As Speech Pathologists we recommend a variety of strategies and techniques for stimulating receptive,
expressive and pragmatic language skills. As parents you may well, already be aware of these techniques as some
of them come naturally when you are communicating with your child. Please consider the following:
Provide Information Clearly
• Gain your child’s attention before providing him with the information. Gain attention by using the child`s name and /or touching them on the hand or arm. It helps if there is only one story book, puzzle, stimulus/photo card on a cleared table to limit the incoming visual cues and distractions.
• Always encourage communicative intent by positively encouraging a verbal response rather than responding to a non verbal/gestural response. A balance of modelling with an expectation of a speech attempt is necessary. Positively reward the attempt with verbal praise and encouragement.
• Remember that a little boys or girls behaviour patterns can be strong and a consistent approach to verbal expression and expectation is required.
• Pause between each utterance/sentence to give your child time to process information.
• Keep instructions short and simple. If you give one or two step instructions, present them in the same order it is to be completed in.
• Use short simple sentences and where possible point and gesture to assist with attentional skills and relevance on the page.
• When modelling a target word or utterance, gesture to your mouth after your model when asking the follow up natural question….” You tell mummy?” or “What is it?”
• Allow enough time for your child to answer a question or tell a story. Be aware that any older siblings will usually jump in to answer which will reduce your child’s communicative intent and set a poor and unwanted precedence.
• Consider seating in the kindergarten /school room. Seat your child at the front of the group or class facing the teacher with most of the visual distractions now occurring behind them. Do everything to reduce external and internal noise levels. Attempt to seat them away from the talkative/ noisy, attention seeking children.
• With older children, you can at times have them repeat back to you what you have said to them. In this way you can monitor and judge where the message may have broken down and then repeat the parts the child has missed. Do not ask “Did you hear me”? Instead ask specific questions about the instructions.
Improving Information Recall
• Provide your child with information in chunks. When providing information pause between each sentence or unit of information to allow them time to process and store that information.
• Consider the relevance of the information and where possible encourage recall and memories of the child to consolidate its meaning.
• If the information is given in sequential form, as stories usually are, ask for it back cueing the correct sequence
• As parents you are your child’s most important influence. Whilst it is important you simplify your sentences, please ensure that you maintain correct grammatical structure.
• It is important to model correct social communication skill, including appropriate greetings and farewells for both children and adults.
• For younger children, keep your models simplistic. They may be at a sound level, i.e.choo choo, moo moo or vroom vroom, or “up”, “more”….”more bubbles”…etc
• Emphasise key aspects of the word and sentence structure, paying particular attention to the basic concepts. Remember the spatial concepts of Over, Under, Between, Through, Behind, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Last etc. The Quantitative concepts of More, Less, None, Several, Couple etc. The Temporal concepts of Before, After, Now, Later, Never, Soon etc.
• The Opposite concepts of Hot/Cold, Start/Finish, New/Old, Open/Closed, Same/Different etc. Continue to be aware of these concepts during your normal daily activities of bath time, mealtimes, etc.
• Take your child`s words and sentences and expand upon them.
For example; if your child comments “The horse” You may expand it to “It’s a big black horse”…then… “The horse is jumping over the fence”. Whenever an expanded form is provided follow up with a natural question..i.e; “Where`s he jumping”?……….”Over the Fence”
• It is important to model correct grammar/ word meaning. If your child makes an error, such as saying ‘top’ for ‘bottom’ recast what they say using the correct grammatical structures.
• Remember that you do not always need to correct them and make them repeat the sentence correctly as this may become negative and frustrating for them.
• Remember when recasting and modelling language for your child, your attempts should appear to be natural and in flow with the conversation or story being read and in context when your child in engaged.
• Make your comments about the here and now. Speak about what you are doing and why you are doing it. e.g; “ We are going to get the pencils”, “Lets draw circles on the paper”.
Please remember that you are the most important factor in your child`s development of their speech, language and cognitive skills. If you have any concerns regarding your child`s speech, language or cognitive development, please do not hesitate to contact an experienced Speech Pathologist.
Mr Craig Gorman
Melbourne Speech Clinics