Communication Development: Back to Basics
When we talk about communication, it’s so much more than words.
Communication is any means ideas travel from person to person. We of course use words, but let’s take a look at all the other levels involved. The bottom level is Attention and Listening which includes the ability to attend to stimuli such as a noise, leaves blowing in the wind or someone pointing to a bird.
Children need to have a basic level of attention and the ability to share it in order to engage in the next level which is social interaction and play skills. In the previous issue, we discussed the important role that adult plays in the interaction. At this level, children learn through Play and Interaction with others through cause and effect, imitation, taking turns and other nonverbal communication such as facial expressions, gesture and situational cues. All of this prepares children for Understanding and Expression.
Children have to hear and engage with words many many times before they fully understand their meaning and begin to use them. Often people can focus on the expressive language without realising that the understanding comes first. The very last level is often the most noticeable, Speech. This stage starts developing before words through listening and continues to develop until around age 7 years old when most speech is clear.
All of these skills are developing at the same time in many ways, but when we work on communication, we work to strengthen each level to support the levels above to support communication in a holistic way. Therapy aims will include both specific skill- learning and natural situations to encourage skills to generalise to daily life. Setting targets which are challenging yet achievable will help support developing skills and support confidence for successful communication.