Building connection to aid communication
Updated: Mar 13
By Kathy Cook, Assistant Educational Psychologist
As an Assistant Educational Psychologist, working across a wide range of settings, I have reflected on the importance of educators having time to develop connections with children and young people (CYP) and the positive impact this has on developing their communication skills. Within education, time is limited, however if time is given to really developing meaningful connections it can be an invaluable asset for CYP.
Human Givens and connection
Griffin and Tyrell’s Human Givens model (2013) recognised that as humans, we seek common needs to thrive. Communication skills play a vital role in our ability to connect with and develop meaning from others. If CYP are not exposed to these Human Givens throughout their developmental journey they may encounter difficulties in their ability to form meaningful relationships with those around them or to understand and express their own emotions and needs.
Why is communication so important?
There is a huge body of research exploring the link between communication and its impact on aspects such as behaviour, attainment, and opportunity. For example,
The Royal Society of Speech and Language Therapists suggest that 81% of children with emotional and behavioural disorders have unidentified language difficulties.
Coles et al, (2017) highlight the correlation between language skills and attainment.
Law et al. (2009) highlight the link between language skills from early development and longer term academic and adult opportunities.
Holland, Hutchinson, & Peacock (2023) argue that individuals with unidentified SLCN are not being supported later in life and highlights the impact this can have on a person’s life, with risks for their future development – specifically, people who have speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) are more prevalent in criminal justice settings than in the wider population.
Educators play a significant role in supporting CYP with SLCN. Through developing positive connections with the children we work with, we can help offer them a sense of community, control, and achievement.
Here are some ways to support communication, thinking about how we are connecting with our CYP.
Were possible incorporate CYP interests into learning tasks. This will help hold their attention and help them find meaning in the tasks they have been set.
Giving CYP a level of autonomy over how they present their findings or share their ideas helps to them to feel a sense of control, in turn it may also increase motivation towards learning activities.
For CYP who find expressing themselves difficult it is important to use praise when they attempt to communicate with others. Praise should ideally be immediate, precise, and genuine, this will then help foster a sense of achievement.
For some CYP who have difficulty with speech sound articulation, using modelling to repeat and affirm what the CYP has said can also be great way to show connection and promote a sense of achievement. By repeating what a CYP has said you are showing them that you are truly listening to what they have said and that their message has been understood.
For CYP who have difficulties in understanding the perspectives of others, social stories and comic strip conversations can help them find meaning in reviewing a situation that has happened to them.
The Human Givens model suggests that giving time to connect and meet basic needs can aid communication. Where those needs are met, a sense of connection, achievement, and meaning is created throughout their education journey and children are more likely to become effective communicators. Throughout that journey, we can support and create opportunities within the classroom and everyday encounters with others, to support their development.
If you are concerned with a CYP’s SLCN seek advice from the school Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator, Speech and Language Therapist Team or your Educational Psychologist.
For all Applied Psychologies schools, we have virtual clinics with our Speech and Language Therapist as well as our advisory teacher for interaction and communication who is available for SLAs September 2023.
Further reading and references:
Education, health and care plans, Reporting Year 2022 – Explore education statistics – GOV.UK (explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk)
Coles. H., Gillet, J., Murray, G., Turner, K., (2017) The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists Justice Evidence Base Consolidation: 2017 justice-evidence-base2017-1.pdf (rcslt.org)
Griffin, J., & Tyrrell, I. (2013). Human givens: The new approach to emotional health and clear thinking. HG Publishing.
Holland, C., Hutchinson, P., and Peacock, D., (2023) The importance of screening for speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) in police custody (wiley.com)
Law, J. Rush, R, Parsons, S. & Schoon, I. (2009). Modelling developmental language difficulties from school entry into adulthood: Literacy, mental health and employment outcomes. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 52, 1401-1416. DOI: 10.1044/1092-4388(2009/08-0142
Other Ways of Speaking (speechandlanguage.org.uk)