How to support students who have a language impairment with home schooling
Why do kids with language impairment need more support?
Children with language impairment can have specific difficulties learning language form (sounds, grammar), content (meanings), and use (intended meaning). These difficulties can impact their ability to understand and/or use spoken/written language.
Learning at the same level as their peers can be challenging for them. They struggle daily in school tasks that require speaking, listening, reading, and/or writing.
Language impairment can also affect a child’s ability to communicate and interact with those around them causing frustration and isolation. With the recent need for parents to home-school during lockdowns, your child may need extra support and strategies to help them achieve classroom expectations.
How can I help my child with language impairment during home-schooling?
- Make sure there are no distractions. Turn off the tv/music and make sure the space is free of clutter and siblings if too distracting. Before giving an instruction, make sure you have their full attention and have eye contact.
- Make a brief visual schedule so that they know how long each activity is and when breaks come. Ensure frequent breaks for physical activity or snack breaks.
- Use visuals, gestures, and real objects that relate to your child’s experience. For example, if your child was learning about something like ‘gravity’, you could play a ball game throwing ball up/down, or jump on the trampoline. If your child loves drawing, have them draw a picture around the topic. Play games where you can ‘brainstorm’ words in a category.
- Slow down the rate at which you provide information. ‘Chunk’ information into smaller parts and wait between each part to make sure your child understands. Give them lots of time to respond to questions and comments.
- Rephrase complex language into language that is easier for them to understand.
- For new words/topics that your child does not know, repeat the information, and give them examples or show pictures/videos. Encourage them to retell so you can check their understanding of the new vocabulary.
- Encourage your child to ask for clarification. Let them know that it is good to ask questions and ask for clarification. Let them know a specific phrase that they can say e.g. “I’m not sure” or “I don’t understand” or “Can you explain that in a different way?”
- Explain things even if they appear obvious e.g. “I’m going to read you a story. It is important to look at me and the book when I’m reading. It is important to think about what I am saying”.
- Try not to use sarcasm, indirect requests, idioms, or ambiguities, which may be confusing for a child with language impairment.
Fun ways to support kids with language impairment
- Play a Pictionary-style game where you have to draw a topic item.
- Make up songs/tunes to rehearse new word meanings or information.
- Play charades using topic information.
- Watch YouTube videos on the topic.
- Create a “new words” book with definitions and drawn/printed pictures.
- Make a ‘mind-map for a topic with words and/or pictures. Make it colourful and creative.
Remember that your child needs patience and understanding to learn in the different world of home-schooling. They will be out of their routine and missing the daily social interactions with their friends.
Remember that you are a parent, not a teacher. Just do the best you can to support them during this time. Keep in mind that they have different learning and language skills, and try to keep their learning fun!