Why is my child having trouble with retelling events?
When looking at our child’s skills, we will commonly be puzzled to why they are having so much trouble completing a task that we take for granted. The role of a speech pathologist is to break down the smaller steps that are required for your child to be successful in completing a skill such as retelling events.
Retelling events is a high level language skill which we use regularly, such as telling someone about our day or weekend. Retelling events is a complicated task and requires many smaller skills to be developed first. These skills include (but are not limited to):
- Having the vocabulary to clearly explain something that has happened (e.g. object names, doing words, describing words, sequencing words and joining words)
- Sequencing events – the beginning, middle and end
- Providing all the necessary information - depending on the event and who we are talking to we need to include who, what, where, when and sometimes how or why, and enough detail to keep it interesting
- Monitoring the retell for clarity - staying focused on the event we are retelling and not changing topics or spend too long talking about small details
Is there anything I can do at home to support?
Vocabulary - You can build your child’s vocabulary for retells by self-narrating what you do each day. For example “First I will pour the yummy juice, and then I will sit down and eat”. This example includes object names (juice), doing words (pour, sit), describing words (yummy), sequencing words (first, then) and joining words (then, and). You can also build vocabulary in games, e.g. taking turns being Simon when playing Simon says to practice doing words, making eye spy riddles around the house to practice object names and describing words, e.g. “I see something that is soft, fluffy and flat” – “a blanket!”.
Sequencing – You can support sequencing skills by reading stories together and talking about the beginning, middle, and end. You can make this interactive by drawing a picture for the beginning, middle and end of the story. You can build on this task by re-telling the story based on the pictures, rather than the book. If you are doing a craft activity with your child you can talk about the ‘first’, ‘second’ and ‘last’ steps of the craft. At the end of each day you can model a retell of your day and ask your child about the beginning, middle and end of their day. If they are at school this may be ‘before recess’, ‘after recess’ and ‘after lunch’, so they beginning to think about more than just the most recent part of their day.
Who, What, Where, When – When modelling a retell of your day make sure to include who, what, where and when information. For example, “Today I went to the shops with Grandma to get some milk”. When your child retells an event highlight to them what they have told you “Oh wonderful, you had lots of fun playing basketball at school today! … But I’m not sure who was there. Who did you play basketball with today?”.
Clarity and details – Some children will have trouble keeping their retells short enough to maintain the listener’s attention. You can model short and clear retells to your child. These are retells which focus on the clear beginning, middle and end and do not become mixed up with other stories in between. When your child is retelling an event remind them of their focus if they become distracted and assure them they will have a chance to tell you about it afterwards, for example “hang on, you were telling me about what you made in art, you can tell me about lunch time later”. Some children have difficulty adding enough detail and will keep their sentences short. This can make their retell confusing or uninteresting. You can ask them questions to encourage them to think of more details.
How can a speech pathologist support these skills?
It is common that families and teachers will identify concerns with specific skills such as retelling events. Speech pathologists are trained to analyse your child’s current skills and difficulties to identify smaller goals your child will need to achieve as stepping stones towards achieving a larger goal, such as retelling. As every child is different, the skills that one child needs support in, is likely to be different to another child. Hence a thorough assessment is always the place to start. Supports for working towards retelling events may include, but are not limited to:
- Building vocabulary to have the language to retell an event
- Developing sentence structure so your child can form grammatically correct and meaningful sentences
- Sequencing stories and events with a beginning, middle and end
- Identifying and communicating key information (who, what, where, when) in a clear manner
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