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3 Tips for Developing Listening and Attention Skills

So many skills help to underpin speech and language development. One area that lots of parents and teachers notice is the area of attention and listening. 

Cheryl spoke to us about Ryan as she felt he didn’t stay focused long enough to take in what she was trying to teach him. We explored different ways to help encourage his attention and listening, which Cheryl also found useful for Ryan’s older sister who recently had a diagnosis of autism. She knew it was important to respect their individuality as well as tune in to their natural curiosity. 

Here are 3 neuroaffirming strategies that you can try, promoting a stronger foundation for speech and language skills to flourish…

Tip 1 -  Offer Activities That Are Both Interactive and Engaging

Cheryl found that Ryan really enjoyed interactive games like chase and tickles, whereas her daughter enjoyed dressing up to act out her favourite TV shows. She worked at adding in props and visual aids to the role play with her daughter, while she expanded on the interactive games with Ryan by adding in new movements. 

Sometimes they played chase on the trampoline or in the swimming pool. Ryan and his sister embraced the open-ended nature of these games as they had already been won over by their favourite play themes. Before Cheryl realised, her children were attending for longer and longer periods of time.

Tip 2 – Establish Clear Expectations and Routines

The next thing for Cheryl to add in was a clear expectation so both her children understood what they were going to do. This meant having reminders before they started a game, such as ‘we’re going to play for 5 minutes and then we’ll do X’. 

Each activity became part of a consistent routine. 

Within the routine, Cheryl made sure she modelled active listening skills herself, blocking out any external distractions. She found that other strategies such as traffic light visuals could be added in to support transitions between activities, as well as a reminder when the activity was nearly over. Ryan also liked to see time passing with a sand timer. A trial and error approach allowed Cheryl and her children to support one another in gaining more success.

Tip 3 - Encourage a Growth Mindset

At the beginning of this journey, Cheryl had spoken of her children’s skills in this area as lacking, focusing on what they couldn’t do and how this was having a negative impact on developing speech and language. She worked hard to flip this to a more positive dialogue, talking to Ryan and his sister about what they could do, praising their efforts, and spotting when interactions were sustained for longer. 

They worked as a team to feel more empowered in growing and persevering until it became so natural that the techniques were just what they did each day.

Now that Cheryl and Ryan had used his interests to develop and extend interactive games and routines, with a positive mindset allowing growth to continue, Cheryl found more opportunities to teach new speech and language skills. Ryan’s ability to focus and retain new information soared and they no longer felt like therapy was needed.

For further guidance on your speech and language journey, we have plenty of valuable resources over on our website or you can even consider joining our membership program where we’re always sharing helpful tips! Click here to find out how we can help…

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