INITIATION- TEACHING TO ASK QUESTIONS
Updated: May 1
Developmentally, children learn to answer questions way before they can ask questions of their own. But let's think about when and why we ask questions to begin with. In general, we usually ask a question when encountering something unfamiliar or altogether unknown- a new situation, a person, an object, or a problem. We also must know just how to use words to get information, which doesn't come naturally to some of our children, especially to those with communication delays/ disorders. So what do we do? We help them figure out how and when to formulate questions and for this we need to refer back to typical speech-language development.
The very early questions children typically begin to formulate are short and "in the here and now". So you'll frequently here the WHAT? and WHERE? question forms appear first (e.g. What this? Where ball?), usually toward the end of second and definitely in the third year of life. Eventually, as the child's language develops, you'll hear more complex and longer questions come out such as WHO?, WHY?, and WHEN? But what do you do when your little speaker does not use language to ask questions and it is developmentally time? Luckily, there are strategies and activities to help with this task!
Below are a few of my favorite therapy activities that help manipulate the child's environment enough to make asking questions more natural, meaningful, and functional. The idea is that we (the adults) set up a communicative context in such a way that the question (e.g. Oh, cool! What's this?) naturally pops into the child's mind and all he/she needs is a little help putting it into words. This is where magic begins- we use this perfectly teachable moment to model asking a question.
Let's review some of the activities that will help provoke asking questions and that you can do right at home today:
1. "What's in Ned's head?"- definitely one of my top ask a question-games! Have the child reach inside Ned's head, choose one item, and briefly wonder what it is he/she has found. Can you describe the object you are feeling? Is it soft or hard? Does it have a tail? Once the item is out in the open talk about its properties and uses and length while modeling the question form "What is this?".
2. Purchase any sort of "What's in the box?" game (there are a number available for sale but you can also make your very own box - just throw a bunch of smaller size objects in). Take turns searching for the next surprise object with your little detective. Repeat the steps listed for "Ned's head". Keep modeling "What is it?" until the child imitates asking the question. Then, provide the answer with excitement. Play this ask- then- answer game enough times so that your child can experience opportunities for practice and learn the skill well.
3. Finally, I absolutely love using play doh or any drawing/ painting, arts and crafts type of activity in therapy. I set it up in such a way that the child and I take turns making or drawing something- anything that comes to mind. We then take turns guessing what the other person made. Again, the idea is to create a situation where it becomes natural or even necessary to ask "what is it?" to continue on with the game. So, you want to make sure that your creation isn't exactly easily recognizable to the child, which will prompt asking a question. Easy enough right?
Hope you like these ideas! Thanks for reading and happy talking!