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Communication Challenges for Struggling Learners

Communication Challenges for Struggling Learners can be a big deal for non-traditional learners. For your children who struggle with academics, communication can be a challenge too.  From finding the right words to express feelings, needs and wants, to be able to express themselves on paper, communication challenges come in many different forms.  These challenges can change over time, showing up for a period of time and then disappearing, only to show up in a new way somewhere else. Here are some challenges your child may face, and some ways to help support their challenges.

Listening Comprehension Skills:

When dealing with communication, the first thing you have to consider is a child’s ability to understand what they hear.  If they cannot follow simple directions, they may be struggling with listening comprehension rather than just being “difficult” or “ignoring” you. A child who struggles with listening comprehension is not going to understand what is being said in a conversation (may have a hard time staying on topic, or responding appropriately), and will likely not pick up naturally the conversational skills other children do.
Here are some suggestions for working on listening comprehension:
  1. Give directions one step at a time.  Once this is mastered, go to 2 steps at a time, then 3.
  2. Keep directions short…use fewer words when possible.
  3. Allow time to process the direction before saying anything else.
  4. If you repeat the direction, don’t change how you said it.  Say it exactly the same way again. Don’t change what you are saying until you know for sure they have heard you.  When you change the words you are using, the brain takes it as new information, and begins processing it as a totally new direction.  By using the same words, the brain can continue to process the information that it took in the first time you said it.

Expressing emotions:

Our society has greatly changed over the past years. At one point, boys and men were not supposed to show or express emotions, to talk about feelings, or admit when they were hurt.  Now our society expects everyone to be able to express feelings, empathize and otherwise understand complex emotions from a very young age. As a child with Autism, my son found this very difficult and continues to struggle with it at times.
Some ways I help him are:
  1. Talking about my feelings and emotions
  2. Asking questions when he seems to be unable to express himself or unaware of his emotions
  3. Seeking outside help at times to help him work through his emotions and identify what may be going on.
  4. Using emotion boards to allow nonverbal communication of feelings. This can also be done through art, drawing, writing, play and other forms of expression).
  5. Be aware that emotional upset decreases a child’s ability to express emotions and thoughts, and will limit or stop learning completely.

Talking to strangers:

Some children can be overly shy while others can be overly friendly. Both are difficult situations to deal with at times.
Some ways to help with knowing how to talk to people:
  1. Give suggestions (almost like a script) of how to introduce oneself, ask questions, talk about subjects interesting to your child and the other child, give compliments, accept compliments, etc.  For some ideas, check out the Boystown Social Skills Posters.
  2. If you have a child who is learning a social skill and needs reminders, set up a small cue that only the two of you know about (like a wink or holding up 1 finger, etc.), that you can do “secretly” to remind him.
  3. Use a visual cue like “Social Circles” to help children who are overly friendly understand limits.

Communication Challenges for Struggling Learners can affect how well students make friends and keep them!

Our kids that are unique, different, and/or struggle sometimes have difficulty making or keeping friends.
Some ways to help:
  1. Talk to them about how others feel and think as you interact with people in public, watch tv, and talk to one another.
  2. Find something they are interested in, and find a class or a club involving that interest – or start one!  (having something in common can be a beginning point for friendship).
  3. Get involved with a church or family social organization that has a variety of kids of different ages and abilities.
Whatever stage of development your child is in, the ability to communicate is essential to navigating the social world.  With a little help and support, even our children who struggle can learn to make and keep friends, communicate with individuals of all ages, and be able to advocate for themselves as they become more independent with time.

Feel like you need MORE help with your struggling learner?  Check out our great struggling learner program at True North Homeschool Academy.  We also do tutoring for struggling learners, as well as academic advising.

Amy Vickery - Struggling Learners Teacher

Amy Vickrey, MSE  is a mother of a seven-year-old and almost three-year-old. Her homeschool journey began over 20 years ago when she saw how homeschooling enabled her sister who had memory issues and fell through the crack at school, to graduate and go to college. Amy knew then she wanted to implement what she saw – the love and individual attention – into her own teaching. She now homeschools her two boys and loves every minute of it! Having completed the second year of their homeschool journey, she is looking forward to many more to come!

Amy Vickrey states, “My passion for learning and being a lifelong learner is something I want to pass on to the children I teach, as well as my own children.  Making learning fun and engaging is an important part of this process. My goal is to lift others up to help them achieve their own goals and dreams.”





Are you facing communication challenges with your struggling learner? Often special needs children have difficulty communicating with those around them. See True North Homeschool Academy Instructor Amy Vickery's top tips for helping your struggling learner communicate. #strugglinglearner #specialneeds #homeschool #homeschooling #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy