You are one of the support workers for a ten year old child who has learning disabilities and needs support at school. The child has language and communication needs. Describe the methods and strategies you might use to enable him to communicate with you.
How to use specific methods of communication?
Some children need particular help in order to communicate and interact. Speech alone may be difficult for them and they may require special methods of communication. There are several of these and usually advice will be given by a speech therapist in consultation with parents as to which one to use and how to use it. Over the past few years, the range of methods has increased and technology is increasingly being used. Voice simulation has, for example, meant that children can press a picture or type in a computer or handheld device and have ‘their voices’ heard. In the same way, for children who find in hard to write, voice recognition can put their words into writing. Below are some examples of the methods that might be used.
– Visual systems
Some children need visual cues in order to make sense of language. If the child you are working with uses a system of visual communication, you will need to spend time learning how to use it quickly and fluently.
– Picture representations
Some children benefit from using pictures to supplement communication. You may show a child a picture of an apron and at the same time say the word so that the child knows that they need to get their apron.
– Picture exchange system
This system, based on pictures, not only helps children to understand the meaning of words but also help them to learn about the way in which communication is a shared and a two-way process. The child takes and receives pictures and so learns how to interact.
– Sign representations
Some children’s cognitive development is the reason why they find it hard to talk and communicate. At first, babies learn about language through seeing the object that the adult is talking about at the same time as hearing the word. For example, an adult may point to a cat and say ‘cat’. The child than remembers the word and so eventually does not need the cat to be around to know what the word means. For some children, sounds alone are not enough and they need to have their language supported by signs. A common sigh system is Makaton. It helps children link the word to an action or object and so is easier for them to understand. Makaton is not a language in itself but a tool to help language. It is important not to confuse Makaton with British sigh language, which is not used for the same purpose.
– British sign language
British sign language is an alternative form of communication. It is a complete language and is used instead of speech. Users if sign language do not have learning difficulties. Most users have significant hearing loss and so need a different way of communicating.
Music can be an incredibly effective therapeutic and educational medium for young children and individuals with special needs. Singing can stimulate growth in many areas of a child’s development and in several areas simultaneously. By singing with children, we may help stimulate language and communication skills, encourage interaction, assist in learning academic concepts, encourage self expression, increase self esteem, help him relax, and help establish routines.
How to remove barriers in communication:
A child might not be able to hear instructions or what other children are saying – Write down instructions or show pictures to help children understand what is happening. – Encourage other children to face the child so that it is easier for them to hear. – Use pictures or signs to help children to communicate with each other. – Plan games in which action is more important than hearing or talk.
• speak in clear, short, simple sentences
• simplify instructions
• support speech with visual prompts, signs or gestures • use pictures/symbols to aid understanding
• ensure prompt referral to a speech and language therapist, or the provision of specialist speech and language intervention within the educational setting
• encourage regular, constant reinforcement of skills introduced at speech and language sessions.
Strategies for or those with language impairment/delay
It helps to:
• use simple sentences and instructions, reinforcing key words
• ask a child to tell you in their own words what they have been asked to do
• reinforce learning by repeating answers (from the child or others)
• encourage ‘good listening’
• encouraging the child to (learn to) read
• use visual timetables/prompts gestures, signing eg Makaton or written instructions to reinforce the spoken word provide visual clues, don’t just talk about a cylinder, let them see it, feel it, play with it, find different cylinders
• teach word association skills
• teach the nuances of language, meanings of jokes, idioms, body language, facial expressions etc
• make use of books, role play, drama, singing, social stories to explain social situations and develop social skills and understanding
• play games that encourage listening and/or social skills
• plan the careful use of computers and ICT to facilitate learning.
Types of disorders
Speech disorders involve difficulties producing speech sounds or problems with voice quality. They might be characterised by an interruption in the flow or rhythm of speech, such as stuttering (which is called dysfluency). Speech disorders include problems with articulation (the way sounds are formed), or phonological disorders, or difficulties with the pitch, volume or quality of the voice. There may be a combination of several problems. Experiencing difficulty with some speech sounds may be a symptom of a delay, or of a hearing impairment. It can be difficult to understand what someone with a speech disorder is trying to say.
Language disorder is an impairment in the ability to understand and/or use words in context, both verbally and non-verbally. Characteristics of language disorders include improper use of words and their meanings, problems with sentence structure, inappropriate grammatical patterns, reduced vocabulary and inability to express ideas, or follow directions. One or a combination of these may occur in children who are affected by language-learning disabilities (such as dyslexia) or developmental language delay. Children may hear or see a word, but not be able to understand its meaning. Often, being unable to communicate frustrates them. The effects of language difficulties vary from mild and transient, perhaps requiring some short-term specialist intervention, to severe and long-term, requiring continual specialist input. Some children have specific language problems others have additional difficulties such as hearing impairments.