Some children act as good friends with their peers who struggle to talk, a study shows

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Children can act as good friends with their peers who struggle to speak and communicate, a study shows.

Language difficulties are not always a barrier to classroom relationships, with young people finding ways to connect socially even when a student has communication challenges, experts have found. They can even help them make more friends.

Researchers say teachers can learn from these ways children make their peers feel welcome as they develop inclusive classrooms.

Language impairment is a common childhood condition that affects language development. Most children with ED are included in regular classes.

The study was carried out by Lenka Janik Blaskova, from the University of Exeter, and Jenny Gibson, from the University of Cambridge.

The researchers interviewed nine children aged six to eight with a language disorder who attended mainstream schools and also improved provision — special language and communication education — in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. They also interviewed nine of their friends. The research took place throughout 2019 and the interviews were based on art. The researchers also collected data from observations, interviews, linguistic and sociometric assessments.

Many friends of children with language impairment who attended enhanced provision showed an inclusive mindset and had their own strategies to overcome potential communication barriers. Peers in regular full-time classes did not report experiencing communication difficulties when interacting with a peer with a language disorder.

Dr Blašková said, “Educational practice should be based on those inclusion strategies that children find normal and take into account the importance of teaching all children about adaptations that can support the inclusion of those with communication difficulties.”

Most of the language-impaired children in the study had a similar social status to others, but some had been rejected by others or neglected by them.

The data suggest that children who attend enhanced provision may be at a disadvantage, and the researchers recommend that more research should be done to assess whether mainstream settings can positively influence the peer relationships of children with ED.

Dr Blašková said, “Friends did not recognize their peers as having a language disorder and did not report limited language as a barrier to their interactions. Those friends who saw improved provision said language difficulties significantly hindered their interactions, reflecting fact that they will have more serious difficulties.

“Friends tried to find ways to overcome any language barriers and had an inclusive mindset. They adapted their own communication or continued to speak even when they did not understand those with LD. Some even invited others to play with their language impaired friend .The strategies seemed natural to the children, and researchers say teachers could learn from how they made connections to make classrooms more inclusive.

“Making children with ED realize that their peers can challenge certain aspects of their communication could help children with ED understand some peer reactions. We acknowledge that this is a small sample size, but this research shows that inclusion can be addressed more explicitly by teachers. a child with a language disorder in a classroom without recognizing their special peer needs may not be enough. Children have communication disorders, so understanding peers can be helpful Finding a balance in disclosing sufficient information without making children with ED feel uncomfortable will require counseling caregivers, special educational needs coordinators, and even children with ED.”

The study is published in the journal Child Language Teaching and Therapy.

More information:
Lenka Janik Blaskova et al, Language-impaired children as friends: Interviewing classroom peers to gather their views, Child Language Teaching and Therapy (2022). DOI: 10.1177/02656590221139231

Provided by the University of Exeter

Reference: Some children act as good friends with speech-impaired peers, study shows (2023, March 14) retrieved March 14, 2023 from friends-peers-difficulty.html

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