Some advice to help your child with a speech and language delay or disorder during the confinement.
Caroline ISCH-WALL, Caroline MONNARD, Sandrine LARGER and Josée VESTA
Speech therapists at the Reference Center for Language and Learning Disorders - Center of Excellence for Neurodevelopmental Disorders – Robert Debré Hospital, Paris
Here, you will find some advice to help your child during the confinement period. We will not provide guidelines to conduct rehabilitation sessions as a speech therapist would. Instead, we provide you with ways to stimulate your child linguistic skills, while taking into account his or her speech and/or language difficulties.
General advice: Communication should be as natural as possible, because what matters the most is the efficiency of verbal communication (understanding what the child wants to say) and not the formal aspects of verbal communication (how the child says it).
Main principles to support children's speech, language and communication
· Slow down your speech rate. Speak quietly and distinctly to increase your child's understanding.
· Find moments when you will discuss things alone with your child (privileged interlocutor). If your child has difficulties to express his or her feelings and thoughts, photos or pictures could be presented to improve communication skills.
· When the family is around the dinner table, give your child time to speak (and warn the brothers and sisters not to interrupt).
· Encourage verbal exchange around games that will solicit new vocabulary, request phrasing, logic, memory, attention... For example:
o Picture Lotto Game, Dominoes, Memory Card Game (with animals, everyday objects, actions, etc.).
o Card Game of the 7 Families (or Happy Families), Who's Who?, Game of the Goose.
o Riddles, puzzles.
o Where's Waldo? Dobble Card Game.
· Create a "scrapbook diary ":
o Paste pictures cut out from magazines according to a theme (for example: fruits, clothes, actions, emotions, etc.).
o Make a drawing and comment on it.
o Write the words or sentences that have been learned today (for older children).
· In terms of reading:
o Read stories while regularly checking that the child understands (for example by asking questions: "Where is this going on? What does this or that character do?").
o Reformulate and simplify some sentences or words so that the child can understand.
o Use the topic of the book to exchange thoughts or points of view.
o Ask the child to show specific objects on a picture or drawing, or, for example ask him or her to identify "everything that is eaten” or “everything that is used for ...".
o Make the child name elements of the pictures.
Spoken language: How to help your child if he or she mispronounced a word?
· If you hear your child say a word incorrectly, say it yourself correctly without asking him or her to repeat (for example: “yes, you meant …”).
· If you don’t understand what your child is trying to say, tell your child that you did not understand and ask him or her to reformulate (different words, gestures...). Reassure your child by showing your child that he or she will eventually be understood.
Vocabulary: How to help your child enrich his or her vocabulary?
· Doing activities with your child is an opportunity to improve your child’s vocabulary, especially his or her comprehension. For example, if you are cooking together, regularly name the kitchen items (balloon whisk, salad bowl, saltshaker, peppershaker, colander, cup...), then after a while ask your child for one of them: "give me the..." (without pointing towards the object). You can do the same with fruits, vegetables, etc.
o Practice short fluency exercises (quick naming). For example: find 5 girl names (or boys, or members of the family), 5 animal names (or more specifically from the farm, savannah, forest, or insects…), or 5 names of fruits, vegetables, furniture, colors, clothing, jobs, home rooms, car parts, games, 5 things we did yesterday, etc.
Syntax: How to help your child better understand and formulate sentences ?
· If your child's sentence is poorly constructed or very incomplete, you can suggest close statements using multiple choices. For example:
o Your child said “fell”, you may ask him “you want to say that “She will fall" or "she fell"? Options will be defined as left hand / right hand choices, or finger choices. The child must then pick a hand or a finger without repeating or rephrasing (unless he does so spontaneously).
o Your child says “come”: “She comes” or “he comes?”.
o Your child says “ate”: you mean, "I have eaten?" or "I want to eat?" or "Do you want to eat?".
· If your child could not clarify his or her message, simply tell your child that you do not understand and help your child express the message differently (via gestures, mime, drawing, designation...). Communication should not be interrupted.
· For sentence comprehension, carry out a recipe or a manual activity, for example, by giving your child simple orders (for example: "choose 3 colors and a large brush", "pour all the sugar into the bowl").
Encourage your child and congratulate your child for all the efforts he or she is making!
You can give your child responsibilities at home and congratulate your child on skills other than language too.