Adult-Child Interaction: the power of waiting

Children sitting watching river

One aspect of being an independent Speech and Language Therapist I have particularly enjoyed is the increased time available to work with individual families. Across every area I work in I’m always struck by the importance of the interaction between adult and child. Whether targeting specific speech sounds, or encouraging the first steps of intentional communication, the way we adults engage and respond to children makes a great difference.

In many ways I am an appreciator of less. Less clutter, less noise, and certainly less stuff. The same principle often applies to communicating with children. When we say less, embrace the silence and watch for how children fill that space, we become responsive communicators. We give ourselves the time to reflect and adapt our responses. We notice the smaller details of communication, fleeting expressions and eye gaze.

I’ve trained myself to speak less during interactions, allowing the child time to think and decide how to respond. The Hanen Centre suggest counting ‘eight elephants’ (one elephant.. two elephants.. three elephants..). Eight seconds can feel like a strangely long time, but it creates space – time for a child to think through ideas, notice the details in a situation and figure out how to reply. It gives space for a child to fill with intentional interaction, to take an active role in the conversation. The best classroom interactions I see reflect this too; teachers who allow children ‘thinking time’ when questions are asked, giving them the opportunity to consider and develop their responses. Although it can be hard, the greatest things in life are always worth the wait.

(Featured image courtesy of Pixabay – photographer: Gellert)

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