Headstart for Life

Communication for Older Children

Warm greetings from HeadStart for Life! We are excited to share another Beyond Therapy article concerning communication. Please enjoy!

Communication is a valuable part of our existence. It is a vital part of a child’s development along with cognition, play, language, literacy, logic, etc. Thus, children are taught early on how to listen and speak. However, some children may develop such skill in a different pace compared to their peers and it may persist even as they reach their adolescent years. Play works as a magnificent tool to reinforce language and communication for younger children. Communication can indeed happen during play time but there are occurrences where a number of children may outgrow some forms of play especially for the older population such as preteens and teenage years. During these years, communication deficits may still be enhanced through various fun, age-appropriate and functional skills. It is at this point where they may be exposed to exciting places and interesting communicative partners. Here are some opportunities and ways on how your older child can continue developing his/her communication skills:

Ready, set, home!

Start with communication routines at home. Home is the primary step to learn routines, engagement and communication. As your preteen/teenage child is up to many adventures in and out the house, it’s time to set routines and limits too. Set a system that will let them listen and share messages.

  • Encourage basic, polite greetings “Good morning”, “Good night”, calling out for meal time
  • Enforce the rule of asking permission “Can I go to…?”, “Can I join…?”, “May I borrow…?”
  • Impose on giving information/signal “Mom/dad, I will go out tonight”, “I will go to…”, “I will be home at…”family-eating-at-the-table-619142_1920

Chores and activities at home.

Distributing chores to each family member may also promote sense of responsibility and communication. It would also be a good time for the family to discuss the allocation. Be open to the possibility of children asking, protesting or clarifying their duties.



Be safe and sound.

First and foremost, train your child to respond to basic personal information and orient them with emergency/safety precautions. Help them respond to personal details such their name, birth date, home address, school and contact numbers. It may be best to teach them how to respond verbally and in writing. To support this, security/personal information cards/bracelets may also be prepared for them. Show them basic safety signs/protocols such as white lines on the road pertaining to crossing path, green man light, emergency exit, lift emergency button, etc.


Time to visit!

Older children may also be brought to community places to give them an idea on how it looks like and how to behave accordingly. Examples of places would be the library, park, church, grocery store, mall, school and restaurant.


Look, listen and communicate.

In addition to showing him/her around the community, familiarise them with the signs and basic rules. This will help them understand the basic communication demands in common places. Here are some examples:

  • Library

Signs: quiet, no eating, no drinking

Communication demands: greeting the librarian, asking for books

  • Grocery store

Signs: operating hours, open/closed signs, food labels

Communication demands: asking the personnel about a product, paying

  • Restaurant

Signs: menu icons, price, open/closed signs

Communication demands: ordering a meal, requesting for a condiment, asking for the bill


Hear me, hear me!

Rehearse some scripts pertaining to the communication demands required for a given place. As older children may be proficient with writing and reading, you may also let them write and read the sentences. They may also be glad to utilise their mobile phones for typing and reading. Some ideas that may help:

  • Library

“Excuse me, can you please help me find (title of book).”

“Hello, may I borrow this book.”

  • Grocery store

“Hi, where can I find (item/product)?”

“Can I pay by card?”/ “How much is my purchase?”

  • Restaurant

“I want the burger meal, please.”

“Do you have ketchup?”


Gadget use.

Most people nowadays use technology (mobile phones, tablets and computers) as means of communication and it is undeniable that teenagers use it very often, so make this advancement meaningful! Guide them on how to use their gadget in several communicative ways- contacting a family member for updates, calling a food establishment to order food, messaging a friend to invite, etc. Let them store emergency contact numbers too- police, fire, etc.


News and views

Your child may now understand current topics shown on various media forms- magazines, television news, newspapers, radio debates, etc. This makes him/her a great debate partner! Let your child portray the communicative roles of being a speaker and listener by allowing him/her to share views and learn how to respect the perspective/thoughts of another.


Learning does not stop as people age; it is a continuous journey even for adolescents and adults. There are various places and materials that parents may utilize to continuously hone their child’s skills. It starts from home and branches to so many exciting places around the community. Aside from being exposed to various places, your child will surely meet people along the way. We hope that the activities suggested provided you some insights on how to develop communication. We would be delighted to hear your thoughts and/or stories too. Also, please look for more interesting ideas from the HeadStart for Life team!

"All the information on this site is for educational purposes only and does not replace the assessment and intervention of a registered speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist or any other medical or education professional."

About Anna

Anna finds special significance in continuous learning through reading articles, observing adult-child interactions and communicating with professionals, children and parents.

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