Cocktail speech: when a person uses generic words to ask or answer a question.
Word retrieval difficulty: when a person has difficulty finding and retrieving the desired word.
Cocktail speech is a common strategy for the child with a language learning disability with word retrieval difficulties. Using non-specific words often works for them in conversation because the listener tends to fill in the missing information. When writing or providing specific information, generic words lead to confusion.
A fun way to address this is to work on those “bottom-up” *strategies. Create a situation where the child realizes on their own that they didn’t ask for more information or they didn’t provide accurate directions. This barrier game for mid-elementary kids is the last part of an activity where we have first:
1) pre-taught key words/concepts
2) classified attribute blocks in as many ways as possible and the child has labeled the big idea (size, shape, color,etc)
Then I grab my super super magnetic board and we take those same attribute blocks and do a receptive and expressive language task.
Did the child understand when I said “Put the blue triangle in the middle of the board” or “Place the large yellow square below the blue triangle”? If the items don’t match, then we need to figure out (and recall) what needed clarification. Sometimes it’s me that needed to provide more information.
Then the child gets a turn at providing directions. I translate their left/right on my side so we match up. Did they tell me the shape they meant to say? Did they mean below or did they mean under?
Easy peezy , lemon squeezy. But so powerful!
*bottom-up strategies are when the child is taught something without direct instruction. They learn from the activity. This method has more opportunity for acetylcholine activation! Those epiphanies provide an extra kick.
*top-down strategies are direct instruction. Someone is telling the child how to do it.