Time to Talk Day marks the day of the nation’s biggest mental health conversation.

And our children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) definitely need to be in on it. But how do you have that conversation if you struggle to communicate?

We can play a vital role in helping our students – the key lies with us:

  • Pause, observe. What are they telling us? What can we see from their body language?
  • Are they OK to talk? To listen? Or is it space they need from us for now?
  • When emotions are heightened, allow the child to communicate the way that they know best. The teachable moments are later.
  • Tentatively label and with empathy: “You seem frustrated”, “You look sad”.
  • Use accessible means to help them learn and express how they feel: pictures, drawing, sign for example.
  • There are plenty of wonderful resources to get the conversation going: Comic Strip Conversations (Carol Gray) and Talking Mats (Talking Mats Ltd) are great ways to help explore feelings and reasons behind these when the child is ready to.
  • And lovely resources to support regulation of emotions: Zones of Regulation (Leah Kuypers) is one.
  • And of course, children and young people generally might find it awkward to talk about their emotions. Perhaps a film, a story, a casual chat over a favourite activity can start the conversation and the idea that talking about feelings is OK.

So let’s hear our children with SLCN. Let’s connect, communicate, converse. Because helping a child to express their feelings has a power to change their life.

Find out more about mental health and SLCN.

Self-care Rules, Issue 23, The Link magazine

Guarding the mental and emotional health of children with SLCN, Issue 9, The Link magazine

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