Headstart for Life

Role of Language in Interaction

Hi there! Welcome back to Beyond Therapy! The blog for HeadStart for Life!

Language contributes a lot to a child’s ability to engage comfortably and confidently in various social settings (school, home, playground, etc.). Children are usually amused with the thought of meeting and playing with his/her peers. However, there are those who would withdraw and feel very anxious when meeting friends.

These children may show their anxiety through escaping from the situation, playing by him/herself, crying, throwing a tantrum or may even show aggression. These behaviours from children are not intented to annoy or make other people suffer, rather these are their ways of conveying their difficulty and need for understanding their situation. Thus, it doesn’t help if we refer to them as lazy, stubborn or naughty.



Effective communication entails an active process of attentive listening and purposeful responding. Consider some of the reasons why children with language difficulties may find it difficult to interact with his/her peers:

  • “Some words aren’t familiar to me”
  • “He/she talks too fast”
  • “I need time to retrieve the words I want to say”
  • “I need time to think how to put my words together to respond well to him/her

Looking into the possible reasons, I hope we can be more understanding towards our children. Instead of seeing their limitations, try to reflect on the feelings that they may feel due to the demanding situations they are in. They may feel…

  • Anxious… because they are aware of the demands and their difficulties
  • Sad… because they know that they failed to fulfill the expectations of the teacher/parent
  • Timid… because they may compare themselves with the skills of the communicative partner
  • Anger/resentment… towards the play partner/s as they associate the stressful situation with the other child


It is a great start for parents/teachers/family members to be aware and understanding of the difficulties of their child. Another step to take would be to seek help and guidance from professionals namely psychologists, speech-language pathologist, occupational therapists, etc. A psychologist may help in recognizing your child’s overall developmental strengths and needs. They may also help in providing school and therapy recommendations. Speech therapists/pathologists would assist in developing your child’s comprehension, expressive communication and pragmatics (intents behind using a language such as asking questions, protesting, seeking assistance, etc.)

As someone who wants to help out a child with language and social difficulties, hopefully the following guidelines may help you in some way.


Having a good language foundation enables your child to understand the messages he/she hears and be able to retrieve the appropriate words to form meaningful and grammatically correct responses. Enriching a child’s vocabulary can be done through exposing the child into different places and talking about the environment using the different senses (e.g. share what you see, hear, smell, touch and feel).


Prepare your child on what to expect and say through fun play. Pull out those stuffed toys and create scenarios of basic greetings, introductions, turn taking, etc. At home, instill some basic communication routines such as morning greetings, saying goodbyes, asking for help, sharing toys/materials, etc. As some children may be visual learners, it may also help to provide drawings (e.g. comics) or write down the scripts. Having it on paper would serve as a great reference material that he/she can look back from time to time.


Before going to bed, share some simple stories integrating social values such as waving hi and bye to friends, borrowing a toy, sharing a food, waiting for turns, etc. Make the story fun by using puppets and avoid tons of questions! Let your child enjoy the moment of listening and learning.


Let your child meet and build rapport with a play partner first instead of pushing him/her to meet a crowd! Crowded places  can be overwhelming because of the presence of more children. This means bigger expectations will be required from your child as there will be more talking invoved, more questions asked, and more noises to filter. To lower the expectation and to ensure greater chance of success, your child would be more at ease getting to know the personality and character of just one playmate. You may eventually bring him/her to join bigger groups when he/she has well adjusted.



Although it may sound easy, your child may still find it difficult to engage with a playmate (i.e. neighbor, friend, schoolmate, cousin) in the beginning. Start of by leading the play, help him go through the process such as giving physical support on how to play the toys appropriately, how to take turns and verbal support by dictating some essential phrases/sentences.


Avoid showing frustration such as showing a negative facial expression and verbalizing a negative remark (relating terms “lazy”/“stubborn”, comparing his/her skills to that of another). Instead, offer more positive and motivating remarks.

HeadStart for Life always hopes for the best for your child as they journey on integrating with others! His/her small steps will surely diversify into bigger interactive opportunities later on, especially with the guidance of loving professionals and parents!

"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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