Using Declarative Language to Help Neurodivergent Kids Learn Skills

Using Declarative Language to Help Neurodivergent Kids Learn Skills

In this post, you will learn about declarative language and how you can get started using it today to help your child communicate and increase their independence.

As a neurodivergent mom of a neurodivergent son, I've faced my fair share of communication challenges. The daily rush to get out the door, the high emotions, and the pressing need to complete tasks can easily lead to frustration for both of us.

During these moments, typical command-driven interactions often resulted in behaviors or inaction, leaving me feeling even more helpless. It wasn't until I discovered Linda K. Murphy's Declarative Language Handbook that I began to understand the profound impact our communication style has on our children's nervous system.

Murphy's insights revealed that imperative language could inadvertently trigger a child’s fight-or-flight response—something that resonated deeply with me. Learning about declarative language opened my eyes to a new way of interacting—one that uses empathy and compassion to foster understanding rather than demand compliance.

This approach has not only changed our interactions but has also been a beacon of hope in our journey together. As I share these strategies, it is with a deep sense of connection to any parent out there grappling with similar frustrations.

Let’s explore together how declarative language can transform our communications and help us connect more meaningfully with our children.

M
other and son frustrated and not communicating well

Have you ever stopped to wonder how your choice of words can significantly shape a child's learning and response?

This is where understanding declarative language becomes crucial. Declarative language, simply put, is a form of communication that provides information openly rather than commanding or questioning.

It plays a pivotal role in child development, fostering independent thinking and encouraging exploration.

Parents and educators often stand at the crossroads of effective communication, striving to connect with children in ways that are not just heard but deeply understood. By embracing declarative language, you are equipped to guide children through the learning process more naturally and intuitively.

Why is this approach so important?

It helps children assimilate and respond to information without feeling the pressure of direct commands, fostering a more relaxed and open learning environment.

By the end of this post, you'll not only understand what declarative language is but also how to apply it effectively in everyday interactions with your neurodivergent kids, enhancing both learning and emotional connections.

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Understanding Declarative Language

Declarative language plays a crucial role in communication, especially for parents and educators seeking effective ways to interact with children. Let's delve into what declarative language entails, its key characteristics, and practical examples to enhance your understanding.

Definition of Declarative Language

Declarative language involves making statements or comments without expecting a direct response. It focuses on sharing information, thoughts, or observations in a non-intrusive manner.

This style of communication encourages children to engage naturally without feeling pressured to react immediately. By using declarative language, parents and educators can create a supportive and open dialogue with children, fostering a positive communication environment.

Characteristics of Declarative Language

The characteristics of declarative language revolve around observation, description, and sharing thoughts.

Instead of posing questions or giving commands, declarative statements help convey information or express feelings.

By emphasizing observation and description, declarative language encourages children to explore and react based on the shared information, promoting critical thinking and independent decision-making skills.

definition of declarative language

Examples of Declarative Language

Practical examples of declarative language can be found in everyday interactions. For instance, instead of asking a direct question like “Are you ready for bed?” a declarative approach would be “It's bedtime; let's brush our teeth and get cozy.”

This framing provides clear guidance while allowing the child to acknowledge the bedtime routine without feeling pressured to respond. Other examples include sharing observations like “The sky looks dark; it might rain soon” or expressing thoughts such as “I enjoy reading stories with you before bedtime.”

By incorporating declarative language into interactions with children, parents and educators can cultivate a supportive communication style that encourages active participation and independent thinking. Remember, the use of declarative language can strengthen relationships and foster a positive learning environment for children to thrive.

For further insights and strategies on utilizing declarative language effectively, you can explore resources like Help Your Child Self-Regulate by Using Declarative Language and the Declarative Language Handbook website.

Understanding Declarative Language: A Game-Changer in Communication

Declarative language, as a communication tool, serves not just to share information but also to engage another's mind in thinking and problem-solving. This form of language shifts from providing direct commands to sharing observations that encourage independent thinking and action. It’s about prompting the child to notice and consider their environment and actions, which is crucial for fostering independence and self-motivation.

The Shift from Imperative to Declarative Language

In typical scenarios, both parents and educators frequently use imperative language—direct commands that specify what a child should do. Examples include:

  • “Pick up your jacket.”
  • “Say thank you.”
  • “Don’t forget your water bottle.”
  • “Look at her when she’s talking.”

While effective in the short term, imperative language doesn't encourage the child to understand the reasoning behind an action or to initiate behaviors independently.

What is Declarative Language?

Declarative language focuses on making observations or expressing thoughts aloud, which subtly guides children toward understanding and action without direct instructions. For example, instead of commanding a child who has left their backpack in the car with “Get your backpack!”, a declarative alternative could be:

  • “Hmm, it looks like you might have left something in the car.”
  • “I wonder if there’s anything you need for school today.”

These prompts encourage the child to think and act independently, nurturing their ability to ‘read the room' and respond appropriately without being told explicitly what to do.

How to Convert Imperative to Declarative Language

Transforming an imperative into a declarative statement involves a simple tweak in phrasing that can have a profound impact on the interaction. Here’s how you can make the shift:

  1. Express a Thought: Start with a neutral observation or a gentle expression of curiosity.
    • “Hmm, I’m noticing…”
    • “I’m wondering…”
    • “I’m thinking that…”
  2. Be Specific Without Directing: Share specific observations that lead to a natural conclusion.
    • “Hmm, I see your coat is still on the floor. Where do you think it goes?”
    • “Your lunch box is on the counter. I wonder if there’s something you need to do with it before school?”
  3. Avoid Sarcasm: Keep your tone genuine and curious, not corrective.

