
Visit to find more parent information and resources. In this episode Joyce tells a bit about her 40 years of experience working with and on behalf of children in her roles as a speech-language pathologist, elementary principal and director of special education.  Now nearing the end of her career, Joyce shares a personal experience that motivated her to find a way to get more information and support out to parents who need it when their child is not learning speech, language and communication skills as expected. Learn about Joyce's vision of how The Interaction Coach can connect parents with speech-language professionals and build a library of resources you need for every stage of your child's communication development.
13:01 10/17/19
1.003 How to Use Seasons One through Eight
Welcome to The Interaction Coach podcast. Seasons 1–8 focus on how to build children’s communication skills from using no words to using two-word sentences. Use this link to get the checklist for finding your child's current communication level. In later seasons we’ll address later communication development and also what can be done to support children who have difficulty with their communication skills. These podcast episodes are short so you can do a quick listen and then try out a new activity daily during your everyday interactions with your child. You can use the ideas with your child to help strengthen their communication skills and get them to the next level of development. These parent-child activities are based on the concept of mediation — we identify what a child can do independently, then give them a little support to help them practice a skill that’s a little more advanced. Parents are the ideal mediators because they spend the most time with their child. You can make your mediation even more effective when you can do two things: recognize all the little details that tell you where the child is performing right now know what would be the next, little-more-advanced level of performance That’s the information you get with these podcast episodes. You'll identify your child’s current performance in detail and know what to expect next. This knowledge helps you make the most out of every learning opportunity your child has throughout the day. Another huge benefit of being able to recognize all the small details in development is that it helps change your mindset. Instead of worrying about what your child is not doing, you can celebrate the changes that happen every day that will build up to the bigger skills we are looking forward to. How to use the podcast Listen to one episode per day. I’ll give you a little pearl of wisdom about the area we’re targeting, and then I’ll describe one activity you can do together with your child to build a skill. Don’t just do the activity that day, though. Think of a time you can integrate the activity into your daily or weekly routine. Repeated practice is what builds learning and gets your child to the next level. IMPORTANT— Each of the eight levels in this series is based on typical development that requires at least three months. You can cycle through the episodes so you listen to each one several times. You might run across some activities that don’t make sense for your home. That’s okay. Just skip to the next one. The important idea is to do some of these activities every day. Try them all out and then use the ones that work best for you and your child. Where to start listening I recommend you start at the beginning and work your way through in order. Your child may be well beyond Level 1, but you can learn some important background knowledge by listening from the beginning. You can “speed-listen” through multiple episodes until you reach your child’s current level. Another option is to use this checklist to help identify your child’s current performance level. Check off items in the column titled Skills until you find gaps. Start doing daily podcast activities at this level. Monitor your progress Each time you start a new level, you will download a table called Activities to Build Skills. Each table lists all the skills and activities for that level, aligned with the podcast episodes. Each table divides the skills into four communication domains: social interaction, play, language and literacy. Some other big skills areas (like motor movement) are listed inside these big four domains. That’s because I want you to see how all of these areas interact and support communication development. The column called Targets lists skills we expect to see by the end of the level. Keep that in mind. Your child won’t start doing the skill when you start using an activity. Gradually, though, you will see small changes in how they respond until they get to the target level. The column called Activities lists the one-a-day prescription of activities that help build your child’s skills and get them to the target level. Keep the table somewhere handy so you can refresh your memory on the activities you’ve selected to use. Keep it some place visible to help remind you to use the activities. You may also use the blank space in or near the Target column as a mini-diary of progress. Add a date and short note to describe how your child is currently responding to an activity. Your notes will help you notice and remember all the signs of progress that happen along the way. Keep it up! They say it takes two months to establish a new habit. One of these suggestions may help you  form a daily habit of listening to the podcast. Set a reminder on your phone to cue you to listen at a certain time of the day. Integrate listening into an existing routine: before you get out of bed in the morning, fixing your hair, traveling to work, break time. Invite a family member or friend to listen to the podcast and talk about it with you.  
