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My child doesn’t seem to notice me – Why your child’s ability to notice and interpret nonverbal communication is essential for effective communication skills.

Feb 15, 2023 | Children

Children who are neurodiverse are often reliant on a caregiver to show them how to do things. These could be simple autonomous tasks like using a spoon to self-feed, as well as more complex skills involving more than one person, such as: using a seesaw.

Reciprocity in social relationships happens from birth and is heavily reliant on nonverbal information and prosodic cues. Reciprocal interactions with a parent help a baby learn to be sociable, to see themself as others see them, to learn how to effectively communicate, how to think and not only survive but thrive in their world.

However, as a child grows and their language increases the nature in which we may communicate with them changes to be more heavily reliant on verbal communication. This verbal communication is used to give the adult information about a situation, activity, or event.

As our lives have become busier we are increasingly more time poor at home, work and in the community. We are often looking to get this “information” as quickly as possible and in a way that requires the least amount of processing. This means, we do not often look for any other information in the environment that could create a clearer picture, or would in fact remit the need for the verbal information in the first place.

Likewise, our overloaded schedules spill into the interactions we have with our children. There is often not enough time to spend to scaffold an activity, or give them adequate processing time to consider: what information they have that could be used to solve the problem or what their partner or the situation may need. For example, children are often given clothes from their wardrobe to wear and are dressed by their parents. This removes the opportunity for the child to consider what day of the week it is, what the weather is like, how they are feeling and what influence this may have on their clothing selection. Another example in social situations is, telling children what to do or asking them a question when it is clear they are already uncertain themselves. For example, your child bumps into another child at the park and knocks them over. As adults, we will often rush over, tell the child to apologise immediately at which time, your child may have not even noticed they bumped another child.

Children will adapt to their environment and the people in it. Therefore, if they are used to being told what, how, and when for all aspects of their life, they will become reliant and continue to only respond and attend when verbal information is given.

Helpful tips:

  • Create opportunities for problem solving throughout your child’s day.
  • Use nonverbal communication cues before and while verbal language is communicated.
  • Use comments and statements to help build a picture of the situation, event, or activity for your child and give them time to process this information.

Author: Kim Elter – Occupational Therapist