by Karen Massey – Speech and Language Therapist, Author

3 Tips for Supporting Communication Outside

During the early months of Lockdown 2020 here in the UK the weather was fantastic, providing a great antidote to many of the external stresses we encountered. When speech therapists were tasked with getting creative online, children and families were connecting more and more with the outdoors. Online was essential for some, it helped schooling to keep going and it was a natural route for businesses. However, the outdoors has some great features that can be fantastic for communication. Here are just 3 ways I helped Jan to bring speech therapy outside for her 5 year old son, Toby..

Tip 1 – Follow Your Child’s Lead

Watch your child outside, whether it’s in the garden or the park or the local nature reserve. What do they do? What do they notice first? Your job will be to work communication goals into their favourite space or activity outside, whether it’s the bottom of the garden, the flowers, the roundabout or the insects. Toby loved running to the bottom of the garden to search for insects.

Tip 2 –  Create an Inviting Activity

When you know where you’re going to be and you know your child’s communication goals, you will need to think how communication can be fun. Think about involving all the senses when you plan your activity. Therapy works best when it is subtle and your child doesn’t even suspect there’s any work to be done! Toby’s Mum decided to start making a bug hotel at the bottom of the garden. She started to make the hotel without putting any pressure on Toby to join in, but encouraged his interest and let him take part when he wanted.

Tip 3 – Repeat then Extend

Repetition really is key. If you can create a short script or routine that you repeat every time you go to your child’s special outdoor place, this will help them to remember the language or communication you add on top. Don’t be afraid of repeating things exactly several times before you make a change, add or extend the activity. Toby was finding it tricky to share attention, to wait and to speak in full sentences. Jan used the bug hotel as the focal point for sharing attention together. She hid insects under mini plant pots then did a countdown to help Toby wait until insects were revealed. She also waited for Toby to make a comment, then would gently add in more language, just adding in an extra word each time. 

Following these 3 tips helped Jan and Toby not only continue their work to help Toby’s communication skills but they had a lot of fun together too.