This week, we’ll be thinking about children aged 7-11 years old who are in Key Stage 2, and how parents and carers can support these children with effective speech and language interventions at home.
As children get older, they can often become more self-aware of the things they find difficult, which means as they grow-up it can become a little more difficult to persuade them to join in with their speech and language therapy ‘work’. After all, nobody likes to be put on the spot and asked to do something difficult. Because of this, it’s really important to make sure that the tasks that you are asking your child to complete are well-matched to their needs and to their level. Your child will need to experience lots of success in order to stay motivated. Try to balance the challenge by thinking ahead about how you could make the task a little bit easier if you need to. This could be done by completing part of the task for them (to demonstrate) or offering them some limited choices to select from.
Remember: testing is not teaching. We cannot expect a child to make progress simply by testing their skills over and over again. Make sure that when you’re working on speech and language you help your child to succeed and do lots of modelling so that your child can learn from you.
Feedback is really important too! Children love to please, so your child will be thrilled to see you get excited about their achievements. But don’t forget to keep your feedback realistic. It’s important to praise your child for what they are doing well (e.g. listening well, taking turns nicely, trying really hard…) and be honest when they haven’t got something quite right so that they can change things next time. It is important for your child to hear that they are making progress because they have worked hard.
Here are my tips for supporting children aged 7-11 to work towards their speech and language goals at home:
- It is (still) best to take a little and often approach when it comes to speech and language work. If you have been reading through all of the blogs in this series, that will likely come as no surprise. However, as children get older it may be reasonable to have greater expectations for their attention and listening skills, so you may be able to work towards extending your sessions to 1520 minutes. Don’t be tempted to try to consolidate all of this time into one or two longer sessions per week – the most important thing is to work on speech and language skills often (daily, if possible) as frequent practise will be required for the learning to become embedded, so try to stick to a routine.
- For children in this age group, it is likely that you will be working on targeted skills, which will lend themselves to structured sessions and activities. Some children will tolerate activities which look more like ‘work’ rather than ‘play’ (for the right reward, of course…).
- Ageappropriate resources, motivation and rewards will be essential to keeping your child engaged. You can adapt activities by using pictures or short video clips (without the sound) which reflect their interests e.g. comic books, still images or short clips of their favourite TV shows, movies, or games. Try to let your child choose activities (from a selection, so you can keep them on track) and rewards so that they feel more invested in the session.
- Rewards should be tangible or visual if possible, and promptly given so that your child will associate the reward the receive with the work that they have done. You can reward your child with their favourite game or activity, the opportunity to choose what’s for dinner, or quality time spent together. If you want to work towards a bigger reward, try using a chart or tokens for your child to collect so they can see their progress over a bigger period of time. Make sure you are able to stick to what you offer.
- Continue to support your child’s attention and listening skills. When children are a little older, it can be easy to have big expectations of them. But children in this age range are still developing their attention and listening skills, and many children who have speech, language and communication needs will still require support to help them stay focussed. If your child needs help sitting still for longer periods, give them opportunities to move around either as part of your activities, or by taking short movement breaks between tasks. Sketching out a quick timetable for your session, with a picture to represent each task, is a useful way to help children understand expectations and stay on task. It can help reduce anxiety too! Let your child check off each task that they have completed as it happens so they can track what’s finished and what’s coming up next.
- Make time for practising skills in everyday situations too. Any opportunity to squeeze in some extra practise will help your child embed their new skills and to use what they are learning functionally, in everyday situations. Remember that this is the real goal – to improve how your child understands and uses their speech, language, and communication skills in their everyday life. Transferring the skills they are learning from structured activities to everyday use shouldn’t be forgotten about.
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 3.