Many of the suggestions for useful teaching or therapy approaches when working with children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) are simply good teaching or therapy practice. What is important though, for many children and young people, is that these elements of good practice are 'packaged' and ‘embedded’. This means they are implemented effectively and consistently throughout their educational setting.
For many children, it will be necessary to include specific activities, approaches or strategies to target their individual underlying speech, language or communication needs.
Here are just a few suggestions of ways in which we can support children through supplementing our teaching and therapy approaches.
- Educators, support staff and SLTs working collaboratively. This is an extremely effective way, both of meeting a child's needs and of having the opportunity to develop professional skills. Through working or talking together, professionals can enhance their practice effectively.
- Using visual, tactile activities and real experiences. Many children and young people with SLCN learn more effectively through these channels, than they do through the auditory channel. Making activities concrete and real can enhance understanding and support application of knowledge and skills more widely. For example, demonstrating a craft activity or science experiment is likely to enable a child to understand the activity more effectively than a verbal description.
- Clear structure to the lesson or session is useful. This can be supported visually, by using timelines involving pictures of the activities or noting down the structure of lessons on paper or the board.
- Encouraging frequent repetition and reinforcement as part of the learning. This helps to embed the learning.
- Reviewing adult 'talk'. Often within busy educational settings there can be lots of verbal information presented rapidly, lots of questions asked and little time for children and young people to respond. Make sure that you are using the right level of language for the children you are teaching. Give them time to think about what you have said or asked.
- Giving information in short chunks, with time to process information or ask for help in between.
- Ensuring instructions are concise and easy to understand.
- Repeating and reinforcing new ideas and information.
- Providing 'thinking time' after information is given for children and young people to process it effectively.
- Monitoring how much idiomatic or figurative language is used. Idiomatic language can be hugely confusing for children who take these expressions very literally. For example, if a child is asked to 'hang on a minute', confusion may be alleviated by adding 'so that means you will need to wait'.
- Being explicit about expectations, routines and how information fits together. Some children and young people with speech, language and communication needs can find inferring or deducing information difficult.
- Giving learning and listening breaks. This can benefit many children and young people, particularly when they are in small groups.
Where an activity involves a large number of language based skills, consider if any of these skills can be reduced or supported directly. For example, if a piece of creative writing is required, children will need to think of ideas, plan sentences, check their grammar, check punctuation, spell words, and organise the structure of the piece. This is a lot for a child with SLCN. Try to break this down into a number of discrete activities that are done one at a time, or support some of these activities. Here are some ways you can do this:
- Supporting a child by providing a scribe so they can share all their ideas effectively
- Using a recording device to record ideas verbally
- Using planning tools and strategies such as brainstorms or mind maps
- Using pictures to support their writing
- Using writing frames to help organise ideas and provide a structure
- Using a checklist to focus on their sentence structure or grammar