Does this sound familiar? The car door opens, and the school bag is thrown in. Your child clambers into their seat and the first thing you ask is, “how was your day?” Only to be greeted with “I don’t know”, “I can’t remember” or simply a grunt.
More common than you'd think
One of the most common complaints by families is their children come home after school and never have much to say about the 6 hours they were there. A dad said to me once, “Surely he’s not sitting and doing nothing all day. He’s got to be doing something!”
Getting children to talk about their day is a constant battle with families, but it can be particularly difficult when your child has Developmental Language Disorder (DLD). They already struggle to put their thoughts into words or recall and sequence of events in detail. Now you want them to remember every little thing they did that day (and every day of the week!) when they are tired and hungry. So here is some advice I share with families to help them with their after school conversations
Ask the right questions
In English, we have a variety of ways to ask questions, including what, where, who, when, why and how. These are often referred to as Wh-questions. We use these questions all the time, but children with DLD often struggle to understand the different types of questions and how to answer them. Depending on your child’s language skills, they will often develop the ability to answer Wh-questions in the same order as other children do, but at a slower rate. What, where and who (we can often see these answers with our eyes) are often learned before when, why and how (we need to draw more on our higher order language skills).
Alternatives to "How Was Your Day?"
Here are some alternatives to “how was your day?” for you to try next time your child hops in the car:
- What did you do at school today?
- What did you do at lunch time?
- Where did you play?
- Where did you sit?
- Who did you play with?
- Who did you sit next to at lunch time?
- Who was away from school today?
You can even break these questions down into smaller parts. For example, instead of asking “what did you do at school today ?”, you could ask “what did you do in math class today?” This can be helpful if remembering a whole day is tricky. We can break down these questions to help them recall specific events.
Give Specific Questions a Try
If you are wanting to kick it up a notch, you can try specific questions to encourage your child to open up. I like to think of these as a ‘wedge’ into getting them to open up to discuss other parts of the day. For example:
- Did you help anyone today?
- What was the best part of your day?
- What was the worst part of your day?
- Do you think English is easy, hard or in between?
- What did you learn about in [subject e.g. Math, Science]?
Try one of these conversation starters or create your own based on where your child’s understanding of Wh- questions (consider checking in with a speech pathologist if you’re not sure).
Deevy, P., & Leonard, L. B. (2004). The comprehension of wh-questions with specific language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 47(4), 802–815. doi:10.1044/1092- 4388(2004/060)
Friedmann, N., & Novogrodsky, R. (2011). Which questions are most difficult to understand?: The comprehension of Wh questions in three subtypes of SLI. Lingua, 121(3), 367–382. doi:10.1016/j. lingua.2010.10.004