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BrainSTARS: Receptive Language

Jeanne E. Dise-Lewis, PhD, Margaret Lohr Calvery, PhD, and Hal C. Lewis, PhD, BrainSTARS

BrainSTARS: Receptive Language

Use everyday activities to build skills:

  • Enrich your child’s language environment by:
    • describing your actions
    • describing his actions.
    • labeling things
    • reading aloud together.
    • identifying and talking about feelings.
    • providing books on tape
  • If your child has difficulty following a conversation and/or or following directions try:
    • leaving more time between your statement and his response
    • experiment with shortening the length of your sentences
    • reduce the level of your vocabulary
    • ask your child to repeat what you said in his own words to check for understanding

Change the environment:

  • Adult language needs to be specific and clear.  Avoid using questions as commands.  When you want your child to complete a task, give a clear direction.
  • Get your student’s attention before beginning to speak:
    • Call his name.
    • Use a physical direction such as turning your child toward you.
    • Be sure that your student is looking at you.
  • When the language in textbooks is difficult to understand, help your child change it into a more easily understood form such as diagrams, charts, and illustrations.
  • Remember that familiar material is much easier to follow and learn than unfamiliar material.  Create a context for learning new information by:
    • watching a video
    • previewing vocabulary
    • taking a field trip
    • communicating with parents about upcoming school topics
    • creating a poster
  • Eliminate distractions, such as a radio, TV, or other conversations when you talk with your child.
  • Use cues to help your child understand what you are saying, such as hand gestures, facial expressions, and a tone of voice that matches your message.

Teach new skills:

  • Teach your student to read the chapter summary and chapter questions prior to reading an assignment.  Identify the key points you expect him to look for in a passage.
  • Teach your child to read his book while listening to the same book on tape.
  • Find a more concrete or visual version of complex written material.  For example, if studying volcanoes, use a junior book that has pictures and contains key information in highlighted format. View a movie or play of  lengthy or complex literature.  Provide visual and multi-sensory information about new academic topics by:
    • going on a field trip
    • showing a film
    • doing a hands-on experiment
  • Teach your child to “picture” academic concepts in a visual image, rather than memorizing verbal explanations.  For example, instead of memorizing the definition of photosynthesis, “the process by which chlorophyll – containing cells in green plants convert light to chemical energy,” have the child visualize a representative picture.
  • Supplement verbal explanations for games with visual demonstrations.  Have the child show you how the game will run with a “trial round” before the official start of the game.

From BrainSTARS, Brain Injury: Strategies for Teams And Re-education for Students, © 2002 Jeanne Dise-Lewis, PhD. Used with permission. The manual is available in English and Spanish. For more information or to order copies, call 720.777.5470 or chris.moores@childrenscolorado.org. A short video on how to use the BrainSTARS manual is available at www.youtube.com/BrainSTARSprogram.


Jeanne Dise-Lewis, PhD Jeanne Dise-Lewis, PhD is a child clinical psychologist, director of the Psychology Program for the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at The Children’s Hospital, and Professor of Psychiatry and Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.


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