The Parish School Blog

Helping You Help Children Communicate

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It is so important that every member of a child’s treatment team is empowered to support their growth and has the tools to help that child succeed. The Parish School seeks to develop resources for growing the skills of our staff, families and students. The Hanen Centre©, a non-profit organization, shares this goal of helping others to help children communicate. Within the past year, Parish has implemented several programs from the Hanen organization as part of family and staff training.

Last Spring, six early childhood families participated in the It Takes Two to Talk® (ITTT) program, a group training developed specifically for parents of children under the age of 5 who have language delays. Throughout the semester, parents met each week with a Hanen-certified speech-language pathologist to discuss evidenced-based strategies to support their children’s communication through natural, everyday language activities. Parents also received individual coaching with the SLP to help refine strategy use, develop goals for their child, and create personalized home activities.

Leilah Weir, one of the ITTT program graduates, shares, “I was immensely grateful for the insights from the group. I enjoyed hearing success stories of the techniques we were trying. I realized early on that my approach to engaging my daughter was lacking… I learned that her experience and mine are completely different. So, I made changes to always consider her point of view. Once I physically started to get down on her level, I found that it was easier to engage her… I think we both benefited from the program in that it re-introduced us to each other and helped to transform our communication.”

Seeing the positive effects on parents and wanting to continue this evolution of engagement and interaction, The Parish School’s Early Childhood department began implementing another Hanen program, Learning Language and Loving It® (LLLI), this fall. LLLI is a training program for educators to learn research-based strategies for enhancing the social and communication skills of all students in their classes. Staff meets for intensive group training, as well as individual coaching and feedback sessions with Hanen-certified speech-language pathologists.

One of the most recent sessions was a discussion regarding shared book reading. Staff brought their favorite books and practiced making book reading a time for interaction.

Elsie Torres, early childhood special educator, shared her biggest take-away: “There is always a fine line between trying to read a story and letting the students interrupt with their thoughts and ideas. It is helpful to think about it as having a conversation while we read.”

For staff new and old, it has been beneficial to define shared strategies across classrooms, fine-tune individualized supports, and discuss evidence-based methods.

The Parish School hopes to include more parent and staff Hanen resources in the future. Be on the lookout for future program offerings.

teacher reading with child


A few of our favorite Hanen strategies to try during book reading with your child:


Try sitting side-to-side or across from each other during reading, placing your body and face at a similar level to your child’s. Being face-to-face allows for your child to more easily receive information from your words and facial expressions.

Observe, Wait, Listen (OWL):

  • Observe – Once you are face-to-face, it will be much easier to observe your child’s interests related to the book. Watch to see where their gaze lands.
  • Wait – Wait for your child to initiate before you say anything. When you wait for your child to look, point or begin talking about a picture, you can determine their communicative interest and give them the language they desire. Waiting can feel awkward, but this supports the child’s internal motivation to communicate. Turn the page, observe your child and wait expectantly – look at them with interest and excitement for at least five seconds.
  • Listen – Listen for your child to initiate – be it a gesture, sound, word or sentence. Then actively listen and respond to what they say!

Follow Your Child’s Lead:

Let your child set the pace for reading. Spend extra time on the pages in which they are interested and move on from those that do not grab their attention. Respond with warmth and interest to the items and ideas they show you.


Want more tips and ideas?

Hanen’s YouTube Channel: Book Nook – The Hanen Centre

Book Nook section on Hanen’s website: