Maintaining a Conversation

One of the most important social and communication skill children need to learn is that of maintaining a conversation.  For some children, this can be challenging.  Children with developmental and social delays may not have the skills necessary to maintain and carry-on conversations with others.  Here are a few tips to encourage conversations:

Ask Closed Questions:   Asking and answering “yes/no” and “wh” questions are important skills for children to learn and may be a good way to start a conversation.  These questions may include:  “Did you go to school today?   What color is your shirt? What did you eat for lunch?, etc.”  However, once the child answers these questions, move on to open ended questions as soon as possible to avoid “grilling” and “drilling” the child with questions. 

Ask Open Ended Questions:  These questions have many different answers and allow for more cognitive and language skills.  Questions such as, “What should we have for lunch?, What would you like to play? etc”  are great for maintaining conversations because they allow for a more back-and-forth exchange.

Observations and Statements:  Making statements such as “I wonder what will happen”  and observations such as “tell me about this picture” provide cues to encourage the child to produce words and phrases.  Statements and observations also show the child that you’re interested in the same things they are and tend to be more child centered.

Provide Opportunities:  Throughout the day, set-up opportunities for you and your child to have a meaningful conversational exchange.  Driving in the car, looking at books and sitting at the dinner table are great times to encourage conversations.

Practice: Set up situations for your child to practice these above mentioned skills.  This could be during play dates with peers, at community events (e.g. church, boy scouts, girl scouts, etc), playing board games, etc.  Also, using electronic devices (e.g. iPad, tablets, etc) provide specific apps for practicing social situations and encourage language skills.  These devices provide opportunities to pause and talk about a specific situation and to repeat activities as many times as necessary.    A few apps to encourage conversations and spontaneous language include:

Buildo Rescue Sticker Book – This is an interactive sticker book app with four scenes (fire fighters, police, hospital and water rescue).  Children are able to manipulate the stickers and create their own scenarios.  Each sticker makes a specific sound.  While the “people” stickers do produce sounds, they do not produce any true words in English – this allows the app to be language neutral.  However, the purpose of this app is not to imitate the speech sounds, but to create picture boards to encourage conversations and spontaneous language.

Lenord Furry Friend – This interactive app imitates what the child says.  Children can tickle his belly or ear, blow the pinwheel, pop his balloon and bubbles, watch him drink and eat and wake him up when he’s sleeping.

My Play Home This interactive app is great for language development.  Children can move the people around the house and talk about what the people are doing.  It’s great for answering questions, making observations and statements, following directions and working on pronouns and action verbs.

Conversation Builder – This app is designed for elementary school aged children.  It allows children to practice conversations in a variety of social settings.  Children are able to record their conversation and play it back for auditory feedback.  They learn when it’s appropriate to introduce themselves, ask questions, make observations and change the subject of the conversation.

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