Your child’s language is best developed during meaningful interactions with people and through day to day routines. Sometimes, children with hearing loss can become familiar with common words or phrases used in certain situations, and use these without actually listening to what is being communicated. It’s important to ensure your child is actively listening in your interactions together.
You can purposefully create a problem or a difficult situation which can be used as an opportunity to learn about communication, as you are creating a need or reason to talk. Essentially, we are providing an opportunity for one communication partner to tell the other partner about the problem at hand, or ask for their help to solve it.
1. Set up a coloring activity at the table with your child. Have the paper ready, but hide the crayons or pens out of sight, such as in the cupboard. Encourage your child to begin coloring in. Wait for your child to indicate to you that they can’t color in the paper, as there are no tools to do this.
2. Lock a cupboard or drawer at home that has your child’s various toys inside it. When it’s time to get the toys from the cupboard, allow your child a chance to try to open the door. When they are unsuccessful, pretend to not know what is happening, and ask them in a positive way to get the toys from the cupboard. Wait for them to indicate to you that they have tried, but the cupboard is locked. Ask them what you should do to solve the situation together, and use this opportunity to practice problem solving language together.
3. When your child asks for a drink or some food, give them an empty cup or plate, and pretend that you have satisfied their request. Wait for your child to indicate to you that there is no drink or food, and have them ask you specifically what they would like.
4. Place an object in an unpredictable place for your child to find. For example, a toy in the refrigerator, a shoe in the bathtub before bath time, or a sticker on your face. Wait for your child to notice the strange thing or behavior, and encourage them to talk with you about it. Ask your child where the object would typically belong. Also talk about reasons for it not belonging in the location they found it in and why this is illogical, or silly!
5. When your child would like something from a tightly-closed bottle, jar, or packet, hold back from opening it for them. Wait for your child to indicate to you that they need help in order to open the desired object. Encourage your child to use the language that is acceptable for requesting help, for example “Help please”, “More water”, “It’s stuck!” or “Can you help me?”
Be mindful that there can be a fine line between providing a learning moment and creating a stressful situation for your child. If your child is having difficulty indicating to you what the problem is and/or a way to resolve it, then turn the situation into a teaching moment. That is, demonstrate to your child the language that could be used in that situation to help solve the problem, and support them by solving it together! The teaching moment will help them to develop the skills in order to do this effectively independently when they have the language skills.