We asked the experts at I CAN for their top tips on talking to young people with a speech, language or communication difficulty
- Wait for an answer. Some young people need extra time to process language. Repeating or rephrasing is often not helpful.
- Speak slowly and use simple sentences – understanding words and sentences can be difficult for some people.
- Think visual. Use demonstration, draw pictures or write things down to help the young person understand, but remember that they may not be able to read very well.
- Focus their attention before you speak. Many young people find it difficult to ignore distractions and focus, so that they can listen to what someone is saying. Reduce background noise and point out what they should listen to.
- Try not to use big words and explain the meaning of new words. Some young people have a limited vocabulary – unfamiliar words, such as ‘curfew’ and ‘remand’, will need clear explanations.
- Avoid colloquialisms, sayings and idioms. Some young people are very literal in their understanding. Phrases such as ‘turn the other cheek’ can be confusing and unhelpful.
- Don’t make instructions too long – break them up into smaller bits. Some young people have short-term memory difficulties, so they can miss bits of information in longer instructions.
- Don’t assume understanding. Check if the young person has understood what you have said by asking them to repeat back the important parts. Encourage them to ask you again if they don’t understand.
- Ask the young person what you can do to help them.