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Language and Communication Make a choice at snack time  This resource has been viewed by a moderator.


A child will use a sign and/or speech to make a request during snack time. This page includes some detailed stategies to help children who are having difficulties developing the use of language to make choices.

Early years skill:not specified
Early years typical range:not specified
P-scales/Curriculum skill:English Speaking
P-scales/Curriculum level:P4
TAP skill:Language Expression
TAP level:TAP24
Pre/Nat. Curriculum Area:Inititation
Pre/Nat. Curiculum Standard:Engagement
Section:Primary (5-11yrs) info; Secondary (11-16yrs) info
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Activity/strategy name and materials required How to do the activity Key principles for doing the activity and comments
Snack activity

Food items - in small pieces - which the children like, for example banana, apple, orange, crisps;

Something uninteresting - e.g. a piece of paper;

Pictures of the food items.

  1. Introduce the food items by saying and signing the word for each item;
  2. Check for which items the child is interested in having: offer some of the food items for the child to take. Re-inforce the language by saying and signing (at the same time) the food items that the child takes;
  3. (Initially) use a forced alternative (see right) to give the child a choice. E.g. "banana or orange", say and sign each option, and indicate the item as you do so. See the comments on the right for using forced alternatives;
  4. Always respond to what you think the child has communicated (see right for developing this).
  5. Wait, to give the child an opportunity to make a request spontaneously, if they don't you can continue from step 3 (offering forced alternatives).

Key strategies - you may need to come back to these as and when necessary:

Introduce each food item;

Check which ones the child is interested in;

Demonstrate the asking for and getting of an item - e.g. with another member of staff;

Wait - give time for the child to respond or initiate;

Offer a "forced alternative", e.g. "apple or orange?" - swap around the order in which you give the alternatives to check that the child is not just saying the last thing you say;

Make it difficult for the child to communicate by pointing by having the choices close together and out of reach - so if they point you actually don't know which one they pointed to;

Be sensitive to if the child is getting frustrated - think of ways to help them get it right first time - e.g. by reducing the choice down to one item (temporarily).

Using forced alternatives:

Always give the child the thing they said/signed for. If they are having difficulties with this - for example always say the last thing in the alternative, try the following:

Have one of the forced alternatives being something uninteresting (e.g. the piece of paper);

Have the last alternative as something the child doesn't want (if the child always says the last thing);

Give more emphasis to the desired item, e.g. "Banana or paper?", you could also try only signing the desired item. Over time, reduce the difference in emphasis.

Improving clarity

Sometimes the child may say/sign what they want, but you don't feel it is clear enough (perhaps you can understand it in this context but might not be able to in another situation). To try and improve this, you can try:

Saying 'pardon?' or something equivalent;

Look confused and say, for example '(Do you mean) apple or banana?' (saying and signing these) - this will often encourage the child to produce a clearer version;

Simply re-inforce with the clear version, e.g. you say "Oh, banana" (saying and signing it then passing it over);

Try to avoid simply asking the child to repeat after you as there is no communication and it's not a natural way to communicate - by asking the child to repeat you have shown them that you have understood, and so this is now a different repetition activity - it also has the danger that it could reduce the accuracy of what the child originally said or signed as they didn't get a direct result from this.


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