Pocket Learner

Pocket Learner

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Three simple steps that can help your SEN child to build vocabulary

BlogPosted by Andrea Campbell Mon, October 24, 2016 19:33:51

Three simple steps to helping your SEN child to build vocabulary

Parents of children with special educational needs (SEN) often wonder how they can help their children develop vocabulary. The ability to learn the names of items plays a key role in developing reading skills which in turn is vital not only for academic success but also for building employability and social skills. Parents and teachers alike play key roles in teaching children to identify items, whether they have special needs or not. Here are three tips for helping your child to learn to build their vocabulary.

1) Try to stimulate several senses at a time

Stimulating all of the senses of a special needs child can prove helpful when it comes to developing vocabulary. An effective way of achieving this is by adding various textures to your reading material. You can utilize for example: sandpaper, fur, cotton, liquids, dough and other materials to make reading a fun and sensory experience. When reading a story about animals, you can use glue to attach different materials for each animal and use the appropriate vocabulary to describe the surfaces to your child.

Use exercises similar to the tree hugging technique where the child is asked to close his eyes and use his hands to feel an item. Once the child is familiar with the feel of the item take the item away and place it in front of the child along with various other items. Ask the child to identify the item that he was feeling with his eyes closed. Ensure that the child learns the name of the item. Repeat with the other items.

2) Use visual aids

Give your child a chance to tell a story using art or visual aids. This is a fun way of improving their comprehension of the stories you read. Help the child to draw colorful pictures of their favourite scenes or mould characters using play dough or another malleable material such as flour mixed with water. Cut out pictures and glue them on sheets or white boards and then talk about them – what each character is doing, what they are wearing, the colours, sizes, long or short etc. In addition to building their vocabulary these exercises will also improve their reading skills and general comprehension. Some children with special needs find it difficult to focus for long periods; make the activities fun, take regular breaks, change the activities often and watch how the attention span increases as the child engages with the stories

3) Be flexible and break into bitesize chunks

When reading to a child, make sure that the text is not too long as children often find it hard to concentrate on an entire story in one go. One way of dealing with this is by breaking up the story into small sections and discussing what happened in those sections. Let your child take the lead in telling you what they learnt about the characters – what they said, what they looked like, what they wore and the like. When the child starts to lose interest switch to another activity, a break or a reward.


The Pocket Learner educational development system has proven effective in helping children to build their vocabulary. It uses words, images and rewards and consolidates learning in an innovative way. Bear in mind that children have different learning styles and they learn at different pace. Be patient if your little one takes some time to grasp the concepts.





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