11:55 10/18/19
1.004 SOCIAL INTERACTION: Mutual Attention: Serve and return interactions
Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. Social interaction is the foundation for all communication. When we are teaching speech and language skills, we need to keep the social reasons for communicating at the center of our activities. Harvard University’s Center for the Developing Child coined the term Serve and Return to name the back-and-forth interactions between infants and adults. This social interaction is responsible for building the connections between brain cells that develop memory and learning. Read about Serve-and-Return and social interaction here. Watch a video about Serve-and-Return. Today’s activity: Be face-to-face with your child as you talk or make sounds. Find more resources at
08:09 10/20/19
1.005 SOCIAL INTERACTION: Mutual Attention: Compared to eye contact
Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. Send your questions to Mutual attention is when both interaction partners are paying attention to each other. Mutual attention may be demonstrated in many ways. Eye contact is just one of those ways. Mutual attention is developed through engaging, pleasant shared activity; it is not forced. Today’s activity: Exercising with your child. Find more resources at 
05:02 10/20/19
1.006 SOCIAL INTERACTION: Mutual Attention: Tummy time
Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. Children need many opportunities to develop their muscles while in a prone position (on their tummy). You can still spend face-to-face time with your child while having them lay on their tummy or side. (Plus you get to lay down for a few minutes!) Social interaction is the foundation for all communication. When we are teaching speech and language skills, we need to keep the social reasons for communicating at the center of our activities. Today’s activity: Look at each other, talk and smile while your child is on their tummy. Find more resources at 
04:01 10/20/19
1.007 SOCIAL INTERACTION: Joint Attention: Develop eye tracking
Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. Find more resources at Joint attention is when both interaction partners are paying attention to the same object or activity. Before joint attention can be used, your child must be able to use their vision to notice and track objects at a distance (i.e., follow moving objects with their eyes). Today’s activity: Be face-to-face with your child as you smile and talk. Slowly move to the side to encourage your child to follow you with their eyes.
05:54 10/20/19
1.008 SOCIAL INTERACTION: Joint Attention: You don’t have to make your child feel bad in order to improve their speech
Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. We pay attention someone else and their interests when we are comfortable with that person and enjoy spending time with them. Joint attention requires your child to notice your face and or body language that indicates where your interest lies, then they follow your line of sight or action to see what you are noticing. We want your child to use joint attention without prompting (without needing to be told “look”). That means you need to build your child’s interest in you as a source of pleasant feelings and interesting experiences. Today’s activity: Observe how your child responds to various soothing experiences like feeding, rocking, hugging, swaddling, laying down, music, sucking, soft texture, carrying. Pair your voice with soothing activities. Find more resources at
04:47 10/20/19
1.009 SOCIAL INTERACTION: Turn Taking: Smiling
Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. Infants draw us to them with their eye gaze so we can engage in Serve-and-Return interactions with them. Their smiles give us extra reinforcement that keep us coming back for more interactions. You can build longer back-and-forth exchanges with your child by responding to what they do. Today’s activity: When your child smiles, smile and/or talk then wait for your child to respond with another smile. Repeat. Find more resources at 
03:42 10/20/19
1.010 SOCIAL INTERACTION: Affect and Engagement: Boingy boingy
Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. A person’s affect is how they feel and how they show their feelings. Engagement means how involved a person is in an activity. You are building your awareness of how your child expresses their feelings and building their engagement with you. Today’s activity: Hold your small child under their arms so you are looking face to face. Use their leg movements to help you bounce them up and down while you use engaging facial expressions, sounds and words. Find more resources at 
03:58 10/20/19
1.011 SOCIAL INTERACTION: Affect and Engagement: Beep beep
Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. Everyone has personal preferences for what they find engaging and pleasant. Be aware of your child’s reactions. For activities your child enjoys, encourage them to engage for an increasing number of back-and-forth exchanges. For activities your child finds unpleasant, don’t push it. Build up to those gradually by doing it on yourself (demonstrating). Later, you might do something similar but less intrusive with your child until they become comfortable at that level. Build gradually; don’t push. Today’s activity: Wiggle your finger, “here it comes,” and beep their nose. Find more resources at 
03:18 10/20/19
1.012 SOCIAL INTERACTION: Affect and Engagement: Tickle, tickle
Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. Send your questions to Now that we’ve discussed social interaction, try this: Explain what is social interaction and why is it so important to communication development? Always focus on turn taking and keeping the activity pleasant. You are both sharing the activity. Today’s activity: tickle or walk your fingers up child’s tummy Find more resources at 
04:46 10/20/19
1.013 PLAY: Object Use: Hold a rattle
