How we communicate

Communication is so important. Being able to understand and use words will help your child communicate with people, make relationships, socialise, play and learn.

“The ability to communicate is an essential life skill for all children and young people and it underpins a child’s social, emotional development” (Bercow 2008).

Communication begins as soon as your child is born, babies communicate their needs through crying and facial expression. Then as they get older, children develop friendships by talking and playing together. Children learn by listening to other children and adults and by talking about their experiences. They then begin to develop imaginative play through talking, for example, when they decide to dress up as an astronaut and use old cereal boxes as a rocket. Children who have developed good speaking and listening skills will often find it easier to learn to read and write.

Communication is one of the main functions a person has right from the beginning and being able to communicate needs and feelings is vital to ensure these needs are met.

We have put together some details for you to look at to understand the progress of your child, the development stages they should be at with their communication and also some activities you can do with your child to aid their development. We hope these help you to gain improved communication with each other.

How do you know if your child has a speech or language delay

Have you recently thought your childs speech or communication seems to be delayed? There are some great ways to check to see whether your child is developing their communication skills as they grow. Here are some basic things to look out for:

  • By the age of 12 months your child should be using hand gestures like pointing or waving.
  • By 18 months your child should be using sounds to communicate
  • By 2 years your child should be able to use some words or phrases

If you are concerned that your child has difficulties with their communication, you can use this fantastic tracker to check their progress.

It is important to note that 70-80% of children in their early years will outgrow a language delay. If you have concerns it’s always best to contact your GP, Health Visitor, Nursery or School. They can help decide whether a referral to a Speech and Language Therapist is needed.

Speech and Language Therapy

If your GP agrees that your child would be best suited to see a Speech Therapist then it’s important to go along to the appointments. The earlier a child sees a Speech Therapist, the better, as most speech issues can be resolved in the early stages of your child’s life. The therapy will help your child to communicate more freely with friends and family.

Speech and Language Therapist also work with children who have eating and swallowing difficulties and so if you are referred for this reason don’t be alarmed.

When you have an appointment with a Speech and Language Therapist they will initially assess the skills of your child. They’ll look at things such as how they swallow as well as their current communication skills. Simple activities will be completed to help to develop your child’s ability to be able to communicate well.

A Speech Therapist doesn’t just work with your child, they also provide information to you as parents and they give support to nurseries and schools too.

Top Tips for Talking

There are a lot of fun tips and activities you can do to help develop your child’s communication.

We’ve spoken with the creators of the Speak Up Salford Website to gain some activities you can do with your child to assist with their development. 

Nursery Age:

Children love to have your full attention. Taking some Special Time each day to talk and play with your child is really vital and will help their brain develop. Have a look at this handout on making the most of your Special Time.

Play with your child and use imaginative ideas and fun toys to keep their attention. Having too many toys out, or the TV on will be too distracting. When you play, get down on their level where they can see and hear you best. Take a look at these great play ideas from BBC’s Tiny Happy People.

We understand that whilst at home more, you might watch TV with your child. There are some great ideas from The Communication Trust about how to make the most of TV programmes.

Talk about your child’s interests and things that are happening right now.

Keep your talking short and simple. Using gestures and pointing will help them understand your instructions. Pictures and objects might help too. This great handout helps you to use visuals with your child, from Talking Matters in Australia.

If your child uses single words or short phrases, try repeating what they say and adding a word on, e.g. Child- ‘Mama ball’. Mum- ‘Oh look, a red ball!’. Make sure you use plenty of intonation to make your voice sound fun! Look at these activity ideas from The Communication Trust to help develop communication.

Use simple sentences of 2-3 words that your child could copy, e.g. ‘Max’s milk bottle’, ‘building a tower’ etc.

Have a look at the Speak Up Salford page for Parents and Carers of young children where you can access further advice and leaflets on supporting early language.

