Strategies to Enhance Language Processing Skills in the Home and School Environments

  1. Seat the child as close to the front of the room as possible, minimizing visual and auditory distractions.
  2. When giving verbal directions, gain attention first.  You can prompt the entire class by saying “Everyone look at me.  I’m going to give you a direction”.  You can position yourself in front of the child you know is having difficulty and watch to make sure you have that child’s attention.  Singling out the particular child should be done as a last resort due to the potential negative social repercussions.  You may also find it helpful to present directions several times to smaller groups of children since it is rare that there is only one child who may be having difficulty. 
  3. Present directions in small “chunks” and allow a second or two between to help with processing.
  4. When you need to repeat directions, repeat slowly and verbatim.  That way, the child can concentrate on listening for the pieces of information that were missed.  Rephrasing the entire message is like starting over with a brand new message.  You may cue the child by saying something like “I’m going to say it again.  Listen for what you missed”.  If necessary, break the message down into simpler chunks to assure that the message has been processed. 
  5. Make sure that directions and questions contain vocabulary that is at the child’s language level. 
  6.  Activities that require more intensive listening should be kept short (5 to 15 minutes).  You may need to regain the child’s auditory attention several times throughout the activity.  It helps to keep the child actively engaged through use of simple discussion and question/answer tasks.  This is also a good way to make sure that the activity is at the child’s language level.  A child will more readily tune out when the language level is too high. 
  7. Visual and picture cues are always a good way to help with processing the language used in stories and daily routines.  Pictures arranged in a sequence help the child stay focused and organized during a task or activity.
  8. Keep in mind that a child with language processing difficulties may also have difficulty organizing his expressive language.  You may get a lot of “I don’t know” responses to questions.  This may occur because the child actually does not know or because his is trying to gain more time to process the incoming message.  He may also be trying to gain time to organize his response.  Try giving extra time for the child to process what he has heard as well as to organized his response before you ask the question again.   
  9. Maintain routines for daily activities, using the same vocabulary and directions/questions to increase predictability and potential for success.  As the child becomes more successful, slowly add new directions/questions and change vocabulary used to encourage language growth. 
  10. Keep in mind that listening to and processing spoken language is an active process that requires energy and concentration.  Be sensitive to signs that the child is becoming overwhelmed and reduce demands for a period of time until he is able to tolerate more input.  A child that is already challenged in this area will be more challenged when tired or sick or dealing with other distractions, both physical and emotional.  Teachers and parents need to adjust expectations accordingly. 

By Catherine Costello, MS, CCC-SLP/L

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One Response to Strategies to Enhance Language Processing Skills in the Home and School Environments

  1. Thank you to Cathy Costello, another long-time colleague, for permission to add this to this website. It’s a great addition to the website, Cathy!

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