Finding this useful? PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW in your podcast app so other parents can find the podcast. Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. Motor skills are important for well-developed play skills, which are important for well-developed language and communication skills. Today’s activity: place a rattle or noisy toy in child’s hand as part of your social interaction Find more resources at 
04:01 10/20/19
1.014 PLAY: Object Use: Grasp you finger
Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. Developing a grasp is important for your child so they can learn to pick up objects for play. Today’s activity: Stroke your child’s fist or open hand with your index finger to encourage them to grasp it. Talk and smile back and forth while you shake your child’s hand. Find more resources at 
01:42 10/20/19
1.015 PLAY: Object Use: Swipe at objects
Send your questions to Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. Your child will begin to show interest by waving their arms (and legs). With practice, your child learns to direct their arm movement toward the object. Later this practice will help them learn to reach directly for an object. Today’s activity: Dangle a sock or interesting object in front of child’s face to get their attention. Tickle their hand with it and dangle it again. Find more resources at
02:34 10/20/19
1.016 PLAY: Attention to Objects: Track a slowly moving object
Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. Eye tracking is when your child moves their eyes to follow the movement of something interesting. It’s important for play development because we don’t want your child to lose interest in something just because it moves out of sight. Today’s activity: Hold an object about 10-12 inches from child’s face. Slowly move it back and forth, up and down, and in a slow circle. Find more resources at 
02:57 10/20/19
1.017 PLAY: Attention to Objects: Play with a mobile
Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. Mobiles are fun for little ones to watch and good exercise for their eyes. Think of ways you can also spend some time interacting with your child while you both look at the mobile (joint attention!) Today’s activity: Talk and reach toward a mobile while you and your child are lying side by side. Find more resources at 
02:53 10/20/19
1.018 PLAY: Attention to Objects: Here it comes
Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. Watching an object as it slowly comes closer is naturally interesting to your child. Children tend to show extra interest in unfamiliar objects. Keep it interesting and interactive by adding your voice, a tickle or new object. Today’s activity: While dressing, hold an item over your head and slowly bring it toward your child to tickle their face, chin or tummy. Find more resources at 
03:12 10/20/19
1.019 PLAY: Attention to Objects: Here comes the bottle
Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. When your child is a little older, they start to anticipate things that will happen in the future. Learning to anticipate outcomes starts at this level by learning to recognize an object that’s approaching and associating the object with a result. Today’s activity: When you are bring a bottle or food to your child, call attention to it (“here it comes”) and move it slowly toward your child. Take enough time so the child can focus on it and track its movement. Find more resources at 
03:57 10/20/19
1.020 PLAY: Attention to Objects: Track a light on the ceiling
Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. Find more resources at  The ceiling is several feet away but it’s easy for your child to notice a light shining on the ceiling in a darkened room. A nightlight that projects on the ceiling or a flashlight works well for this activity. Today’s activity: Lay your child on their back in a darkened room. Move a light slowly on the ceiling while you sing or talk to your child.
02:41 10/20/19
1.021: PLAY: Movement: Play on tummy
Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. Tummy time continues to be important at this level to strengthen the muscles your child needs for raising their head and the later skills of rolling over and sitting. Today’s activity: Give short, frequent opportunities to be on their tummy. Spend some time sharing the experience and interacting with your child while on your tummies. Find more resources at 
04:22 10/21/19
1.022 PLAY: Movement: More tummy exercise
Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. Your child will develop arm strength during tummy time, and start to push up off the floor. If your child has motor skill weaknesses, consult with your physical therapist and ask about ways your exercise can incorporate more social interaction. Today’s activity: Slowly roll your child from their back to tummy. For example, just before you start dressing or changing diaper, roll child slowly onto tummy then roll back again. Find more resources at 
04:03 10/21/19
1.023 PLAY: Movement: Lift feet up
Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. Leg movements and tummy muscles are important for rolling over. This activity helps your child feel the experience of raising their legs together into the air. Your child needs these movement skills to explore and learn from the environment. Today’s activity: Slowly raise child’s legs, bending at the waist until toes touch their chin. Say, “Beep!” and then lower the legs. Wait for a signal from the child that they want to continue (smile, wiggle, kick), then do it again. Find more resources at 
01:59 10/21/19
1.024 LANGUAGE: Understand Words: Say name off to child's side
Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. Communication is any way we exchange a message or idea to another person. We can communicate with language, body movements, facial expressions. Language uses symbols to represent objects or ideas (including icon, spoken word, written word, gesture, sign). Language also includes all the rules we use for combining words into sentences. Speech is the use of our mouth to say words and sentences. This is just one way we can express our language. Before a child starts to say words, they need to perceive other people using them over a period of time. For example, they need to hear people speaking, see people using sign language or see and hear people using a speech generating device. Activities at this level focus on helping the child learn to tell when a sound is present (perceive the sound) and recognize where a sound is coming from (localize the sound). Today’s activity: Say your child’s name when you’re off to the side, then move into their line of sight. Give enough time so the child has the opportunity to turn toward the sound. Find more information and parent resources at
09:03 10/21/19
1.025 LANGUAGE: Understand Words: Narrate everything
Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. Model, model, model. This is a mantra that speech-language pathologists use no matter what language level or mode of communication your child is using. Model means demonstrate. When we narrate (using single words at this level) we are pointing out the most important language detail we want the child to focus on, and demonstrating to them the next step in their speech and language development. Focusing and demonstrating are important methods used in mediation. Today’s activity: Use a word to label the important thing you want your child to focus on. Smile and show a sock when getting dressed and say, “Sock” before you put it on a foot. Hold up the bottle and say with enthusiasm, “Bottle” before you give it. Say with surprise, “Kitty!” when the cat walks by. Find more resources at  
05:07 10/21/19
1.026 LANGUAGE: Understand Words: Use names instead of pronouns
Find more resources at  Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. Your child will learn people’s names after hearing them over a period of time. By the end of Level 2, your child may not look at someone when you say a name, but is learning to recognize important names. Use the name when the person is within sight and doing something interesting so your child can associate the name with the person. Save pronouns (me, you) for later. They are tricky. Consult with your speech-language pathologist if your older child is having difficulty understanding them. Today’s activity: Use names instead of pronouns when you narrate activities. When giving a toy or food, say the person's name as you give it to each one.  
04:43 10/22/19
1.027 LANGUAGE: Understand Words: Watch for responses to sound
Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. Your child should be reacting to sounds consistently. They startle when there’s a loud or surprising noise. They pause to listen or turn to look when they hear a voice. Many children get fluid in their ears (otitis media) that lingers for too long. It makes sounds muffled and it’s hard for these children to tell the differences between sounds. They may tune out to listening because it’s hard work. Prolonged otitis media can result in difficulty learning to make speech sounds accurately or difficulty with listening skills. Today’s activity: Be observant of your child’s responses to sounds. If they are not responding consistently, get a hearing check. Find more resources to address your child's communication needs at
03:16 10/22/19
1.028 LANGUAGE: Understand Words: Show that sounds come from objects
Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. We can tell the location or direction that a sound is coming from. This is called sound localization. At Level One, your child laying the foundation for later localization skills. Today’s activity shows your child that sounds come from objects and the objects may be out of sight. Today’s activity: Use a rattle or other noisy object. Hold it about 12 inches from your child’s ear and make its noise. Continue to make the sound while you slowly move the object into your child’s field of view. (Test the sound at your own ear first to make sure you’re not using something that is uncomfortably loud.) Find more resources at 
02:36 10/22/19
1.029 LANGUAGE: Understand Words: Don’t mask speech with background noises
Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. At all eight levels in this series, your child will learn words from interacting with people who are using words. Later, when your child is using sentences, they will be ready to learn from books or media. Learning takes place best when your child is focused on the relevant information. That means they are able to see and interact with a person and they are able to clearly hear what that person is saying. Television and music that plays in the background masks what people are saying. This background sound makes people’s speech harder to hear and it’s harder to tell the difference between speech sounds. Today’s activity: When you do your practice activities, eliminate background sounds that compete with your words. Think about what times of the day background noise will and will not interfere with your child’s learning. Find more resources at 
04:10 10/22/19
1.030 LANGUAGE: Understand Words: Use “motherese”
Please LEAVE A REVIEW on your podcast app. It helps more parents find this information. Thank you! Download the list of Level One Targets and Activities. Motherese is a term used for the way people talk to infants. People use a higher pitch, simplified words, sing-song phrases, and exaggerated intonation. Motherese is a type of mediation. Talking this way emphasizes important characteristics of speech and makes them more noticeable to young children. It also catches young children’s attention more effectively than “regular” talking so they are more likely to pay attention to what we are saying. Today’s activity: Use characteristics of motherese when talking with your young child. Find more resources at 
04:43 10/22/19

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