Examples to Try

  • Instead of: “Put your shoes on.”
    • Try: “Hmm, I notice it’s almost time to leave. What do you need on your feet for school?”
  • Instead of: “Stop yelling.”
    • Try: “I’m thinking about how loud our voices are. What’s the rule about indoor voices?”
  • Instead of: “Do your homework.”
    • Try: “I see your homework on the table. What’s your plan for getting it done tonight?”

Related: Learn how to help your child learn functional life skills to increase their independence and confidence.

Benefits of Declarative Language

Switching to declarative language can:

  • Reduce pressure on the child, making interactions less about commands and more about cooperative engagement.
  • Foster problem-solving skills and independence.
  • Enhance the child's ability to process and respond to their environment thoughtfully.

By incorporating declarative language into daily interactions, parents and educators can profoundly influence how neurodivergent children engage with the world around them, promoting greater autonomy and confidence.

quick tips for getting started with using declarative language

Importance of Declarative Language

Declarative language plays a pivotal role in child development, offering a myriad of benefits that contribute to the holistic growth of children. Let's delve into the significance of declarative language in promoting self-regulation, enhancing executive function, and building stronger connections in the realm of parenting and education.

Promoting Self-Regulation

By using declarative language, parents and educators can help children develop crucial self-regulation skills. This form of communication empowers children to assess situations, make informed choices, and regulate their emotions effectively.

When children hear statements like “You must be so proud of finishing your puzzle,” they learn to recognize and validate their own achievements, fostering a sense of internal motivation and accomplishment.

Enhancing Executive Function

Declarative language plays a key role in nurturing children's executive function abilities, which are essential for cognitive development. Through declarative statements such as “I see you're organizing your toys by color,” children are encouraged to engage in higher-order thinking processes like planning, organizing, and problem-solving.

This type of language prompts children to think independently and develop critical cognitive skills that are vital for academic success and lifelong learning.

Related: Check out these posts to help you learn about executive function skills, using executive function games to help build skills, and the link between executive function skills and emotional regulation skills.

Building Stronger Connections

Effective communication is the cornerstone of building strong connections between parents, educators, and children. Declarative language fosters open dialogue, active listening, and mutual respect, creating a supportive and nurturing environment for children to thrive. By using declarative statements like “I noticed you worked hard on your drawing,” adults show appreciation for children's efforts and encourage meaningful interactions based on empathy and understanding.

By incorporating declarative language into daily interactions, parents and educators can create a positive and empowering communication environment that nurtures children's growth and fosters strong relationships built on trust and respect.

For further insights on the importance of declarative language in child development, you can explore resources such as Help Your Child Self-Regulate by Using Declarative Language and Using Declarative Language With Your Child.

Implementing Declarative Language

Implementing declarative language in child development is a powerful tool for parents and educators to enhance children's learning experiences and support their growth. By creating a declarative environment and using declarative language effectively, adults can positively impact a child's development and communication skills.

Creating a Declarative Environment

To create an environment that encourages the use of declarative language, consider the following tips:

  1. Model Declarative Language: Children learn by example, so using declarative statements in your own communication sets a positive precedent.
  2. Encourage Observation: Prompt children to observe their surroundings and reflect on what they see, fostering critical thinking skills.
  3. Offer Choices: Provide opportunities for children to make decisions and express their preferences, promoting autonomy and confidence.
  4. Acknowledge Feelings: Validate children's emotions through declarative statements, demonstrating empathy and understanding.

By incorporating these strategies into daily interactions, adults can cultivate a supportive and empowering environment for children to thrive.

Using Declarative Language Effectively

When using declarative language with children, focus on the tone, timing, and content of your statements to maximize their impact:

  1. Positive Tone: Maintain a positive and encouraging tone when delivering declarative statements to create a nurturing atmosphere.
  2. Timely Communication: Use declarative language in real-time situations to provide immediate feedback and reinforce positive behaviors.
  3. Clear and Concise Messaging: Keep declarative statements simple and straightforward to ensure clarity and comprehension for children.
  4. Encouraging Exploration: Use declarative language to encourage curiosity, exploration, and creativity in children's learning experiences.

By applying these principles, parents and educators can harness the potential of declarative language to support children's cognitive and emotional development effectively.

For more insights on implementing declarative language in child development, check out resources like Using Declarative Language to Support Independence.

Remember, integrating declarative language into interactions with kids can have a lasting impact on their communication skills and overall well-being.

mother and son happy and content showing a heart with their hands

Empowering Parents and Educators

In today's fast-paced world, understanding declarative language is a game-changer for parents and educators seeking to create positive outcomes in child development.

By leveraging the power of declarative language, parents and educators can significantly impact the way children perceive and interact with the world around them.

Resources for Further Learning

Parents and educators looking to deepen their understanding of declarative language usage can explore resources such as the Declarative Language Handbook by Linda K. Murphy. This handbook offers practical insights into making subtle shifts in language to yield significant results in communication with children.

Additionally, platforms like AEP Connections provide on-demand courses on declarative language and co-regulation, offering valuable tools to support engagement and learning with neurodivergent learners.

Declarative Language

Declarative language serves as a powerful tool in communication, especially in educational and parenting contexts with neurodivergent individuals. It emphasizes sharing information and experiences rather than commanding or demanding actions, which fosters a cooperative environment conducive to learning and growth.

By using declarative language, parents and educators can enhance a child's ability to process information, think independently, and develop critical reasoning skills.

This communication style not only supports the development of a child's “inner voice” but also strengthens their executive functions, aiding in better self-regulation and emotional control.

I encourage parents and educators to integrate declarative language into their daily interactions with children. This approach promotes a more reflective, observant, and connected way of learning and interacting, setting the stage for children to become more effective communicators and thoughtful individuals.

Embracing this method can transform your communication dynamics and greatly benefit the children in your care.

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