My Turn – Wait – Your Turn

Why Learning to Take Turns is So Important for Your Speech-Delayed Child

If your child has been involved in any early childhood speech therapy, you’ve probably been introduced to the importance of learning to take turns..  But why?  What’s the connection between taking turns and speech development?

Libby Kumin, PhD, CCC-SLP, my favorite author, researcher and practitioner in the field of language and Down Syndrome, says this in her book Early Communication Skills for Children with Down Syndrome,All communication depends on turn taking – on the fact that there is a speaker and a listener and that they can change rolls.”   Pretty important stuff, eh?

Teaching turn taking can start long before your child says his first word or even vocalizes.  Noah didn’t start vocalizing until he was 4, but his early childhood intervention therapists started working on turn taking with him from the time he could sit.


  1. To make a “wait” PEC card, you’ll be doing something a little different.  Get a piece of yellow construction paper and cut out an oval with a 4-inch diameter.   Print the word “wait” across it.  When you use the “wait” card, when possible, place the PEC of the item the child is having to wait for on top of the “wait card.”  This contrast and the fact that the “wait” card is surrounding the item helps the child understand that the action desired is suspended but is still coming.  The book A Picture’s Worth – PECS and Other Visual Communication Strategies in Autism by Andy Bondy, Ph.D. and Lori Frost, M.S., CCC-SLP has an excellent explanation of this concept.
  2. Wait – ASL Flashcard
  3. My Turn, Your Turn PECs
  4. My – ASL (I use “my” to sign “my turn.”)

Thanks to Dr. Bill over at for the use of his graphics on the sign language flashcards.

Steps to Success:

  1. Sit on the floor facing your child.  Place a favorite toy in front of your child.  Let him play with it for about 15 seconds.
  2. Say and sign or say and point to PEC, “my turn.”  Take the toy from your child and play with it for 15 seconds.
  3. If your child protests or tries to take the toy back, say and sign or say and point to PEC “wait.”
  4. Give your child back the toy, and using hand over hand, have them sign or point to “my turn” PEC while you say “my turn.”

Note:  If using “my turn” for both you and your child is confusing, you can use the above PECs and sign language but say, “Mommy’s turn,” “(child’s name)’s turn.

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