I recently met Vanessa King, when she joined our Women in Business Network group in Farnham. Vanessa is a qualified teacher, parent, toastmaster and an expert in teaching confident speaking and is passionate about engaging with young people of every age to improve their opportunities through her new venture, Smart Talkers Surrey.
She believes that competent communication is key to self-confidence and the ability to create the life you want. Her core belief is that every child, regardless of gender, and regardless of where in the world they live, has a fundamental right to fulfil their potential, and to have the chance to avoid a life of missed opportunities.
Speech difficulties are extremely common among children with special needs. While some need specialist speech and language help for many years and others will never speak, for many, (and this probably applies to many adults too!) simply being helped to develop confidence in their speaking skills can be hugely beneficial.
She's written for Special Needs Jungle about how, as a parent, you can help your child do just that.
Being able to communicate our thoughts, feelings and ideas is the most important achievement of our lives and it never ceases to amaze and delight me to realise that such a complex feat is achieved within our first 5 years of life. This skill is not something that develops on its own, however. There is a lot that parents and carers can do to help children develop their language skills. It's never too soon or too late to start!
- Talk together every day. Talk to your child whenever you can, as you go about daily activities like cooking, bathing, dressing, eating, travelling to preschool or school, getting ready for bed.
- Get down to your child’s level. Ensure your child can see your face when you are talking to them. This helps them focus, lets them see and hear your words better and encourages them to copy you.
- Follow your child’s lead when you talk. Take some time to see what holds your child’s interests. Watch what they look at, touch, hear and reach for and talk with them about these things.
- Talk about what you are doing and ‘think out loud.’ Talk in simple words about what you are doing as you do your daily activities to develop your child’s vocabulary, for example “I am cutting carrots into circles.”
- Be positive. Use lots of encouragement and tell your child what they have done well. Use specific words. “I like the way you used your words to ask for that,” and “The red colour in that picture looks great.”
- Model new words. Tell your child the names of things they have not seen before. Teach them new action words when you do things together. Teach them describing words by talking about what they see, hear, touch, taste and smell. Include words about size, shape, colour and feel.
- Recast your child’s errors. If your child makes a mistake when talking, repeat the sentence, fixing the mistake to show them the right way. Use a positive tone and repeat it a few times but keep it natural. For example, child: “I runned,” adult: “Yes you ran, you ran very fast, you ran right to mummy.” Try repeating this same word a few more times later on, so your child gets lots of chances to hear it the right way.
- Use lots of repetition. Young children learn though repetition. Repeat new ideas, words and concepts over and over. Repeat stories and songs too. Repeat new words and ideas in different places, times and situations to help your child learn the full meaning and understand different ways the word can be used.
- Read lots of books together. Reading to your child is one of the best things you can do to help them learn. Make it a part of your day every day. Read new books but also old repeat old favourites. Choose books which suit your child’s age, language level and interests. Talk about what you read and ask your child questions.
- Embrace new experiences. Try new places, games, songs, books and activities with your child. Do something special and different every chance you can as this opens up new words, ideas and concepts to talk about.
Smart Talkers helps your child become a confident, successful and effective communicator. If you would like further information about the courses we offer parents, childminders and Foundation Stage teachers, please contact Vanessa at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07769 114 755. If you are elsewhere in the country or even in some places overseas, there are various other locations to access Smart Talkers.
She is also an experienced broadcast and print journalist & author. Tania also runs a PR, web & social media consultancy, SocialOro Media. She is a Rare Disease & chronic pain patient advocate with Ehlers Danlos syndrome.
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