By Small Talk Speech Pathology

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

How to Develop Social Skills in Children With Hearing Loss & Speech Impairments

How to Develop Social Skills in Children With Hearing Loss & Speech Impairments
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Hearing loss and communication disorders in children are quite common; according to a statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cited on the website for the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, more than 12,000 babies with hearing loss are born in the United States every year. Children with speech, language and hearing impairments need not feel isolated because they are different. Adaptations and caregiver support can make a world of difference when helping a child with communication problems to develop socially.

Step 1

Teach your child the basic conventions of polite communication, including eye contact, turn-taking and listening. Although it may seem obvious to you that you should pause to let other people speak and look at them when you want to talk, these ideas may not be obvious to a child with a communication disorder. Explain the rationale behind the different practices to your child: "By looking at me, you show me that you're interested in what I have to say."

Step 2

Practice introductions and conversation skills with your child. Children with communication disorders get less practice talking with other children and sometimes need guidance about how to get a conversation going with a new friend. A child who is self-conscious about a speech problem might feel more comfortable in social settings if you give her a list of questions and conversational statements to practice beforehand, such "Hi, I'm Sarah. What's your name?" and "What's your favorite color?"

Step 3

Discuss facial expressions with your child. Whether your child is hearing-impaired or has problems processing more complex sentences, a person's face offers him helpful clues about what that individual is trying to say. Use flash cards to study different expressions. Show your child how looking at facial expressions can help him to pick up on subtle communication differences; for example, someone who makes serious-sounding statements while smiling is probably joking around.

Step 4

Provide lessons to your child's class about his specific communication disorder and how students around him can help. For example, if your child is hearing-impaired, explain that his voice might sound different sometimes. If your child uses a special method of communicating, such as sign language, gestures or picture cards, show other kids the basics of using those methods to make friends with your child.

Step 5

Organize social opportunities for your child. Because children with communication disorders have trouble initiating play dates on their own, take the initiative to create social experiences for your child. Ask your child with whom he wants to play and extend an invitation. Depending on your child's needs, you may need to schedule playtime with planned activities, such as an organized craft or cooking project, to keep conversation and interaction going.

Step 6

Encourage your child's participation in regular classroom activities. If other children are giving presentations, let the teacher know that you want your child to do one, too, but on a scaled-down level that is appropriate for your child's skill set. Meet regularly with your child's education team to discuss how to integrate him with the rest of the class as much as possible.

Step 7

Enroll your child for extracurricular groups. If your child has a strong interest in dance, signing her up for after-school lessons encourages development of friendships; children in the group can talk about their common interest.

Tips and Warnings

  • To get extra help with basic social skills, look for a social skills group run by a speech-language pathologist, social worker or psychologist in your community. A speech-language pathologist can provide more tips and materials to help your child understand the complexities of the social world.


Article reviewed by Joseph Coda Last updated on: Aug 18, 2011

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