Communication skills are crucial life, and can really help a child throughout their educational career. One in ten children in the UK struggle with some form of problem with their communication, whether a disability or a developmental issue. This can affect their education as well as their social interactions and ability to build relationships and friendships with those around them.
If a child has a speech or language delay or disorder they may find all other areas of their education difficult, so it is important they are supported as much as possible.
Here are some simple ways to help your child to improve their communication skills:
Ask your child questions and provide as much opportunity as possible for them to talk to you. Make conversation a part of your day, perhaps on the school run or over breakfast or dinner, and try to allow your child time to speak, even if it takes them a while. Ask them about their day, or perhaps reminisce together about favourite things that have happened.
Often when we think we know what they’re trying to say when a child stumbles over their words, and it can be tempting to interrupt or finish a sentence for them - especially if we’re in a hurry. Try your best to take a deep breath and allow your child the time to finish what they’re saying, only interjecting if they ask for help with a word.
Games like I Spy and Simon Says are great for practising speech. They can be a great way to learn and practise new words, and to practise understanding what others are saying. A game is a great way of doing this in an informal, fun way without making it into a big issue at home.
Repeat their sentences correctly
Many children can struggle with things like sentence structure and the correct word to use in a sentence. Rather than repeatedly saying "oh no, that’s wrong; you mean to say…” instead repeat what they have said back to them, perhaps as a question. For example, if your child said Mummy me go park you might respond with Oh, would you like to go to the park? I’d like to go to the park too… This models the correct sentence structure without having to overtly correct their speech which can be damaging to confidence.
Use rhymes and songs
Rhymes and songs which repeat the same words can be really useful in developing speech. These don’t need to be nursery rhymes if your child is a little older; many popular songs on the radio include repetitive words and phrases and can be much more appealing to an older child.
Reading can be incredibly beneficial in helping with a language delay. Reading together can help with speech too as you model the words to your child and they read sections to you.