It is important to teach children to know what to do when they are having difficulty making themselves understood. The first step is to help them know that you didn’t understand what they said. This is why it is so important to not “pretended” to understand. If a child doesn’t realize that what they said was hard to understand they won’t be motivated to say it differently.
For young children use lots of body language, shrug your shoulders, have a puzzled look on your face and tell them simply, “I don’t know”, “What?”, “I don’t understand” and then ask them to say it again. Saying it again is the biggest repair strategy. Once you know what they were trying to say, model for them what they needed to do to make the word or sentence more understandable, say it slower and model back good speech sounds.
When children are a bit older you can add simple visuals. Visuals help a child to understand what they need to do and can be a nice way to prompt children to do something without having to tell them with words.
My first Repair Strategy Visual helps a child to first judge if they were understood and then to Say it Again with the repair strategy of Slowing Down. This second visual adds in Saying it Louder: Repair Strategy Visual with Loudness. Use whichever would be the most helpful. Some children are plenty loud enough on their own!
Older children who are still having difficulty making themselves understood can learn other Repair Strategies. Below are the most common ones to try.
When people can’t understand me I can:
- Say it again.
- Say it louder – if needed.
- Slow down the word or the whole sentence.
- Break the word down into parts or break the sentence into parts.
- Tell them the first letter of the word.
- Describe the word.
- Use a different word.
- Write it out.
- Decrease anything that makes it hard for them to listen: background noise, distractions etc.
Practice these until he can use them independently. Some will work better than others and be more useful in certain situations.