Do You Know How to D-I-P?

When an infant or toddler first receives hearing technology, it’s an exciting day!  Shortly after, though, parents want to know, “When will he start to talk?”  Stop and listen for a minute.  Do you hear that baby babbling?  What if we could learn to listen and talk to new listeners in a way that would help them build foundational skills for the “real words” that come later?  All you have to know is D-I-P.


D-I-P stands for Duration – Intensity – Pitch.  These are the three things we are listening for a child to imitate when she first begins to talk.  What does each one mean?

  • Duration:  Can the child imitate long vs. short sounds (e.g. moooooooo vs. woof woof woof)

  • Intensity:  Can the child imitate the loudness or softness of our voice (e.g. STOP! vs. shhh… go to sleep)

  • Pitch:  Can the child imitate our intonation (e.g. wee ooo wee ooo [like a siren] vs. dooooooown [descending pitch])


Though it might not seem like much, and the examples above mainly focus on Learning to Listen Sounds, not true words, DIP is a big, big thing.  If a child can imitate DIP, we know he’s hearing us.  If he changes his babbling pattern to match us in any of these ways — even if he’s not saying the same sounds as us — this is the first step to learning to imitate the speech he hears around him in the world.  We help new listeners build these skills by building predictable, interesting verbal routines and listening carefully.


Using acoustic highlighting and verbal routines that have contrast in DIP helps us to know if the child is really listening and imitating us/trying to match what we’re saying. The vocalization might not be perfect, but if it changes, then we know we’re onto something.  For example, if a mother lifts a blanket up over her head and then brings it down to hide her face saying, “Up up up up… dooooooown,” she’s creating a fun game with predictable speech that contrasts short (up up up) versus long (dooooown) sounds.  The baby might not say “up” and “down” yet, but we don’t need to wait until he can to know he’s communicating with us.  If he changes his babble in response to “uh uh uh uh… ooooooooow” — we’ve got it!


Some other DIP-y routines you can try at home include:

  • One, two, three… gooooooo! (with cars, a ball, anything that moves)

  • Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock… ooooooopen! (with doors, boxes, containers, or a book)

  • Walk, walk, walk, walk… fall down!  (with toys or with yourself)

  • Ooooouch!  No, no, no!  (make a toy or puppet pretend to “bite” you)

  • Shhhhhh… wake up! (pretend to fall asleep)

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