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Functional Language Program for Children
Ages: 2-7   Grades: Toddler-2

Teach children with severe language impairments to understand and use early developing semantic relationships.  This expansive program with 251 reproducible picture cards uses a controlled vocabulary and a variety of teaching methods.


  • Increase understanding and use of longer utterances
  • Use meaningful phrases
  • Improve receptive and expressive semantic skills
  • Develop syntax skills
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** This is a Cloud E-Book that is accessible from any device with Internet access. .

Children learn functional language, increase mean length of utterance, and master 22 phrase structures in a systematic progression of engaging lessons.  The program uses these innovative techniques: 

  • each word of every phrase taught is essential to completing the tasks correctly
  • a limited number of vocabulary words helps students master syntactic relationships
  • students are empowered to control their environment
  • train skills with picture cards, toys and objects, group interaction, and the natural environment

The heart of the program is the 251 full color, print-your-own picture cards (print them from the CD that comes with the program).  The picture cards are presented in sets with one picture representing the target phrase and the other pictures representing phrases that differ from the target by only one word .  The example below shows how the picture cards are presented to teach noun + verb phrases (target phrase is in bold):   

Set 1                            Set 2                           Set 3                                              

girl running                  cat eating                    cat drinking

boy running            dog sleeping               boy drinking

boy eating                   cat sleeping             cat running


The program is organized into four levels of difficulty:

  • Single words
    • nouns
    • verbs
    • adjectives
    • prepositions
    • relational phrases (e.g., more, bye-bye)
  • Two-word phrases—develop nine phrase structures such as:
    • noun and noun (e.g., milk and cookie)
    • adjective + noun (e.g., sad boy)
    • verb + noun (e.g., eating apple)
    • "more" + noun
  • Three-word phrases—teach seven phrase structures such as:
    • noun + verb + object
    • noun + preposition + object 
    • possessive noun + adjective + noun
  • Four-word phrases—target six phrase structures such as:
    • noun + preposition + adjective + object (e.g., dog under dirty car)
    • adjective + noun and adjective + noun (e.g., wet girl and big ball)
    • adjective + noun + verb + object (e.g., little boy pushing wagon)

There are four types of training activities in each level: 

  • Picture card training—three levels of receptive and expressive skill training include activities for even the most challenging language delays
  • Functional training activities—use common toys and objects for activities in modeling, imitating, and producing words (from various parts of speech) and phrases
  • Classroom group activities—circle time/expansion activities help students use target semantic structures in new contexts
  • Environment—less structured practice using common toys and objects in everyday life

The program includes these additional helps: 

  • Picture library of manual signs for the 28 vocabulary words
  • Sample goals for receptive/expressive language
  • Suggestions for targeting skills in articulation/phonology, Childhood Apraxia of Speech, and auditory discrimination and comprehension
  • Storybook adaptations

Copyright © 2012

62 page therapy manual plus a CD of reproducible manual sign pictures and 251 full-color, "print-your-own" picture cards
  • Simplifying language input is a useful technique to help children with limited vocabularies (fewer than 100 words) transition from single-word utterances to early word combinations (van Kleeck, Fey, Kaiser, Miller, & Weitzman, 2010).
  • Students who struggle with vocabulary acquisition need more trials than typical language learners to maximize vocabulary growth and utterance length (Montgomery, 2007).
  • Many young children with communication disorders benefit from intervention through visuals (Taylor-Goh, 2005).
  • Early interventions that address skill acquisition in the areas of interaction, attention, play, comprehension, and expression will support the development of an even profile.  The acquisition of key developmental skills supports the later development of communication, language, and speech and enhances emotional, social, and academic development (Taylor-Goh, 2005).

Functional Language Program for Children incorporates these principles and is also based on expert professional practice.


van Kleeck, A., Fey, M., Kaiser, A., Miller, J., & Weitzman, E. (2010, February). Should we use telegraphic or grammatical input in the early stages of language development with children who have language impairments? A meta-analysis of the research and expert opinion. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 19, 3-21.

