This week, we conclude our series by thinking about effective strategies for supporting pupils aged 11-14, who are in Key Stage 3, with speech and language interventions at home. While pupils are now returning to school, support at home continues to be important for maximising the effectiveness of speech and language interventions. There is plenty of evidence to show that children and young people make more progress with their speech and language skills when they receive wrap-around support in all areas of their life.
Much of the advice that has been shared about supporting younger children will still apply, but for children in secondary school, there is often a renewed focus on giving children a voice in determining their own goals, so that their speech and language interventions are meaningful for them. Alongside this, it’s important to recognise that, while older children and young people certainly can make good progress towards resolving their difficulties, their speech and language difficulties may be more persistent and long-term. As a result, we need to think about providing young people with strategies to develop their independence and self-help skills.
Here are my tips for supporting children and young people aged 11-14 to work towards their speech and language goals at home:
- Help your child to regain control – where possible, allow them to make choices for themselves regarding the direction of their interventions so that they are targeting things which are important to them. This will help your child to stay engaged in their interventions, because they will feel more invested in the outcomes and achieving their selfdirected goals.
- Make sure that the content of activities reflects your child’s interests whenever possible. You may need to adapt resources so that they are ageappropriate and engaging. Use your child’s favourite video games, magazines, TV shows, or even the news. Your child will be much more prepared to work with resources which are actually interesting and meaningful to them, and there’s an added benefit to showing how their speech and language interventions can help them to engage with their interests.
- Try to devote time to developing your child’s insight and selfawareness of the kinds of things which are difficult for them. This will help them to know when and how they will need to apply strategies and/or ask for help. Self-awareness builds a great foundation for developing independence as learners and as young adults.
- Combine targeted work on speech, language and communication skills with explicit teaching of selfsupportive strategies and opportunities to practice applying those strategies. This will help your child to manage their difficulties more independently and minimise the impact of any ongoing speech and language needs. Your child may need specific help with selecting which strategies are most appropriate to the task at hand.
- Encourage your child to use technology to help them. It’s likely that they will have increasing access to devices, and these can help them in all sorts of ways. Learning to regularly use calendars, notes, photos, reminders etc. specifically to help them with tasks they find difficult will help them to cope with the increasing demands on their communication skills as they get older.
- Work on organisation skills. Difficulties with organisation are very commonly associated with speech, language and communication needs, and good organisation skills are very often essential for success in all sorts of areas of life, including managing a social life! Visual resources such as visual timetables, task management boards, and even simple checklists are incredibly useful for helping young people to become more organised and independent, and they are also effective strategies for reducing anxiety. Help your child learn to use these tools for themselves.
- Around the beginning of secondary school, there is typically a leap in vocabulary development, and with that comes a big jump in the demands for word knowledge at school. This isn’t just a problem for English and Humanities lessons – words can be a barrier in all subjects including maths, ICT and sports, as well as for extracurricular activities. To address this, it’s useful to devote time to exploring and preteaching new or unfamiliar vocabulary and setting up consistent strategies for learning, revisiting and embedding understanding of new words.
- Try to work with reallife or realistic problems and scenarios, and make sure to devote time to generalising the skills you are working on so that your child can work towards using their new skills in everyday life.
- Keep up clear expectations and commitments. As always, consistency is key to making interventions effective, and making your expectations predictable will reduce anxiety and help your child to be successful.
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.