As you can see from the title of this weeks post, we are going to talk about questions today. Here's what I would like for you to do before you even read this entire post. I would like you to interact with your child for 10 minutes and count how many questions you ask your child. I would guess that in a 10 minute period you would ask as many as 20 or more questions. Maybe have someone else count for you while you interact.
As adults we ask lots of questions! Remember in a previous post I said that as adults we talk quite a bit and don't let our child have enough time to jump in. Well, this is another time where we will find that we are interferring with our child's communication by asking too many questions. LOTS OF QUESTIONS!!
Let's take a minute and think about your child, the one that might be having trouble expanding their vocabulary or stringing words together. Here we are as adults asking, "what do you want for dinner? why aren't you eating your peas? do you want more milk? why are you poking your brother? do you want a time out? etc. etc. So many questions.
Here is another example, you and your child are playing with a truck. You might sound like this: "should the truck go up? what color is your truck? how many wheels does your truck have? do you want me to go first? what are you doing with your truck? which one is going to win?
If your child is having trouble with communication we might just be overwhelming our children with all the questions that we are apt to ask. How do you think they are feeling? Even if they are starting to form an answer in their head, they may not have the vocabulary to support it. And they might feel frustrated over this. Once frustration has set in the activity is no longer fun and communication attempts will decrease.
So what can we do? I have a couple of suggestions. The first one is instead of asking questions, make comments instead. This is how that would look. Let's use the truck example. Instead of asking "should the truck go up?" you could say, "my truck is going up...up, up, up". Once again we are then giving your child a model to imitate and the words to use. Instead of asking "what color is your truck?" you could say "I have a red truck, you have a red truck too". Instead of "how many wheels does your truck have?" you could say "I see wheels, one, two, three, four! My truck has four wheels" and then I would count the wheels on your child's truck too. Instead of "do you want me to go first?" I would say "my turn" and then make truck noises as I moved my truck around.
As you can see, by making a comment you are giving the child great models and exposure to new vocabulary which will allow your child the opportunity to take their turn and increase their communication skills.
When you ask your child a question, make it a choice. This is what we talked about last time. Instead of "what do you want for dinner" you can say "do you want mac and cheese or cheeseburgers for dinner?" and maybe have the box or picture nearby. With the trucks you could ask "do you want the blue truck or the red truck?" and then once they pick you way "oh, you wanted the red truck". In addition to expanding what is going to come out of their mouths it also expands their understanding of concepts.
If you ask a question that is too open ended, then answer it too. For example, if you hear the garbage truck outside you could ask "what do you hear?" While listening together I would follow up that question with "I think it's the garbage truck, let's go look". Once again we are expanding both language that they will understand as well as say.
When you are asking a yes/no question be sure to add exaggerated head motions along with the answer. Adding animation, gestures, pauses and expectant looks on our faces gives the child the best chance to be successful at completing the communication exchange.
Let me know how this week goes. It can be difficult to change asking questions into making comments but even if all you notice from this activity is the amount of questions that you are asking, that will be a huge improvement. Just being aware will help changes be made.