Providing Tips and Tools to Support Great Communication and Connection
Did you know that May is Better Hearing and Speech Month?
We’re eager to raise awareness about the importance of speech, language, and hearing, the foundation of our ability to communicate and connect with others. Making oneself understood and understanding other people through words, gestures, sign language, or other augmentative communication are critical for academics, social relationships, play skills, regulation, independent living, and self-esteem.
Speech and hearing skills are developmental in nature, and when they do not develop typically, it is important to have a child assessed and start therapy or other interventions as soon as possible. Early intervention is the provision of services to babies, toddlers and preschoolers (ages 0–5) who have developmental delays or disabilities. Speech therapy services can start or continue at any age and are often needed for adults when a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or other brain trauma occurs.
How can we help?
Speech therapists can assess and treat problems related to speech, language, social communication, cognitive impairments, hearing, and swallowing. For those unable to communicate through speech, therapists provide other methods of expressing wants and needs such as sign language, gestures, use of pictures or symbols, or use of a computer, iPad, or smartphone. We collaborate with teachers, parents, and other therapists/professionals on the team to support the whole child/client. We come up with strategies that can help increase communication, social interactions, and the achievement of life goals, and we provide trainings and in-services to share these tools.
Here are some tips for better speech, language, and hearing:
• Reinforce and engage in a child’s attempts to make and maintain eye contact and to communicate through gestures and/or verbalization.
• Read, sing, and play with your child. Follow their lead by picking areas of interest, and provide support and encouragement if they point, sing along, or engage in the play. Use facial expressions, simple/clear language, an upbeat tone of voice, and humor to keep the child interested and involved.
• Use objects, food, or activities that your child likes and is motivated by. Do not allow the child to have the item or engage in the activity without communicating a desire for it.
• Ask questions that require a choice: “Do you want milk or water?” “Do you want to read a book or play a game?”
• Expand vocabulary by labeling items in your environment such as animals, body parts, foods, etc. Expand the language depending on the child’s level by adding the function or a description of the object.
• Help your child pay attention to verbal and written directions. Practice following one-, two-, and three-step directions such as “stand up, touch your head, and turn around” or “go to the table, and get piece of paper.”
• Take advantage of daily activities. For example, while doing an art activity, have your child label and request the desired colors or materials (e.g., “Can I have the blue marker?”). Use desired foods or drinks as another motivator for them to request. During these activities, help them sequence the steps (e.g., first we have to make the sandwich, then we can eat it, and then we will clean up). When at recess or out in public, help your child observe people and social interactions to identify what is going on and make inferences about the situation. For more suggestions on how to build social competence through everyday routines and activities, check out my book, Make Social Learning Stick!
Try these activities with your child while at home or out in the community. By improving his or her speech, language, and hearing skills, your child will be better able to communicate, connect with others, and form friendships and other relationships.