Supporting speech and language interventions at home for children in Key Stage 1

by Sophie Mustoe-Playfair
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Last week, I shared my tips for successful speech and language interventions at home for children in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). Now it’s time to think about Key Stage 1 (KS1) – so how can we best support children aged 5-7 years to make good progress with their speech and language interventions at home?

Just as before, there are two key factors that will influence how we plan an engaging and effective speech and language therapy session: thinking about the child’s attention and stamina, and considering how best to motivate them to take part.

One additional consideration for this year group is the child’s developmental level. There can be a world of difference between a 5-year-old who is just starting year 1, and a seven-year-old in year 2 – they grow up so fast! Remember that it is far more important to think about your child’s development according to the stage they are currently at rather than thinking about their chronological age. This is important not just for picking the appropriate ‘next steps’ skills for your child to work towards in their speech and language development, but for all of their skills, including their attention and listening, interests and play skills. Consider reading last week’s blog alongside this one for some further tips which may be appropriate for your child.

Here are my tips for supporting children in Key Stage 1:

  • Stick to a schedule. Children of this age can sometimes be difficult to engage in targeted work, but it helps if you can schedule your speech and language ‘sessions’ so that it is easy for them to predict when they will need to be ready to ‘work’. Try fitting in your sessions at the same time every day so that your child is ready (e.g. after breakfast).
  • A ‘little and often’ approach is still best. Plan to spend around 10 minutes doing your speech and language ‘work’ every day. If your child is having a good time, you can keep going, but be consistent in what you expect from them.
  • It’s likely that you will want to include some structured activities in your sessions for a more targeted approach. Doing so will help you to ensure that you’re developing the skills that are most important for your child at this time. Make sure you are working towards reasonable targets which are just one step on from what your child can do now.
  • To help give your session some structure, and to help your child maintain their attention and engagement throughout, try using a Visual Timetable or an ‘I am working towards…’ board. These resources use pictures to represent each task in the session so that your child can keep track of what they are focusing on now, what’s coming up, and how close they are to the end of the session. They can help to extend your child’s attention and keep them ontask, and showing how the child will be rewarded for their hard work is an excellent motivator. You can easily make a Visual Timetable by drawing a quick tick-chart if you don’t have a printer – just remember to tick things off when each task is finished.
  • Find the right rewards and motivators. Speech and language work can often be difficult for a child, especially when we are asking them to practice something they find tricky, so it’s important to consider what they enjoy doing to help motivate them. Let your child choose the reward (even if it’s just from a choice of two things you know they like) and be creative.
  • Try to make rewards tangible. Young children are often much more motivated by something they can see. This doesn’t mean you need to give them lots of gifts. Use pictures or items to reward children with their favourite activities, or quality time spent together. If you want to work towards a bigger reward, try using stickers or tokens for your child to collect over a longer period of time.
  • Complement structured activities with everyday language support outside of your ‘sessions’ too. This will help your child to generalise the skills they are learning so that they can apply their skills in everyday situations. See our Top Tips Videos and our Everyday Activities in the ‘Language Activities’ tab for more advice.
  • Be mindful of your child’s attention and listening skills. Children in Key Stage 1 are still developing their attention and listening, so it’s important to have reasonable expectations and put in place strategies which will help them to be successful. Success is a great motivator! Help them by working on attention and listening activities directly, and if your child struggles with sitting still, try including activities which get them moving or take short, scheduled, movement breaks during your seated activities.

Remember, you can find more advice for supporting your child in our Top Tips videos, and you will find lots of activities to try in our ‘Activities’ tab, along with advice on how to make the most of things which you are already doing every day.

Next week: I’ll be sharing my tips for supporting children in Key Stage 2.