How to Identify and Support Gestalt Language Learners
It can be concerning as a parent or caregiver when you notice your child seems to be learning and producing language in a different way than other children. But did you know that there are different types of language learners? O’Grady (2014) has identified two types of language learners, Analytic and Gestalt. Analytic learners are more common and tend to fit with most people’s understanding of how children learn language. Gestalt learners are less common and may need support in different ways, however, they are just as capable! Keep reading to find out more about the different types and some strategies for supporting your child's language development.
Analytic language learners begin producing language most often by producing short, clear, single word utterances during the early stages of learning.
They like to name people (mom, dad)
They like to name objects (cat, car, ball)
They tend to use simple words to express how they feel and what they want
Gestalt language learners tend to memorize and say big chunks of speech
Speech is often poorly articulated in early stages and corresponds to larger word sentences use by adults
For example, a Gestalt language learner may say “wasdat” instead of “what’s that?”
They may repeat the same phrase (even after you have responded to them)
Tips for supporting Gestalt language learners:
Model appropriate ways to communicate the intended utterance
Respond to the utterances based off of what the child intended to communicate
Model the use of phrases and scripts in different ways to demonstrate how language can be combined
Place unfamiliar words at the end of sentences as children tend to pay attention to the last word in a sentence
Written by Elida Maley, BA
Speech-Language Pathology Assistant
O'Grady, W. D. (2014). How children learn language. Cambridge University Press.