As child practitioners we must work on our skills in communicating with children because the way we communicate with them is important not only for their communication and language development, but also the development of our relationship with them. Young children often aren’t able to express their thoughts and feelings in words, or express them poorly. Because of this, it’s important that child practitioners can listen carefully and help children to learn how to express themselves and also provide what they need. Communicating involves giving, receiving and making sense of information.
Children do this by using non- verbal means of communication, talking, listening, thinking, and understanding. In time, the skills of reading and writing enrich this experience. Communicating is a two-way activity; as well as learning to share their experiences with others children also learn to interpret what others are sharing with them. They communicate in many different ways including facial expressions, gestures, body movements, sounds, language and for some children, through assistive technology. Children’s language is more than words, phrases and sentences.
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It includes art, Braille, dance, drama, music, poetry, pictures, sculpture, signing, and stories. While most children eventually master spoken and written language as their key means of communicating, they continue to speak through their gestures, body movements and expressions to a greater or lesser extent. Some children with special educational needs may need additional and consistent support throughout their lifetime to practise, learn and perfect the art of non-verbal communication. Active listening Active listening is not just hearing, but focusing on what the child or young person is trying to say and communicate.
The term ‘active’ is an accurate description. Active listening takes time but a thoughtful attitude of acceptance of children’s feelings helps children to drop their defensive attitudes, opening the opportunity for a more positive type of communication. In active listening, non-language signals are particularly meaningful. Listeners should be careful about expressing their own feelings and their reactions to what the speaker is saying and concentrate on just listening. At times, the listener may need to reflect some of the content or feelings of the speaker.
Just a nod or small sound can acknowledge that the listener recognises and understands what the speaker is saying. All too often, we listen without hearing in the same way we look but cannot see. Below is a list of things you may do in order to be an active listener. Eye contact – you need to show children and young people that you are interested in what they have to say. By looking at a child or young person you show them that they have your full attention. Sometimes, during conversation they may look away or down and this may be a sign that what they are about to say may be uncomfortable or difficult for them.
Body language – child practitioners tend to be busy. This unfortunately can send out signals that they have no time to listen. By coming down to the child’s level or sitting with a young person, you can send out the signal that you are ready to listen. You must not look distracted in this time and look relaxed and settled. Summarising – it can sometimes be helpful to summarise what the child or young person is trying to say. This helps you check that you understand their meaning, for example “so you wanted to play with Mark, but he wasn’t in nursery today”. Reflecting – this is a useful technique that must be carefully used.
The last few words are reflected back which helps the child or young person to maintain communication. Questioning – while children and young people do not want to be interrogated, asking odd questions that develop what they have said is sometimes useful. This might be through a mix of open and closed questions. For example, a closed question such as “are you enjoying this? ” is quite safe as it allows the child to simply answer yes or no and they can add to it if they wish. Open questions such as “why do you like this one? ” are good at encouraging children to talk a little more as they require a fuller answer.
Using questions can show your interest and help you explore some issues. Non verbal communication By observing us children learn how to interact with others, accomplish goals, and get along in the world. We are the examples, and what many do not realize is that our non-verbal messages and actions are stronger than our verbal ones. Non-verbal communication consists of expressions, tone of voice, eye contact, and actions. The way you listen, look, move, and react tells the other person whether or not you care, if you’re being truthful, and how well you’re listening.
When your nonverbal signals match up with the words you’re saying, they increase trust, clarity, and rapport. When they don’t, they generate tension, mistrust, and confusion. There are many different types of nonverbal communication. Together, the following nonverbal signals and cues communicate your interest and investment in others. Facial expressions -The human face is extremely expressive, able to express countless emotions without saying a word. And unlike some forms of nonverbal communication, facial expressions are universal.
The facial expressions for happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear, and disgust are the same across cultures. Body movements and posture – Consider how your perceptions of people are affected by the way they sit, walk, stand up, or hold their head. The way you move and carry yourself communicates a wealth of information to the world. This type of nonverbal communication includes your posture, bearing, stance, and subtle movements. Gestures – Gestures are woven into the fabric of our daily lives. We wave, point, beckon, and use our hands when we’re arguing or speaking animatedly, expressing ourselves with gestures often without thinking.
However, the meaning of gestures can be very different across cultures and regions, so it’s important to be careful to avoid misinterpretation. Eye contact – Since the visual sense is dominant for most people, eye contact is an especially important type of nonverbal communication. The way you look at someone can communicate many things, including interest, affection, hostility, or attraction. Eye contact is also important in maintaining the flow of conversation and for gauging the other person’s response. Touch – We communicate a great deal through touch.
