How to Teach Receptive Language Skills to Children Who Stutter

laughing child

Have you found your child tuning out of conversations? Does your child respond inappropriately when spoken to? These are some signs of receptive language issues. Children who find it difficult to understand the written and the spoken word demonstrate problems of receptive language and stuttering. Roughly five percent of all children experience stuttering lasting six months or longer. About 75 percent of them will recover by the end of childhood. In one percent of children, the problem will persist. In fact, about three million adults stutter. It’s a condition that has affects confidence, self-esteem, prospects, and opportunities.

Early identification of receptive language issues is the key to preventing stuttering. Learn the signs of delayed development of receptive language skills. And if your child lacks these skills, you should teach them. Here’s what you need to know about receptive language and how to teach it to children who stutter.

What Is Receptive Language?

Receptive language is described as the ability to understand a language and words. It involves gathering information and interpreting routine actions like,"We’ve eaten dinner so now its time to sleep." It also requires children to use visual information and cues from the environment they live in like,"Dad’s holding a towel so its time for a bath."

Sounds and words are also processed like,"A bark means a dog is nearby or that balls are round." Concepts such as colors, shape, and size are included. Grammar and tense, and even written information also form part of receptive language skills. Some kids with oral language deficits may understand a word because they can pick up information from other cues, visual and gestures.

Why Are Receptive Language Skills so Important?

To communicate effectively receptive language skills are important. Kids who do find it difficult to understand may struggle with following instructions at school or at home. They don’t respond appropriately to requests. Often due to these difficulties they don’t pay enough attention at school, fail to listen and have other behavioral issues. Most activities require that children understand a language. Without this understanding, they may find class work hard and fail to engage in age-appropriate tasks at school.

What Is Necessary to Develop Receptive Language?

Pre-language skills are important. The gestures, expressions, eye contact, are all part of this. Play skills and social skills are necessary to develop receptive language skills. Having the ability to be attentive and hold enough concentration is also paramount.

How to Identify If a Child Has a Receptive Language Problem?

Children with receptive language related stuttering, find it difficult to listen and attend to the conversation. They don’t pay attention in school especially in group settings. Children don’t follow instructions that are age appropriate. They repeat questions instead of answering them. Often, they cannot concentrate on stories and respond inappropriately when spoken to.

In addition to the above, they can’t sustain concentration on a task. Since they can’t understand what the teacher is saying, they can become disruptive and boisterous. They may find it hard to read and write. Their social skills might lag, and response to sensory cues may be slower compared to their peers. Often, they don’t know how to interpret sensory stimulation, and so their thinking and reasoning skills are also affected.

They can find it hard to carry out sequential tasks and multi-step activity. Due to their inability to process language, they may find it difficult to separate noise from real speech.

How to Teach Receptive Language Skills?

children are playing

While talking to a child make eye contact. Talk to your child face to face, so that they know you are instructing them. Use words that are simple and choose words that are just a level above their expressive language abilities. Ask the child to repeat what you have asked them to do. For example,“Go to the table and read your book. What do we want you to do?”

Don’t load the child with multiple instructions, like do, x y and z. Instead, ask them to do x. When that’s done, ask them to do y. Use this concept to help children understand the sequential action. For example, you can say, "First, go to the table, then open the book, and now read your book." Encourage children to ask questions if they don’t understand what they’ve been told.

To help the child understand the instruction is, show them what you want them to do. Help them to see what is required of them. Describe everyday activities to them. For example, put on your socks and put the book down. If you want them to learn a particular word or teach a particular concept, emphasize as you speak and do it repeatedly. A visual aid could be a gesture, a facial expression, pictures, actions which can help the child understand and recall what he needs to do when you use a particular word.

Use picture books to help the child talk and form a story. Regular playtime is a sensory stimulatory activity. Encourage children to play with toys, blocks, and clay dough. Ask them to explain what they’re doing. When you’re instructing the child, turn off the radio, television, internet and other sources of noise. These are background noise, and they must differentiate between noise and relevant instruction.

How Can You Improve Receptive Language Skills?

little girl writing

When you visit places or go out to the park, beach, or garden get the child to talk about what they say or did. Make them draw pictures and act out what they saw.

Also, you can name objects with them. So when you complete a task, name the task and reinforce what exactly was done, like, “yes, you read a book, look at the sky." Explain new concepts to kids. Words have different meanings. For example, the idea of wet, when it rains or when you have a bath, or wet when water drips are all different concepts of the same word. So explain these multiple concepts.

Try to model new words for them. As you interact with the child, teach them new words. Play Simon says by taking turns with the child. Both of you can follow and give instructions. With time and depending on your child’s ability, increase the length of the instructions. “Simon says touch your hair; then Simon says touch your hair and your nose.” While you play this game, emphasize on body parts and action verbs, clap, jump, dance.

Do an obstacle course. Create an obstacle course either in the house or in your garden. Instruct the child how to go about it. Increase the complexity of the commands with time. Object identifications games can help. Ask children to identify what an object is, what’s its function, its role, how to use it and asking questions about it. Browse through picture books. Ask children questions about the pictures. What are the pictures? Do you know which color are they? What do you think will happen next? 

Why Do You Need To Treat Receptive Language Skills Issues?

a little girl sitting on the grass

Any intervention can strengthen the child’s ability to follow instructions, especially at school. They’ll be able to complete academic tasks. Children can communicate better with their peers. They can also talk and respond to adults and other people, at ease with answering questions. You'll find that they won’t be afraid of telling stories, or events and sequencing ideas. It can improve the vocabulary and writing skills. It will develop expressive language development another factor in stuttering. Their understanding of concepts improve. Their responses are appropriate. If your child fails to verbalize, you can teach them that they can communicate using non-verbal cues.

What Happens If Its Left Untreated?

Children with difficulties in receptive language are slow to make friends. That is because they find it hard to engage in meaning interactions with their peers. They may also find tests and exam challenging. Gradually, high levels of school may be hard to master. Their reading and writing skills may always remain average if not poor.

As they grow into adulthood, job interviews may prove to be hard. Driving to new places or following simple directions may be difficult.

What Type Of Therapy Do Doctors Recommend?

A speech therapist should evaluate children who have receptive language issues. Often there may be other problems associated with a stutter. In that case, speech and occupational therapists are recommended. They will identify the core problem and work with the child to overcome their receptive language issues. With time, once these skills are mastered, the stutter will improve.

Identify Receptive Language Early

happy children

Does your child have a receptive language problem? Not sure? Observe your child, pay attention to his stutter and write down or record his responses. Does a pattern emerge? If you’re still unsure, get a speech pathologist to evaluate the child. The role of a speech pathologist is to assess, diagnose and recommend treatment. They work on communication and swallowing functions in children and adults.

Try to incorporate one or more of the strategies listed above. Most receptive language speech deficits can be treated and resolved completely. If its responsible for stuttering in children, it can be easily diagnosed and treated.


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