School Age:

Keep what you say short and simple. Break down long instructions or give one instruction at a time,

e.g. ‘first get your book and then come to the living room’. Using gestures and pointing will help them understand. Pictures and objects might help too.

Make time for talking and story-telling. Encourage them to also tell you their stories and give lots of praise. Take a look at BBC Bitesize storytime.

If they make mistakes when they speak either with their words or sounds, repeat back clearly and in the right way, e.g. if your child said ‘dun’ for ‘sun’, don’t correct them, just clearly model back ‘ssssun’. If they said ‘falled’, you’d repeat back their sentence and say ‘fell’. Have a look at these fun ideas from Mommy Speech Therapy to help practice sounds at home.

After you ask a question, stop and silently count in your head to 5 before speaking again. Don’t ask too many questions! Remember this hand rule- when speaking to your child, ask 1 question to 4 either comments, repetitions, expansions or explanations.

Story Time:

Take some time to share stories together. The questions below will help your child’s thinking and talking. It’s not a test so remember the hand rule- make four comments about the picture or story for every one question you ask.

There are lots of lovely online interactive books from the Book Trust that can be used.

Examples of questions you could ask during Story Time:

Question 1 is the easiest and question 10 is the most tricky.

1. What’s this?

2. Find another one like this?

3. Who’s this?

4. Where are they?

5. What’s happening?

6. What might happen next?

7. How do they feel?

8. What’s the character saying?

9. Why?

10. How do you know?

Games

Indoor and Outdoor scavenger hunts are a great way to help develop your child’s communication skills, particularly their listening and understanding.

Try giving your child some of these instructions (once you’ve got the idea, have a go at making up some of your own!):

  • Find something that is long.
  • Find something blue.
  • Find something big.
  • Find 10 blades of grass.

You could use trickier words with older children:

  • Find something transparent.
  • Find something that’s made from metal.
  • Find something that’s reflective.
  • Find something you can recycle.

You could try giving your child some longer more complex instructions. If they find these tricky, make sure you break the instructions down into chunks, repeat them or make them shorter.

  • Remember this is not a test! Asking them to repeat the instruction back to you might help them remember what to do:
  • Find something from the back of the cupboard that is next to the sink.
  • Find a red book from the second shelf in Mia’s bedroom.
  • Find some blue fabric from the box under the bed.
  • Find a blue cushion and a green sock from Mum’s bedroom!
  • Make a smiley face out of a leaf, a twig and 2 stones!
  • You could even ask your child to make up their own scavenger hunt for you or any siblings.

Great Websites to Find Out More

  • Tiny Happy People is BBC Education’s most ambitious and exciting initiative to date. The website has lots of ideas and advice to help you develop your child’s communication skills through simple interaction and play. Check them out at www.bbc.co.uk/tiny-happy-people
  • British Stammering Association (BSA) provides information and support on stammering to children, adults and their families and professionals who assist them. Helpline: 0845 603 2001 Visit: www.stammering.org
  • The Communication Trust is a coalition of over 50 not-for-profit organisations. Working together we support everyone who supports children and young people in England with their speech, language and communication. Tel: 0207 843 2526 E-mail: enquiries@thecommunicationtrust.org.uk
  • I CAN- This charity works across the UK to support the development of speech, language and communication skills in all children with a special focus on those who find this hard: children with a communication disability. Tel: 0845 225 4073 Visit: www.ican.org.uk
  • Royal College of Speech and Language Therapist’s- The professional organisation for speech and language therapists that provides information to students, parents and professionals, seeking information on Speech and Language Therapy. Tel: 020 7378 1200 Visit: www.rcslt.org
  • Talking Point- This site has 2 parts:- Parent Point which has vital information on how to support your child’s communication and Professional Point which gives professionals information on speech, language and communication difficulties and how to assist children. Helpline: 0845 225 4073 Visit: www.talkingpoint.org.uk

We hope you’ve found this information really useful, there’s a lot that can be done to support both you and your child in their development, so if you feel you need help please do reach out to your GP or school.