|1. Listening, Attention and Turn Taking||3. Speech Strategies
|2. Language Activities|
Listening, Attention and Turn Taking
The following activities encourage good listening, attention and turn taking in small groups and a classroom environment. You can also use these activities at home with other children.
In all language activities, remember to:
- Gain eye contact and ensure all children in the group are looking at you.
You may need to refocus the children’s attention. You can use silent reminders to look and listen, for example hold your hand up when you want the children to look at you and be quiet. Children will begin to notice and then prompt each other to look and listen. Children with Down’s syndrome are often good at copying and following the lead of their peers, so will learn to look and pay attention when appropriate.
- Ensure the child with Down’s syndrome sits close to the teacher so he can see and hear, and to ensure distractions are reduced.
- Be aware of noise levels
Children with Down’s syndrome are more likely to have hearing difficulties. They may also be more easily distracted, may have sensory sensitivity to loud noises, and may find processing information with background distractions difficult. It is not always possible for a preschool or nursery environment to be quiet, so ensure you compensate for this by getting down to the child’s level, gaining eye contact, and ensure she is looking at you when you give specific instructions.
- Break down the instructions into small steps
Children with Down’s syndrome often cannot remember or process more than one item of information at a time. It is harder for all children to process and understand information presented in a group, so breaking down instructions will help all the children in the group.
- Use visual clues to assist understanding and recall
This is particularly important for children with Down’s syndrome. When you communicate with a child with Down’s syndrome within a group, is important to use signs, gesture, pictures, symbols and writing to support speech. These strategies are very likely to benefit other children in the group as well. It is useful to display any visual clues, so children can refer back to these when necessary.
- Emphasise key words
- Model answers for unfamiliar questions. For example, ‘Look at these pencils. They are different. One is red and one is blue. Can you tell me what is different about them?’
- Consider whether the child would benefit from being given a choice of answers. For example, ‘Why do we need glue? Is it for cutting or sticking?’
- When asking a question, consider whether it would be useful to prompt the child by beginning to complete the answer, for example, ‘How do we know he is sad? We know he is sad because … ?’
- Allow time to process instructions.
- Refocus the child regularly, to ensure he is still paying attention.
- Check the children have understood your question and/or instruction.
Encourage them to indicate to you when they have not understood. When young children do not understand, their behavior may indicate this. They may become restless, lose focus, and distract others. Think about why they might have failed to understand. For example:
- Topic does not hold their interest
- Presentation needs to be more animated
- Sentence too long or grammatically complex
- Unfamiliar vocabulary
- Lack of visual aids to support understanding
- Expand children’s sentences. If the child says, ‘Look. Fire engine.’ You say, ‘Yes, it’s a red fire engine.’
- Be repetitive in your teaching of new concepts and vocabulary.
Use lots of encouragement, praise and rewards.
There are many group activities to support work on speech sound production, for example:
- Nursery rhymes
- Early phonics programmes, e.g. Jolly Phonics and Letter Land
- Rhyming stories and poems
Speech work is more FUN if the games are played in small groups. This also creates an opportunity for practising non-verbal and language skills. For example, turn taking, listening, eye contact, negotiating, requesting, etc. Motivating games for group speech work include:
Each time a child takes a turn to discriminate (hear the difference between two speech sounds) or produce a speech sound, her turn in the game provides motivation and reward. This makes practising speech sounds more fun. Remember to give each child a turn at the game, even if he does not discriminate or produce the target speech sound correctly. Just reinforce, ‘Good try …’ and model the correct production or discrimination.
When supporting speech development in a group setting, the principles remain the same as working on speech sounds in an individual setting (see Section E, Developing Speech). Always consider the child’s ability to produce speech sounds, and their overall developmental stage. It is easier to work with a group of children who all need to practise the same target speech sound. Always work in the following order:
- Repeat the sound on its own
- Repeat the sound followed by a single vowel
- Repeat the sound at the beginning of a word, end of a word, and then middle of a word. Begin with one syllable words. Words with more syllables are harder to say.
- Say the sound in a word using picture prompts. Make sure you do not say the word to your child. Copying is easier than saying a word spontaneously.
- Say the sound in a word within a short phrase. It is easier to say the sound if it is at the beginning of a single syllable word in a short phrase. As the child’s speech production develops, you can include words with more syllables, and change the position of the target sound in the word (middle and end of the word).
- Say the word in a longer sentence. Use picture prompts, and play games creating silly sentences or nonsense rhymes.
Only correct the target sound that you are working on. Drawing attention to other speech errors can confuse the child.
Keep activities fun and interesting, with lots of rewards.