Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Activities and Tips for Parents to Help Develop their Child’s Speech, Language and Communication Skills.

We currently live in a very fast paced world; sometimes we take for granted the skills we need to be effective and successful communicators. During my pre-school language groups I try to take the time to discuss with parents the importance of means, reasons and opportunities.
In brief, this model is a holistic approach to describe communication, and was devised by Money,D. & Thurman, S (1994).

Means refers to HOW we communicate e.g. speech, signs, pictures, gestures etc.
Reasons is the WHY we communicate e.g. wants/needs, feelings, choices, requesting information, giving information etc. Giving your child choices is really important!
Opportunities is the WHEN, WHERE and with WHO we communicate e.g. time and place, shared communication system, family, friends etc.

Therefore, according to Money, D and Thurman, S; to be a successful and effective communicator ideally you need an element of each aspect. These means, reasons and opportunities are important to bear in mind when interacting with children. Please see below for a few suggestions of things you can do with your child to help them become successful, effective and confident communicators.

Nursery Rhymes and Singing:
·     Working on a child’s language skills. They can hear the rhythm and flow of language, speech sounds, and words; it helps them connect words to actions, to understand and remember words.  They also help attention and listening skills.
·         Increases their confidence. 
·         Helps with their pre-reading skills.
·         You can let your child make a choice of which song to sing, giving a child choice is really important; it gives them a reason to communicate.
·         Use songs that have actions and repeating lines, this helps maintain their focus.
·         Try stopping in the middle of the song and encourage your child to continue with the next action or word.

Daily Routines: Daily routines provide a good opportunity to help your child to learn new words.  Mealtimes and bath-times can give you a chance to reinforce some new words without even thinking about it!  Choose some Key Words that you will use every time – this helps your child learn through repetition. Just like us, children will have some days better than others. Tiredness, behaviour, time constraints etc. can all have an impact on the ability to learn new words.  But as often as you can, try to use these natural routines to help your child learn and use these common words.
Bath Time: During bath time you can use the words ‘wet’, ‘wash’, ‘dry’ etc. lots of times to show your child what these words mean. You can also name body parts e.g. ‘wash your feet’ ‘dry your tummy’ etc. Always make it fun!
Meal Times: offer constant opportunities for learning. Children benefit from the social aspects of eating together; learning how to take turns and sharing. This is a great time to talk about different foods; developing their vocabulary. Meal times can provide an opportunity for your child to use his/her language to request things.  Help your child to repeat some new words ‘more’, ’hot’, ’yummy’, etc. Name things as you put them on the table. Give your child a choice of foods & drink – juice or water?  This gives you child a reason to communicate and helps them to ask for things in a meaningful & functional way.
Reading Books: Story-time is a routine which is enjoyable for you and your child. It is a rich language activity, it can help develop your child’s attention and listening, their understanding, extend their vocabulary and; develop their reasoning skills.  It also provides a fantastic opportunity to introduce your child to literacy; letters and written words and the concepts of beginning and end.

Books aren’t just for bed time; they are great for any time of the day! Again, give your child the opportunity to choose a book and show you what he/she finds interesting to talk about. Again incorporate some Key Words e.g. – book, again, finished, my turn etc.

Play: Is a fantastic opportunity for you to interact with your child, and is an enjoyable way for your child to learn:
·         They can become familiar with objects, touching, textures, looking etc.
·         They can practice new skills
·         Improve motor skills and co-ordination
·         Integrate many of the senses i.e. touch, sight, smell etc
·         Learn about communication i.e. turn taking, asking questions etc.
·         Learn about language i.e. vocabulary
·         Learn about other people
·         It is a safe way to release excess energy and reduce the build up of any frustration.

General Hints and Tips:
During play and day time routines these tips can really help your child:
·         Comment on what your child is doing but, try not to ask too many questions
·         Show your child that you are listening and interested in what they are saying by repeating what they say.
·         Follow your child’s lead during play activities
·         Play pretend games e.g. tea parties
·         Allow your child plenty of time to respond
·         Talk to your child about what you are doing every day e.g. when you are in the car, doing the washing, cooking etc.
·         Try not to put too much pressure on your child to talk or say words they find difficult
·         Try not to criticise or directly correct your child when he/she makes an error with his speech sounds, just give them the correct model.
·         Get on your child’s level when playing; don’t be afraid to get on the floor with them.
·         Try and get your child’s attention by saying their name first, or tapping their arm before you ask them to do something, or are making comments about things around them.
·         Use simple repetitive language
·         Make learning language fun!!!!

   By Georgina White