What are Expressive Language difficulties?

Some children find it difficult to express themselves verbally.

They may have difficulty:

  • choosing the right words
  • putting those words together in a sentence in the correct order
  • Using the correct grammar (e.g. Me goed to the shops, I buyed some sweets)
  • organising their ideas into the appropriate order (Sequencing).

Remember that it takes time and patience to enable people to express themselves, whether through speech or other means.

How can you help?

Give lots of opportunities for spoken language:

  • Try and make time for spoken communication, especially story telling. Tell stories (real and imagined) in formal, informal situations. Encourage children to tell you their stories. Encourage discussion, and giving of opinions.

Give children time to listen and respond:

  • Children with expressive language difficulties may need longer to construct an answer to a question or find the appropriate words. Give them as much time as possible. A useful strategy is to pause and silently count to 10 in your head before you say anything else.

Respond to attempts at communication as much as possible:

  • If you understand the message, accept it.
  • Listen carefully: show you’re interested, by commenting, and asking questions which encourage the child to tell you more.
  • Tell the child what you think you have understood so far, but give them a chance to tell you if you’ve got it wrong.
  • Comment rather than question. If a child is telling you something, try not to turn it into a ‘test’ by asking too many questions. Sometimes a positive comment e.g. “I think you and Daddy had fun at the park”, will prompt the child to say more.
  • Try not to interrupt or change the topic.

Model back what they say using the correct words and sentence structures:

‘Say it as they would if they could’
Child: The boy felled off his bike
You: Yes, the boy fell off the bike.

If a child uses a general word or a word such as this, that, thingy, tell them the more specific word:

Child: I went to see the man.
You: Oh yes, you went to see the dentist

Support sentence building and storytelling skills though using visual frameworks:

Colourful Semantics uses colour coding the parts of a sentence to help both oral and written language.

E.g. The boy is kicking the ball in the park
Who? doing what? What? Where?

Narrative framework uses colour coding the elements of a story to help both oral and written language

  • Identify the topic: think of a title.
  • Who was there?
  • Who did this happen to?
  • Where were you?
  • Where did you go?
  • When did it happen?
  • What happened?
  • Why did things happen the way they did?
  • What happened in the end?

Click on the links below for some printable colourful semantics resources:

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