Summer is coming to a close and children of all ages are packing their backpacks and entering a new school year. Here are some tips to help your children prepare academically and sharpen their communication skills for the new academic year.
1. Establish daily routines. Structure is critical for child development and learning. Re-introduce routines such as making lunches for school, homework time each afternoon, and story time before bed. During these routines, you can practice language skills with your child. For preschool children, you can model words and phrases for clothing items as they pick out their outfit for school. For older children, you can practice sequencing and ask them the steps they would take to make their lunch or get ready for school in the morning. You can also use this as a time to review problem solving with your child when there is a change in their routine. What would you do if you missed your school bus? What would you do if you forgot your lunch or homework?
2. Get organized. Help your child prepare for the year ahead by teaching them how to be organized. Younger children can help pack their backpack for school. Older children can learn to use a planner to keep track of school assignments and upcoming due dates. When children are organized, they are in a better place to learn and focus during the school day.
3. Set aside time to talk. When the school year begins, things quickly become more hectic. There are permission slips to be signed, carpools to drive, and school supplies to be purchased. It can be hard to find time to sit down with your child, listen to their day, and practice communication skills. Find pockets of time when you can interact with your child free from distractions. If your child is receiving speech therapy, you can use these moments to practice their speech goals. For example, you might practice the /s/ sound in the car while driving your child to soccer practice. You can also practice social skills like turn taking and topic maintenance during family conversations at the dinner table. And you can work on reading comprehension and vocabulary while reading a book with your child. Consider each moment as an opportunity to practice communication with your child.
4. Encourage new hobbies. Extracurricular activities are a great way for children to develop their interests, make friends, and improve their social skills. Children learn valuable skills when they are involved in community organizations, such as introducing themselves to their peers, sharing with others, and working with other children cooperatively in a group setting. Activities like sports, scouting, art, music, and theatre can help children gain confidence and provide them the opportunity to practice communication skills outside of the school and home setting.
5. Be positive. Ask your child what he or she is most looking forward to about the new school year. Is it learning something new? Seeing their friends in class? Meeting their teacher? This will help your child get excited about the new schoolyear. If your child is less optimistic about the start of the school year, remember to be positive yourself as a parent when talking to your child about school. If last year was challenging academically, make a plan for how to make this school year successful, whether it is studying with a friend, getting extra help after school, tutoring, or therapy.
Lynn Abrahamsen M.A. CCC-SLP is a practicing Speech Language Pathologist licensed in the state of New Jersey. She is a certified member of the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) who obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Speech Language Pathology at Stockton University and her Master’s degree in Speech Language Pathology at Kean University.
As a certified speech-language pathologist, Lynn has extensive clinical experience treating medically fragile patients with cognitive-communication and swallowing difficulties in skilled nursing facilities and inpatient and outpatient settings. She evaluates and treats patients in English and Spanish and she is a certified VitalStim provider. She enjoys keeping up-to-date on the latest clinical research and prides herself on continuing to learn and grow as a therapist. Lynn’s proudest accomplishment is her strong record of community service and dedication to helping her patients grow and reach their greatest potential.