Learning “Where” Questions for Speech Therapy - Achieve Beyond

Learning “Where” Questions for Speech Therapy

Written By: Michelle E. Sisto, MS CCC-SLP TSSLD CAS

In general, the skill of answering questions is a complex one.  First, a child must hear the question correctly, if verbal means of communication is being used.  Next, the child must understand the difference between the different types of questions.  Then, the meaning and context of the question must be understood.  Afterwhich, an answer is formulated and expressed.  These steps are some of the reasons that answering questions can be a complex skill to master.

Strategies for Answering “Where” Questions Speech Therapy

When children learn to answer questions, it takes more than just teaching them rote responses.  This is because teaching rote response only teaches children to answer specific questions rather than questions in general.  Each different “wh” question warrants a different type of response.  “Where” questions require a response that is indicative of location. 

  1. Ask the target question and pause to allow the child to understand what is being asked and formulate the needed response.  The child will be less successful when they feel rushed or that their voice doesn’t matter.  If the adult dominates the interaction, there will be nothing tempting or motivating the child to actively respond to the question.  They will always expect their needs to be met, without responding to the question. 

  2. Point to the location of the object to provide visual cues on the appropriate response.  This is the lowest level of prompting to guide the child to formulate the response without verbally providing the response for them.

  3. Provide a sentence starter and pause before finishing the sentence before the location (i.e. “the spoon is on the…”).  This is the next step in the prompt hierarchy.  This starts the sentence for the child to finish the sentence and guide them towards the expected answer.  This is helpful when paired with the visual cue of pointing to the location.

  4. Model the expected response for the child to imitate and understand the expected response.  This allows the child to imitate the response back to the adult.  After the imitation, another “where” question can be asked and the strategy can be repeated to reinforce the concept of “where” and help them respond to “where” questions as a whole.

Strategies for Teaching “Where” Questions During Everyday Activities

  1. Where is your [body part]?

    During self-care activities (i.e. bathing, brushing teeth, getting dressed), focus on asking “where” questions.  Instead of saying “point to your mouth”, ask the child “where is your mouth?” After the question is asked, use strategic pauses to allow processing and response time.  Model pointing to your own mouth to see if the child will imitate.  If imitation does not occur, touch the child’s mouth or use their own hand to touch their own mouth.  Follow this by saying “there it is! Now, where is your…” and repeat for  different body parts.

  2. Where is your [toy]?

    During play, use “where” questions to have children locate favorite toys. While engaged in a tea party, ask the child “where is your teddy bear?” First, ask the “where” question and then use intentional pausing to give the child the opportunity to respond spontaneously without prompting. If an organic and spontaneous response does not occur, support understanding and response by pairing the question with gestures and pointing in the direction of the location of the toy. Following this by saying “the teddy bear is on the couch!”

  3. Where is the [object]? (when there are multiple locations to choose from) 

    While preparing dinner, ask the child “where is the red bowl?” After a pause, model “the red bowl is on the counter”, while pointing. Next, choose a different object, in a different location “where is the blue bowl?”. After a pause, model “the blue bowl is under the towel”. Use pauses to allow the child to process the question and answer, only providing models for the child to imitate when difficulty is occurring.

  4. Where do you [action]?

    As the child becomes more proficient about answering questions regarding immediately present, concrete concepts, questions can move more towards abstract ideas and concepts. Questions, such as “where do you sleep” and “where do you take a bath” should be asked. Pause to allow for processing and response time. If an answer is not given, verbal choice prompts can be provided, such as “do you sleep in the bed or in the bathtub”. After giving choices, pause for processing and response time. Visual cues and models can also be provided as needed to help with comprehension and response. Ideally, the child will select the appropriate choice or imitate the model provided and will need a decrease in prompts as the activity is practiced.

Conclusion of Teaching and Answering “Where” Questions

Asking a variety of “where” questions is important to ensure that the child is generalizing the responses that are appropriate.  By asking one type of “where” questions, the child will be taught rote responses that will not teach them the concept of “where” that is needed when answering these questions.  It is important to teach and explain the concept of “where” instead of memorizing responses to “where” questions.  This strategy helps children to consider a variety of contexts, settings, and interactions to successfully answer these questions to help them be successful in all interactions they encounter. 

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