Developing spoken language


Top tips to develop the spoken language

Children need to use words and sentences to talk about their experiences, to resolve problems, to ask for help and to play. Later, while at school a child needs to have secure language skills in order to sequence events, retell stories and present their ideas. All of these skills, once secure, are then essential for later reading and writing such as answering questions, writing stories and ideas and problem solving. Providing opportunities for a child to practice these skills and to hear them being modelled is very important.

1: Do not feel the need to correct, instead repeat back the sentence correctly. This is a useful strategy because it doesnt make your child feel they have done something wrong and allows them to hear the sentence said back in the correct way. For example if they say "I eated dinner" repeat back "yes, you ate dinner". Emphasise the word that you want them to notice.

2: Expand on your child’s speech by adding on one or two words. By doing this you will be allowing your child to hear more word and new words.

3: Try and speak at your child's level. For example if your child is using two word sentences "red car" try and use one extra word such as "yes, its a big red car". By recognising the level of speech your child is speaking at will help you to slow your speech down and not use too many words in your sentences to confuse them and by adding one extra word on will help them develop their vocabulary.

4: When you ask your child a question try to use open questions. Try to avoid questions that require a yes/no answer as they do not encourage children to use language. For example "what did you have for dinner today?" Rather than "did you have fish and chips today?"

5: Offer your child thinking time and time to respond is very important. This way they will not feel rushed and they will think about what you have asked them, what they are going to say and then put their words together to reply.

6: Give your child an opportunity to communicate. Sometimes at home children can help themselves freely to toys or their family members can predict what they want and give it to them without them having to ask. This means they can move through the day with very little need to initiate conversation. So, it is important to provide opportunities where they have to ask for things, for example putting the cereal or TV remote out of reach so s/he has to request it, not stepping in and fulfilling their every need immediately. Modelling how to ask and then giving the item when s/he makes an attempt to ask even if it’s just a noise or a reach towards the item.

7: Check the child’s understanding, not talking may be a sign of not understanding too.

8: If your child is struggling to remember or how to say a word, encourage them to think around it, describe what it does or show you. Offering your child thinking time with you staying with them is really important, this way your child will not feel rushed or frustrated.

Top Tip

We live in a very busy world and we sometimes feel like we are rushing around to get things done. However, it is really important to make the time to support your child's speech and language as it is an essential skill that so much relies on. Make time to play, talk and listen to your child, slow down your speech to enable your child to fully understand what you are saying, allow your child thinking time to respond to what you have said and to be patient. Learning to speak and express our needs effectively can be frustrating but by you being patient will help your child feel listened to.
ICAN is a children's communication charity. They have an enquiry line where you can speak to a trained speech and language therapist and ask any questions you may have about your child's speech, language and communication needs.
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