Think about the messages given by the following: a weak handshake, a timid tap on the shoulder, a warm bear hug, a reassuring slap on the back, a patronizing pat on the head, or a controlling grip on your arm. Space – Have you ever felt uncomfortable during a conversation because the other person was standing too close and invading your space? We all have a need for physical space, although that need differs depending on the culture, the situation, and the closeness of the relationship. You can use physical space to communicate many different nonverbal messages, including signals of intimacy and affection, aggression or dominance.
Voice – It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. When we speak, other people “read” our voices in addition to listening to our words. Things they pay attention to include your timing and pace, how loud you speak, your tone and inflection, and sounds that convey understanding, such as “ahh” and “uh-huh. ” Think about how someone’s tone of voice, for example, can indicate sarcasm, anger, affection, or confidence. Reciprocal communication Reciprocal communication involves a give and a take, and another give and take. also referred to as “two way communication” it gives the child the sense of intention and meaning.
When the child “opens” a circle by holding out a toy, the adult “closes” the circle by saying “Oooh, for me? ”. Communication develops through loving relationships because the child feels a sense of comfort and joy in these back and forth interactions. As the child opens and closes more circles, his verbal and non – verbal communication develops. During “circle time” at the setting we use a tool called the ‘talking bear’. During discussion, in order for all children to have their say, and feelings heard, in turn they are handed the talking bear. Only when the child is holding the bear, they can speak while the rest of the group listening.
This technique has proven effective and not only does it encourage turn taking, but it helps develop their active listening skills. Augmentative communication Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) includes all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. We all use AAC when we make facial expressions or gestures, use symbols or pictures, or write. People with severe speech or language problems rely on AAC to supplement existing speech or replace speech that is not functional.
Special augmentative aids, such as picture and symbol communication boards and electronic devices, are available to help people express themselves. This may increase social interaction, school performance, and feelings of self-worth. AAC can be high tech, such as a computer that is programmed to talk for the child. AAC can also be low tech by using simple pictures, sign language or a device that plays recorded messages. Speech-language pathologists may help the child to use a picture exchange communication system (PECS).
AAC can help people who cannot talk at all. It can also help children who can talk but are hard to understand. A speech-language pathologist will help decide if AAC is appropriate for a child. If the child can benefit from an AAC system, the speech-language pathologist will recommend the appropriate type of AAC system. The speech-language pathologist will also train the child and family members on how to use it effectively. AAC can help the child to improve his or her ability to interact with others and communicate at home, in school, and in the community.
It can help the child to participate in school and become more independent. Using AAC can also decrease inappropriate behaviors, such as tantrums, crying and whining, that are often due to the child’s difficulty with communication. Gestures, rhymes, songs, finger plays drawings an representation Communicating through gestures is an important part of a child’s early language development. Such simple gestures as waving bye-bye or the hand motions that accompany many nursery rhymes can help a child to understand the connection between movement and meaning.
Baby’s as young as six months old are sometimes taught a simplified sign language as it can help a child to learn to communicate more quickly and with less frustration. Role play and dressing up is another way of encourage speech and communication. Child practitioners can play alongside them to encourage them with their speech and communication skills. By making it into a fun activity that incorporates their interests then they don’t feel under pressure and speech and language can flow. Nursery rhymes, songs and musical instruments are good for communication skills.
This encourages children to listen, sing and communicate; this can be through using their hands to start off with and eventually hands and singing. Musical instruments can be good for the children to practice repeating different sounds that are made or making the sounds louder or quieter. The use of puppets, dolls and cuddly toys are also a good tool for encouraging a child to communicate. When a child first starts getting interested in talking they begin to role play e. g. giving a doll a cup of tea.
This is an indication that they are ready to use new words, so we, as child practitioners can encourage this by saying the words e. g. “doll” and “cup”. This can only be done if you follow the child’s interests. At the setting we are constantly intercting with the children through all of these communication tools. During “bora da” time, we encourage the children to join in with the actions, or just clapping at first. When they feel confident enough then in their own time they begin to sing along with the rest of the group. A home corner or role play area specific to our theme is set up daily.
This is an area you see the children express themselves vocally more often, and even though this time is child led play, staff encourage conversation by asking a few open ended questions relating to their play. Appropriate and accurate use of language Children are ‘social learners’ and learn by copying other people, so any adults working with them should model good communication, both verbally and non – verbally, so that children will learn from them. Language used should be age and development appropriate, and slang words should never be used. A friendly tone of voice is also key for effective communication.
This helps the child feel comfortable enough to answer any open ended questions asked, this also goes hand in hand with friendly facial expressions. At the setting, communicating with the children is a key part of our job role as child practitioners. The majority of the staff have attended the “Elklan” speech and language course for under five year olds. It has taught us the importance of communicating correctly with children, using open, simple questions and allowing the child ten seconds to reply to the question. Every child’s speech and language is observed and issues and concerns are highlighted and addressed.