Connecting with children in Speech and Language Therapy

Connecting with children in Speech and Language Therapy

A deep and meaningful relationship

In the realm of Speech and Language Therapy, connecting with a child goes far beyond the mechanics of language and articulation. It’s about fostering a deep, meaningful relationship that nurtures growth, builds confidence, and unlocks the potential for effective communication.

As Speech and Language Therapists we embrace this art and invest in building authentic connections. We want to pave the way for children to embark on a path of communication success that will resonate throughout their lives.

Establishing rapport and trust is the foundation upon which effective communication and progress are built. In this blog, we explore the significance of making a connection with a child as an integral part of Speech and Language Therapy. We look at strategies, benefits, and the transformative impact it can have on a child’s journey to communication success.

The importance of connection

Every child is a unique individual with their own personality, experiences, and challenges. Recognising and respecting these individual differences lay the groundwork for forming a connection that goes beyond the clinical setting. A strong therapeutic alliance encourages a child to open up, engage actively in sessions, and make greater strides in their speech, language and communication development.

Strategies I use for establishing connection

Face to Face:

I always aim to get down and dirty: I sit on the floor with a child or at a low level so that it is easy for a child to look at me, even for a brief moment, here and there. When sitting at a table I position the child so that they can make eye contact with me should they be so inclined. Important: not every child wants to make eye contact! We must not be too focused on a child looking at our face or into our eyes. Sometimes some individuals find this disconcerting and off putting. They would rather look at what they are doing, and that does not mean that they are not aware of you or not listening!

Active listening:

I devote my full attention to the child. This demonstrates that they are important and that I am genuinely interested in their world. This is not always possible for longer periods of time, but I aim for 3-10 minutes of top-quality time before I might have a little break. I would encourage all parents and caregivers to try this out for 1 , then 2, then 3 minutes: turn off your phone and be 100% with your child no matter what. You will see your child really appreciates your undivided attention.

Shared interests:

I try to discover and engage in activities, topics, or hobbies that resonate with the child.

Play-based learning:

Play is a big part of all Speech and Language Therapy sessions. This is because it is a child’s natural mode of communication and all learning comes through play and fun.

Respect for autonomy:

Encouraging a child’s autonomy is important. Where possible, I involve children in decision-making about session goals, activities, and approaches. This also makes sessions more motivating for the child.

As the connection strengthens, communication barriers begin to dissolve. Children are more inclined to take risks (challenges that are within their reach), try new sounds or words, and explore new ways of doing things.

Long-term progress:

A solid connection sets the stage for ongoing progress. The child is more likely to continue practicing and engaging in speech, language and communication exercises outside of therapy, leading to sustained improvements.

The transformation that can occur through a strong therapeutic connection is nothing short of remarkable. A child who once hesitated to communicate might now eagerly share their thoughts and ideas. Those struggling with speech sounds before might gain the confidence to practise them frequently and thus master them. The bond forged between the child and the Speech and Language Therapist becomes a source of motivation, encouragement, and resilience.

Please get in touch!

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.

Some ideas to encourage communication

Some ideas to encourage communication

Coming up with ideas for supporting your child’s speech, language and communication can be difficult especially during the holidays. All these activities are easy to implement and can be adapted to your child’s age and stage of development.

Some activities to support your family through the summer:

1. Create a story book / photo book of what you’ve been up to over the holidays

Collect photos of everyday activities and stick them into a file. You can print them out or you could just look at them on your phone or tablet. Create good little sentences or words / phrases for each picture: yummy ice cream / eating pizza / digging the sand / a sandcastle with mum.

This enables your child to develop

  • their attention and listening
  • sequencing of events
  • expressive language (talking)
  • and conversational skills.

2. Explore the outside world (e.g., water the flowers, dig in the soil)

Depending on your child’s language level keep it very simple: single words or short phrases. Or you could practise concepts such as ‘pronouns’: he is eating an ice cream / we are splashing in the pool / she is riding a bike.

3. Splashing in a paddling pool

This is a great activity to build attention. You can call “splash, splash, splash”, “ready steady go splish splash splosh”, ”pour pour pour”, “stir stir you’re stirring”.

Offer different sized containers. This is often so powerful and keeps your child occupied for a nice long time. No need to buy anything special: just bring out your kitchen utensils and some Tupperware containers.

4. Blow bubbles

Bubbles are a fantastic way to engage children. You can play ‘stop and go’ games, take turns and practise key concepts such as ‘under – blow bubbles under my hand’. Your child can practise their expressive language, creating sentences such as ‘blowing bubbles in the pool’.

5. Draw with chalk on pavement slabs to encourage speech sound production or just general nice communication

Use chalk outside to draw a ladder. Your child can practise their speech sound production without even realising it! You can go first to model the sound if needed. Drawing anything onto the pathway with coloured chalk can be really fun.

Afterwards you can wash the pathway and again there is lots of vocabulary you could use there to help your little one practise speech sounds. For example, if your child is practising the word “YELLOW” (as many of my children do) you can draw lots of little yellow things and then name them together:

  • yellow banana
  • yellow flower
  • yellow submarine
  • yellow balloon

You get the idea!

6. Walk in nature. Comment on what you see, smell, hear and feel

Make the most of where you live. Go for a walk. You can sing songs along your walk or comment about what you see, smell, hear and feel. For example: I hear the birds, they are singing; I smell the sea and can hear the waves crashing against the rocks. Make sure your comments are appropriate for the age and stage of your child.

7. Sing songs

This is a lovely way to get your child hearing language, rhyme and rhythm. You can take turns, and fill in the missing words such as “heads, shoulders, knees and ______”.

8. Word games (such as ISpy)

The beauty of this game is that it can be played anywhere and everywhere! The importance is that these word games develop phonological awareness (the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words).

Contact me for speech, language and communication support.

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.