We asked The Link Facebook Group members if they had any questions that they would like our speech and language therapists to answer.

QUESTION 1: How can I support a child who has a hearing impairment (HI) with her speech sounds?

Louise BinghamLouise, SaLT answers:

  1. Reduce background noise and make sure only one person speaks at a time. Soundproof hard surfaces using blankets and cushions to stop noise from reverberating around the room.
  2. Support children so they can indicate when they don’t understand what is being said and ask for help. Visual supports, such as confidence indicators, are great for developing these skills. If children have equipment to support their hearing, such as hearing aids, develop their ability to tell you if something isn’t working.
  3. Vocabulary learning skills are an area of weakness for children with HI which affects their ability to learn the sequence of sounds in words correctly. Pre-teach key vocabulary and use visual support strategies, such as mind maps, to develop the sound structure of a word, alongside its meaning. Pupils can write new words in a dictionary to support their understanding, including reminders of how to say the word. Back up vocabulary used within the classroom with pictures, signs and natural gesture.
  4. Ensure the child can see your face clearly and that you are not in front of the light source. Visuals will support the child in understanding which sound you are focusing on, e.g. cued articulation signs. Model the use of the target sound in your own speech, using signs, and support children gently to correct their errors.

QUESTION 2: How can I support pupils in Key Stage 1 with developing their Phonological Awareness skills?

Sophie Mustoe-PlayfairSophie SaLT replies:

If you’re working on Phonological Awareness (PA) with any child of any age, the first step is to be really clear about what ‘phonological awareness’ means. PA is the ability to recognise, discriminate and manipulate sounds in our heads and predict the impact of those manipulations in terms of how they will change words. It’s different and much broader than phonics (matching sounds to letter representations) and includes recognising syllables and rhyme as well as interpreting the sounds that make up words.

Top tips for working on PA skills:

  1. Think about what stage the child is currently at in terms of their PA development and meet them where they are, stretching their skills a little at a time. E.g. Can the child recognise syllables? If not, can they mark out the words in a sentence?
  2. Working on PA requires listening activities. Establish what ‘good listening’ means and adapt the environment so the child can be successful.
  3. Almost any activity can be adapted for a listening game, so pick activities which interest the child. Physical activities work brilliantly, e.g. running to different places in the room, using hula hoops to make decisions, throwing bean bags at targets, jumping on lily-pads or stomping like a dinosaur. For children who prefer creative activities you could build a tower or use stamps on paper to make a chain.
  4. Make sure to teach and not test. Build in lots of opportunities to model skills for the child and for them to practise and receive accurate feedback about how they’re doing.

If you have a question that you would like Louise and Sophie to answer, please get in touch: therapist@speechlink.co.uk

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