The ‘Hanen Approach’ was created in 1975 by Ayala Hanen Manolson, a Speech and Language Pathologist in Montreal, Canada. She created the approach to address research indicating the parental involvement is crucial to a child’s intervention programme.

Hanen-Centre-LogoThe approach advocates that the natural environment is the best way for children to learn, providing them with opportunities to communicate with key people in their lives.

Who uses the approach?

The Hanen Approach is delivered to parents by Hanen certified Speech and Language Therapists and comprises a number of different programs:

  • It Takes Two to Talk® – The Hanen Program® for Parents of Children with Language Delays
  • Target Word® – The Hanen Program® for Parents of Children who are Late Talkers
  • TalkAbility™ – The Hanen Program® for Parents of Verbal Children on the Autism Spectrum (Aspergers)
  • More Than Words® – The Hanen Program® for Parents of Children on the Autism Spectrum

More Than Words®

An example of a Hanen program is More Than Words® – an approach designed specifically for families of children with autistic spectrum disorder.  A book (Fern Sussman 1999) and DVD accompanies the course.

Key Principles

This programme acknowledges the role of parents and caregivers as the most important element in a child’s life and that parents’ have a primary role in their child’s intervention. It encourages early intervention and the power of the ‘everyday.’ Children learn to communicate by participating in everyday activities with their parents/important adults who know how to build communication during these activities.

More Than Words® Workshops

The programme comprises a series of 8 workshops and parents/carers attend without children.  It requires a commitment from parents as each workshop covers different areas.

The workshops provide ideas about how to turn everyday activities into opportunities for promoting interaction and communication.  Each session consists of:

  • Presentations
  • More than Words video clips
  • Personalised videos of parent-child interactions at home,
  • Group participation
  • Group discussion
  • Home work strategies each week to try

Parents are encouraged to think about their child’s sensory preferences, learning styles and how and why their child communicates.  Parents are also trained to identify their child’s stage of communication;

Own Agenda
  • Does not yet understand that he can affect other people by sending a message directly to them.
  • Communication largely pre-intentional.
The Requester
  • Beginning to understand that he can ask the parent to do things by pulling or leading them.
  • Likes playing physical people games like tickles or peek-a-boo
The Early Communicator
  • Consistently uses the same gesture, sound or word to ask for things he likes.
  • Joint attention is established. Will share interests by looking at something and then back at the parent.
The Partner Stage
  • Enjoys interactions with other people, able to have short conversations about his own interests.
  • Conversations sometimes break down because he can’t understand what the other person is saying.
  • Sometimes plays alone because he is unsure of what to do and say.

Parents are encouraged to adopt strategies such as giving their child a reason to communicate, following their child’s lead and helping their child to understand.

Finally, they are given ideas as to how to make a connection with their child with people games (R.O.C.K):

  • Repeat what you say and do
  • Create Opportunities for your child to take a turn
  • Cue your child to take his turn
  • Keep it fun!  Keep it going

Further information

You can read more about the Hanen approach and its evidence base at The Hanen Centre.

Many of our therapists are trained in this approach and can support you in developing your child’s communication. For information on how we can help, get in touch with one of our therapists today.


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