Montgomery, J. (2007, November). Vocabulary interventions for RTI: Tiers 1, 2, 3. Paper presented at the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) convention, Boston, MA.

Taylor-Goh, S. (2005). Royal college of speech and language therapists: Clinical guidelines. United Kingdom: Speechmark.


Jennifer Perkins Faulk


Jennifer Perkins Faulk, M.A., CCC-SLP, earned her master's degree in communication disorders from Bowling Green State University in Ohio.  Shortly after that, she accepted a CFY position with Bakersfield City School District in California.  Jennifer has remained a Californian for the past 32 years, and although she has experience working in a private nonprofit clinic, a hospital, and private practice, most of her work has been in public school special education.  She has experience with infants, preschoolers, school-aged children, and young adults with a variety of disabilities, including, autism and auditory, visual, and orthopedic impairments.

For the past 15 years, Jennifer has provided services in an early intervention program for children birth to three years.  She is currently a member of a special education assessment team for the Kern County Office of Education, and she is the president of her local speech and hearing association.  Jennifer was honored to receive the 1995 Outstanding Teacher Hall of Fame award from her school district and the 2008 District 5 Service Award from the California Speech, Language, Hearing Association.  In 1999, Jennifer was a national winner of the ASHA Caseload Management Project.

Jennifer and her husband have a college-age daughter.  In her free time, Jennifer enjoys running, antiquing, and wine tasting with family and friends.  Functional Language Program for Children is Jennifer's first publication with LinguiSystems.


You likely work with young children who have auditory processing disorders, autism spectrum disorders, and developmental delays, or who are deaf/hard-of-hearing.  Additionally, like many speech-language pathologists (SLPs), you realize the challenge of finding effective ways to treat the severely delayed receptive and expressive language skills of these populations.  The Functional Language Program for Children helps young children with language deficits develop increased understanding and use of longer utterances.  The children clear the hurdle from the one- to two-word level of language development to the level of multiple-word utterances.

The secret is in the types of word combinations you train the children to say.  Each word of each phrase is truly essential to completing the tasks in this program correctly.  Some of our most challenging preschool and early elementary-aged children don't respond well to less intensive language stimulation techniques and require intervention that is more intensive.  This approach for improving functional language to increase mean length of utterance provides a systematic series of engaging lessons that make language therapy both fun and effective.


Using Parts of Speech to Build Language
Each semantic-grammatical unit in an utterance, such as "noun + verb + object" or "boy wash dog," is essential for expressing and understanding the phrase.  Foster, Giddan, and Stark (1973) introduced the idea of using these words, which they called "critical elements," to build language.  Their publication, Assessment of Children's Language Comprehension (ACLC) measured children's understanding of simple, uninflected utterances from the single-word level to the four-word level.  The term "critical elements" referred to the semantic units in an utterance, such as "noun + verb" or "noun + verb + object."  The authors maintained that a child's syntax skills would improve once he had the underlying receptive and expressive semantic skills in place.

I've been an SLP for 30+ years, working with young children who have severe impairments in listening, processing, and speaking.  I've found that the systematic format of Foster, Giddan, and Stark's approach to using parts of speech to build language provides straightforward language training at the underlying semantic level.  It gives you an engaging, fun, and measurable means to teach early-developing semantic relationships to young children that is easy for them to put to practical use.  I've modified the "critical elements" terminology to "parts of speech" in my program, but the approach to language development is from Foster, Giddan, and Stark's research.

The key to this approach is using natural, functional communication scenarios and carefully-planned materials that require the child to focus on understanding each part of speech in an utterance.  This approach also provides an easy way for parents and teachers to incorporate specific receptive and/or expressive language training into everyday activities during a child's daily routine.  In this way, language begins to make sense to the child and comes to life for the child who has been struggling to understand and use sequences of words.

I hope you enjoy using the Functional Language Program for Children with your most challenging young students and find it a valuable tool to help them increase their understanding and use of longer utterances.


Foster, R., Giddan, J., & Stark, J. (1973). Assessment of children's language comprehension (ACLC). Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc.