Joint Attention: How to Engage in Joint Attention with Your Child

Joint attention uses shared gaze and/or behaviors to communicate with a social partner. Joint attention is an important developmental skill that helps develop a child’s social language. This social developmental skill shows that a child is not only interested in objects in their environment, but in people too.

Joint attention usually first occurs between a child and their caretaker. A child can indicate, to their caretaker, their interest in an object or activity through gaze. A child can also use gestures such as pointing to engage their social partner in communication.

Social referencing: occurs when a child looks at an object, then back to the caretaker to see their reaction to the object

Milestones of Joint Attention

  1. 2 Months: taking turns with looks, noises, and/or mouth movements
  2. 6 Months: following caretakers gaze
  3. 8 Months: pointing
  4. 9 Months: gestures and social referencing
  5. 12 Months: point intentionally
  6. 12-14 Months: direct attention through pointing and then looking back at caretaker

Tips for engaging your child in joint attention

  • Follow your lead: Use vocal engagement to have your child share enjoyment with you. Pointing to an object such as a ball or a toy will teach your child to share in your enjoyment.
  • Establish your child’s interest: experiment with different toys, books, or movement activities (ex: tickling). Discover which activities seem to get your child’s attention best.
  • Reinforce Proximity: reinforce your child’s interest by engaging them in an activity. Place the toy or walk away from the activity a couple of feet. To reengage the child wait for them to come towards you and engage you before beginning the activity again.
  • Level of engagement: have your child increase their level of engagement with you
    1. Looking directly at you or the object
    2. Reaching for the object
    3. Pointing for the object
    4. Pointing at the object and looking at you
  • Increase the amount of time the child is engaged
  • You choose: Interest your child in a variety of activities and toys to open their interest in an activity that is something of your choosing.

 Rachel Weiser, MS, DT

Developmental Therapist

Additional References:

https://www.speechandlanguagekids.com/establishing-joint-attention-therapy-for-children-who-arent-tuned-in/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ab4vLMMAbY

Typical Speech-Language Development (24-30 months) & Red Flags for Communication Difficulties

Children vary in their development of speech and language, however they follow a natural progression for mastery of speech and language skills. The table below outlines speech and language skills that are typically developed between 24-30 months of age as well as red flags for communication difficulties. If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, it is recommended that you consult with a speech-language pathologist or your child’s pediatrician.

Coming up next: Typical Speech-Language Development (30-36 months) and Red Flags for Communication Difficulties. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s speech and language development, please feel free to contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or (773) 332-9439.

Claire Kakenmaster, MS, CCC-SLP