May 22, 2023

One of the most important considerations for individuals who are Gestalt Language Processors (GLP) is that not everyone requires language therapy. Gestalt language development, just like analytic language development, can occur naturally, and seamlessly transition through all 6 stages ending with fluent, spontaneous communication. All that being said, SLPs and caregivers can provide support to individuals as they progress through these 6 stages of language development. My 5 favorite ways to provide this personalized support are listed below!

1. Throw out the lesson plan

Every SLP starts out in graduate school with detailed, thorough lesson plans, with all increments of time within the session minutely accounted for. But when you are supporting someone going through the stages of gestalt language development, all your sessions must be child-led. That’s not to say that you won’t have therapeutic targets in your sessions, you might have gestalts you’re modeling to offer a wider inventory, you might be introducing some adjectives to help them progress through stage 3; but even in these instances, I would encourage you to come to your sessions prepared to play with the toys your client wants to play with. Assume the pretend roles in the imaginary worlds that they dream up, and to, simply, follow their lead.

2. Student specific dictionary

Supporting someone through all 6 stages of development necessitates the understanding of their individually used gestalts. There is no way to do this other than to become a gestalt detective. This means communicating regularly with teachers, caregivers, parents, other therapists, anyone who regularly interacts with this individual and might be able to provide context as to where their gestalts may have come from and what they might mean to them personally. I recommend creating a shared excel sheet between all these individuals, so that when a new discovery is made, all you detectives can easily share the information between yourselves.

3. Regular transcription

This goes hand in hand with my second point, but transcribing utterances used in a session is vital to determining which stage of language development your client is currently in. Because of that, we need to update these transcriptions regularly! I aim to do a transcription session once a month for the clients I see 1x weekly, but if you see a client with increased regularity, you can transcribe more frequently.

4. Silent sessions

I love to talk. There’s a reason I became an SLP, and that’s because I truly believe that language is such a beautiful gift that allows us to build meaningful connections with those around us. But, honestly, sometimes I need to just stop talking. And this is never truer than when supporting someone through their gestalt language development. Individuals who use gestalts are often over prompted, taught by well-meaning therapists, teachers, or other influential figures in their life to use sentence scripts in communication attempts instead of their own language. When we take the time to sit in silence, it allows us to hear our communication partner’s truly independent and spontaneous words. If you’re a fellow SLP, I recommend trying to go an entire session without talking. Just try it – and see what happens!

5. Acceptance

Use of gestalts will never fully disappear from the vocabulary of someone who is a gestalt language processor. Individuals who fully progress through all 6 language development stages will still have elements of stage 1 in their communication – and that is not only normal, but also wonderful. These gestalts help individuals in high pressure situations fall back on easy to remember communication strategies. It is important to accept that while the use of gestalts may be different than what many analytical language development individuals use, they are just as valid as a communication tool.

OTHER POSTS IN SERIES: What is Gestalt Language Processing?

Gestalt Language Processing Series – Identification and Assessment

Gestalt Language Processing Series: Resources and Support for SLPs and Caregivers

About the Author

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Marisa Julius is a speech-language pathologist that has worked in both public and private school settings with a focus in pediatric augmentative and alternative communication therapy. She currently works for a private specialized school setting with children 5-21 with complex communication needs and a variety of disorders including Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, Childhood Apraxia of Speech, Language Delays, Reactive Attachment Disorder, and more. She is a Missouri native and earned two Bachelor’s degrees from Truman State University in Communication Disorders and German Studies. She received her M.A. in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Saint Louis University. She considers herself a lifelong learner, and is thrilled to be writing for SLP Toolkit, if only for an additional excuse to read more. In her free time, you can find her cooking, reading, hiking, or showing everyone unsolicited pictures of her dog.