Education / Speech Therapy
by Erika Ordonez
Listening is a valuable communication skill worth teaching to our children/students. It teaches them to multi-task and allows them to tune-in/out on what they want to hear. They tend to disregard adults, especially during disciplinary conversations (I’m sure we can recall from our own childhood). For example, we tell them to clean their room and instead they go outside and play.
Listening is not a skill that’s naturally instilled in children, but it can be developed. Good listening skills will help our children do better in school, develop and maintain relationships, and grow in their personal and professional lives.
Ideally we want our kid(s) to improve their listening skills from early childhood, by incorporating more listening opportunities within the child’s environment. Here are five easy and simple ideas:
1. Pause/Wait :: When we bombard our children with too much information their level of stress increases as they try to take-in everything that has been said. An example of some dialogue would be, “ Go to your room, get your laundry and bring it to the laundry room, and then go pick up your playroom and come and eat lunch after”.
Children in these types of conversations usually process the first and last thing that is said. It is important that when you are speaking/teaching your children/students you give their brain extra-time to process the information. It’s best to pause and wait for your child to keep up with you. Remember, most of the time they can’t process information as quickly as we can. After giving them a second or two, reflect on the new information. Next, you can ask them a question pertaining to what has been said. This strategy helps with working on short-term memory/auditory processing.
2. Parent Participation :: Start by asking your child the question and listen to the answer, remembering to reflect back on what they said so they know you understand. It also helps to pay attention to the stories they are telling you, even if they don’t make sense (ex: they could be talking about a movie they just watched or about new friends they met). Stop what you are doing and take time to participate in their conversation by using eye contact and responding verbally to increase their communication/listening skills. We want our children to know we genuinely care for them and their ideas.
3. Encourage listening all day, everyday :: We use our hearing/listening skills everyday, so why not make it fun and educational? Listen to music in the car or audiotape books. Ask your child/student about the story you just read or ask what was their favorite part of a song. Some other examples:
• Visit the zoo and have them listen to the different sounds animals make.
• Go outdoors (beach, park, mountains, etc.) and have them listen to the natural environment. Whether it may be the whistling of birds, waves as they splash against the rocks or trees brushing against each other on windy days. Train their ears to listen to every sound life has to offer.
4. Look attentively at the child when it’s his/her turn to verbalize :: EYE CONTACT. How do you feel when your communication partner is not looking at you during a conversation? Uncomfortable? Like you’re talking to a wall? Upset? Well it’s similar to how our kids feel. They sense when we are not acknowledging them, which in turn, causes them to feel out of place during a conversation. Get to their eye level (sit down/kneel down) to focus on the message and show them appropriate communication skills. Lets help our children improve their communication habits.
5. Sabotage – break routine, make silly mistakes :: This strategy is a great way to make sure they are paying attention. For example, if your child asks you for a blue crayon, give them, say, a yellow crayon. You can also say something along the lines of, “lets brush your toes,” instead of, “brush your hair”. However silly it may seem, techniques similar to these will help the child with auditory comprehension and increase their length of sentences.
If you have a child/student who is shy or has a limited speech output, pretend to sabotage the situation to get a reaction out of them – encouraging them to vocalize what they really wanted.
The techniques mentioned above are just 5 ideas that are easy to remember. There are many more techniques that also aid in creating a better auditory and communicative environment. Listening is a very important skill that can be improved over time if we naturally train our ears to process the information to our brain. We rely on visuals most of the time to retain the information we have received, whether it is writing down directions or remembering a phone number.
With that being said, lets incorporate more listening exercises in our children’s precious lives!