Small Communication Changes, Great Results

Speech and Language Staff
October 8, 2020

Children diagnosed with receptive and expressive language delays frequently miss the subtle communication cues in the communication interactions with others.  They often need additional support to take notice of those changes in their environment and to expand their communication skills. Supportive adults can offer the assistance these children need by changing our communicative habits.

By practicing the following changes in our style of communication, many children diagnosed with receptive and expressive language delays may increase their language and social skills, peer interactions, expand play skills, and follow directions with greater confidence.

Eye level contact

To increase social interaction and gain eye contact with your child, remember to kneel down to her eye level. Face to face eye contact allows your child to see your whole face, imitate facial expressions, and respond to your verbal directions. This position also gives you an opportunity to put your arm around your child’s waist to face her toward you, touch her shoulders to gain attention, or model hand gestures with hand-over-hand assistance.

Tone of voice

Your child might be sensitive to the pitch and tone of your voice. If your child covers her ears, winces, or looks away when you speak to her, practice lowering your tone of voice to a moderate level. When you are at your child’s eye level, speak slowly and clearly. Use visual aids to enhance communication. For example; tap on the chair and say “Sit in the chair,” or show an item or a picture of where you want your child to go.

Exaggerated facial expressions/hand gestures

If your child does not imitate your facial expressions and hand gestures, practice exaggerating your face and hand movements as a model. For example, when your child sees you from across the room, make a large happy face and big eyes. Wave your hands in a large swooping motion, as opposed to wiggling your fingers in tight/small motions. A person standing next to your child can help her respond by assisting to wave back in the same fashion. Exaggerated facial expressions and hand gestures allows your child to feel the sensation of movement and encourage muscle memory, which promotes communication.

Body proximity

Avoid speaking to your child when her back is to you. Often, children have difficulty filtering out the sounds in a room, and distinguishing a parent’s voice at the same time. Try moving close to your child and mirroring her position before speaking to her. For example if your child is on the floor playing with cars, join her on the floor. Gain her eye contact by bringing a toy to the side of your face, then speak to her.

First____, then_____

When asking your child to follow directions, remember to keep your child’s motivation in mind. She may not prefer to put on her shoes, for example. But if she wants to go to the park, incorporate that as a reward in a two-step direction. For example “First, put on your shoes. Then, we will go to the park.” A simpler version could be “First, shoes. Then, park.”

Do you need more support in knowing what changes you can make in your communication to help support your child?  Contact us to find out how we can further assist you.


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