6 Ways to Enhance Communication with a Special Needs Child
Children with special needs have not only physical limitations that challenge their opportunity for communication, they also have environmental barriers. Children with special needs often require tools to aid communication and may need an investment of both time and money to learn and modify their strategies to adapt to the world.
At CARE, Inc., we are trained to understand alternative methods of communication. These may include any of the following:
- Gestures and Nonverbal Communication – Including gestures such as pointing, nodding and focused eye contact can help children with disabilities understand messages. Parents, family members and friends may need to exaggerate their gestures or prolong them, especially in the beginning, to promote comprehension. In general, children like responding to exaggerated nonverbals with their own movements and gestures, but for children with disabilities, gestures are almost necessary.
- Read to them –and talk to them often. Practice makes perfect goes the old saying, and this is certainly a good one for children with disabilities when they are learning better communication strategies. The first step to learning language is listening, and we cannot expect a child to communicate well if we first do not teach them to understand. Exposure to communication is a key element for learning.
- Constantly provide explanation. In the grocery store, talk to the child at every step. Count the apples as you put them in plastic bags, read the items off the list and check them off with the child, and finally, allow the child to help you organize and store groceries when you get home. This allows you to repeat the items to the child over and over, promoting learning and also teaching him or her about grocery shopping along the way and can be applied to other aspects of your routine as well.
- Change it up a bit. While you certainly want to begin with simple language, you will eventually want to expand your child’s vocabulary, if he or she is able. Challenge your own vocabulary by mixing your words a bit. Start small. Use “the other words” from time to time. Rather than saying to your child to go through the door, tell him or her to enter through it. Expansion of vocabulary challenges the thought process as well as helps a child feel confident in communication skills.
- Use pictures. Like flashcards, pictures can challenge the memory. Associating still pictures with words can help the child associate words with the real world. Use pictures with single items rather than those with busy backgrounds. As the child learns, you may introduce more challenging scenery or pictures in which children may identify several objects.
- Realize and respect their differences and limitations. Challenging children can give them opportunities to succeed, but parents can also overdo it. The child will let you know when he or she is ready to move on to another adventure in language.
Let the professionals at CARE, Inc. work with your family to develop a plan that enhances communication and expands opportunities for your child with a disability. When we all work together, the child will benefit exponentially. Click here to learn more about what CARE, Inc. can do for your family.
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CARE, Inc. is encouraging everyone to attend Disability Services Day at the State Capitol on May 1 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. This important event will highlight services provided to this special population and the importance of increasing funding.
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