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How you can help your child to communicate at school.

Child Communicating Through Play

A busy classroom can be an overwhelming experience for a child with additional needs. It can be hard to pay attention when surrounded by sounds, colours and movement. In order to cope with these demands, it is important your child can communicate what they are finding hard and when they might need a break. In addition to this, young children primarily need good speech and language skills to serve the following purposes at school:

  • To follow instructions from the teacher (this could be routines, such as  when to wash hands, sitting on the carpet or it could be for safety reasons)

  • To develop friendships with other children - here we aren’t just talking speaking, but also listening and interacting with others, looking at each other, sharing a joke etc

  • To get their needs and wants met, e.g. needing the bathroom, wanting to play with the construction toys.


To develop an understanding of language you could firstly use short sentences or instructions at the child’s level and break longer chains of skills down into shorter instructions. Secondly, try limiting the use of their name in instructions, this may add an extra layer of difficulty for some children. Thirdly, use visuals! Pictures of things they can choose to play with or to explain what will happen next.

Finally, praise and encourage small steps!


When working on your child’s speaking, model what you want them to say and how you want them to say it  for example a single word or the tone of voice etc. Provide many many opportunities throughout the day to use their language, setting up situations where you can by holding back items or by setting up part of the activity only and key parts missing. Most importantly, you should always honour requests, giving the item immediately if speaking is new to them.  If your child uses another means to communicate (for example pictures), make sure the pictures are always available to them, somewhere they can reach. It is better to teach a child to accept “not right now” than it is to remove their voice.

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