Reader’s question: Encouraging siblings to help with speech and language development

6th July 2016

How can I include my 2 year old’s siblings with helping his speech and language in the future? He currently has one-to-one speech therapy and he also has hearing problems. He has had to have two operations for grommets to be fitted. His siblings are 13 and 15. Thank you! 

88146939_thumbnailFollowing on from an article we featured about supporting siblings to understand their brother or sister’s disability, we had a reader contact us via our Facebook page looking for help in encouraging siblings to help with speech and language development. Here, we try to answer Michelle Campbell’s question for her.

It is completely natural for siblings to find it hard to communicate with a brother or sister who has an additional need. If your child finds it difficult to hear or communicate, it may require a lot of patience which, let’s face it, children don’t always have in large supplies.

Try involving your child’s siblings in any kind of therapy or meetings with professionals. Sometimes older siblings are reluctant to get involved because they don’t know what to do, or how to help. Involving them in this way, or feeding back activities from therapy sessions can be a really great way of equipping them to help their brother or sister. It will also help them feel involved with the whole family as a unit. That way, you can all practise the therapy at home, together or you could encourage your children to support their sibling without you, helping to build the sibling bond. You may even want to turn therapy activities into games.

Activities to get siblings involved

Looking online, we found some fun activities to get siblings involved in speech and language practice

  • Practise following directions during ‘Simon Says’.
  • Read books together and take turns answering questions, labelling objects or retelling the story in your own words (depending on each child’s level).
  • Play turn-taking games while working on target speech sounds or language structures.
  • Create a fun recipe or craft together, and practice target speech sounds between each step.
  • Plan a scavenger hunt. Have siblings take turns giving each other clues where items are hidden.
  • Sing songs together and use hand-motions or gestures while you sing.

These were from the North Shore Pediatric Therapy, read more here

Older siblings can be great role models for their younger brother or sister, so use this to your advantage. Your younger child wanting to copy them and learn from them is beneficial for the whole family. It will also make your older children feel helpful, responsible and important.

Can Makaton help?

Makaton is a language programme which uses signs and symbols to help people communicate. Signs are used, with speech, in spoken word order. Using signs can help people who have no speech or whose speech is unclear. Using symbols can help people who have limited speech and those who can’t, or prefer not, sign. If your child uses Makaton, it could be really helpful if your other children attended a course together too, so that everyone knows how to communicate in the same way.

To find out more about Makaton visit www.makaton.org

Whichever way you go about trying to help their siblings understand your child’s additional need, including them is really important. Helping them understand the extra attention and support their brother and sister may need can reduce the risk of jealousy and feel a part of things. It’s also really important to keep talking to them about the future and what may change as they get older.

With thanks to Monica McCaffrey, SIBS.

Useful Links:

SIBS
UK charity for brothers and sisters of disabled children and adults
Web: www.sibs.org.uk

Tips for younger siblings and helping with communication
www.youngsibs.org.uk and www.youngsibs.org.uk/info/

Tips for including siblings in speech and language therapy
www.nspt4kids.com
www.friendshipcircle.org

Makaton information
www.makaton.org

Ask us your question and we will try our best to find as much information for you as possible. Email Emma or ask us via our Twitter and Facebook pages.



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