There are two important components of language: expressive and receptive language. When a child uses expressive language skills, they use verbal communication and gestures to communicate with others. Receptive language requires the child to process and understand language from others, both verbal communication and gestures. In many cases, receptive language requires the use of listening skills.
If a child is experiencing delays in their expressive or receptive language, they may benefit from the supportive structure of a therapeutic preschool program. In this setting, there will be a low student-to-teacher ratio, which allows the teachers to custom learning plans for each of the kiddos in the classroom. A therapeutic preschool program also heavily emphasizes important developmental skills, such as speech, language, behavior, social skills, and more. This might mean there is an occupational therapist, speech-language pathologist, or ABA therapist on staff who works directly with children during class.
In programs where communication skills are targeted, a teacher (or speech-language pathologist) might work with the children to improve their listening skills. If children have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other developmental delays, listening and maintaining a conversation can be extremely difficult. However, it is important to keep in mind that just because conversation is challenging for children with autism does not mean that they cannot learn these skills!
With additional support from a therapeutic preschool program that incorporates speech therapy and ABA therapy, children can learn to be skilled listeners and communicators. This can be achieved through one-on-one sessions with therapists throughout the day, as well as during group activities (e.g. circle time or storytime) where children have the opportunity to engage and socialize with their peers. Listening skills are a critical aspect of forming friendships, engaging in social situations, and succeeding in an academic setting, so this is an important skill for children to learn early on.
Here are a few ways a therapeutic preschool program can target listening skills:
Visual supports: Many children with autism benefit from learning through visuals. During an activity, such as storytime, when children need to actively listen to their teacher, it can be helpful to show students a board that shows pictures of what “whole-body listeners” look like. The board might include pictures with eyes (to emphasize eye contact), a closed mouth (to remind kiddos that this is a time to listen, not talk), or a child sitting on the ground (to remind them to sit quietly).
Listen & draw activities: To help a child practice with listening to verbal cues, a teacher in a therapeutic preschool program might use a fun drawing activity. This activity would include multiple instructions for what the child should draw. At the end of the activity, the teacher and student will see how well they understood the instructions.
Positive reinforcements: When a child does do a great job listening, therapeutic preschool teachers and parents can reinforce this positive behavior. This might look like allowing the child to spend a couple of minutes playing with their favorite toy or listen to a song.
Remember, every child is a unique learner, so no two children will acquire language skills in the same way! This rule also goes for listening. With this in mind, therapeutic preschool programs are able to provide individualized education plans that target the specific abilities and needs of each student.
Do you think your child could benefit from this type of program? Contact CST Academy at 773-620-7800 to learn about our thriving therapeutic preschool program in Chicago! We incorporate ABA therapy, feeding therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy into our program to meet the unique needs of each of our kiddos!