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.
Posted on BrainLine February 1, 2013.

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 A short video on how to use the BrainSTARS manual is available at