- November 3, 2016
At Ethos, we believe that the key to successfully developing your child’s communication skills is through engaging in enjoyable, extended interactions with them. Taking turns in a back-and-forth conversation is the best way for a child to learn how to communicate and when your child sends you a message (with or without words), your immediate response encourages them to engage more. Asking questions is a great way to respond to and maintain the communication – but it is helpful to keep a few things in mind.
Some questions don’t help the conversation, they turn a child off. These types of questions STOP a conversation:
- Too many questions
- Questions that test your child’s knowledge
- Questions that are too hard
- Questions that don’t match your child’s interests
- Questions that answer themselves, for example, “You like that, don’t you?”
A simple strategy to remember when talking with your child is to follow your child’s lead. Acknowledge that you have received their message and respond to what they are interested in (not what you are interested in). In this situation your child is more likely to communicate their interests. It does not really matter what you say as long as you are enthusiastic and interested.
If you do ask a question when responding, make it related to their interest. Asking, “Where is your train going?” may get a response because it shows interest in your child’s play, but asking “What colour is your train?” is testing their knowledge and may turn them off the interaction.
Sometimes, no matter what question you ask, your child may not say much in return, which is alright. Continue to play with them and make comments related to the play rather than asking questions. For example, saying “Your train has so many people in it” may make them take some people out or put some more in and look at you and laugh.
If you know what stage of communication your child is at, here are some questions you could ask:
Discoverer: Discoverers cannot understand words yet, so the questions you ask are not as important as the way that you ask it. Discoverers love the sound of your voice, and the changes in tone when you ask a question engages their interest. If your child is at the Discoverer stage use any questions and exaggerate the up and down tones of your voice.
Communicator: Communicators respond to concrete questions such as questions that let the child make a choice or to which they can give a yes/no response. You can use ‘wh’ questions but these should be simple enough for your child to answer without using words such as “What is the baby going to eat?” when playing feed the doll.
First Word User: First Word Users can respond to yes/no, choice and ‘wh’ questions using simple words that they can say.
Combiner: Combiners can answer all of the questions above but can also respond to questions that are more abstract including questions about people or objects that are not present or about future or past events.
Our HANEN Early Communication Professional, Sinead Arthurs, would be happy to discuss how to support your child’s communication with you. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.