Join speech-language pathologist Carrie Clark as she discusses how you can teach a child to repair a communication breakdown during speech therapy sessions or at home.


1) Teach them How to Recognize a Communication Breakdown

2) Teach them How to Repair the Communication Breakdown

Teach the students several strategies that they can use to repair:

  • Try to figure out what was mis-heard or mis-understood and repeat that part with better pronunciation and a slower rate
  • If you can’t figure out what they mis-understood, try repeating the last part slower and more clearly
  • Or, tell the person you’re confused and ask them what they thought you said
  • Or, ask them a question about what they said
  • Or, tell them you got confused and start over from the beginning

Sample Lesson Plan for Group Therapy Session:

Click Here to Download Free Sample Lesson Planners Working on Social Skills

Activity One: Introduction

  • Ask students what “communication breakdown” means and what they normally do when it happens.  Ask for some common reasons that communication breakdowns happen.

Activity Two: Outline Rules for Standard Behavior

  • Students talk first about how to recognize when a communication breakdown has occurred.  List out the signs that someone is confused.
  • Next, outline several strategies that the students can use when a breakdown occurs.  Have the students come up with as many ideas as they can and then add your own (see above)

Activity Three: Practice

  • Start with recognizing pictures of people as confused or not.  When the students are able to do this in pictures, give them a buzzer (or the buzzer app on your smart phone or tablet) and tell them to buzz in whenever they notice that you look confused.  Hold a small conversation and unexpectedly look confused to help them recognize it.  Stay on this step until they can do it (may be several sessions)
  • Analyze social scenarios to determine when a communication breakdown has occurred.  Use activities that target topic maintenance to identify when someone says something that doesn’t make sense with what was already said.  Once the student can do this with given situations, hold a conversation with the student and unexpectedly say something completely off topic to indicate the communication breakdown and have the students buzz in to indicate they heard it.  Stay on this step until able to do this.
  • Have students purposefully practice each communication breakdown strategy in a staged conversation (use scripts if needed).
  • During normal conversation, stop students when you didn’t understand something and ask them which strategy would be best to try to fix the breakdown.
  • Once the student can demonstrate all strategies on command and can list of the strategies on command, start pointing out opportunities in normal conversation when a breakdown occurred and help the student repair it.

Activity Four: Assign Homework

  • At the end of each session, assign the student to write one journal entry explaining a time that he practiced the skill from that day or a time that communication broke down and he wasn’t able to fix it.

Activity Five: Review During Next Session

  • During the next session, have the students read their journal entries and discuss what went well and troubleshoot what went wrong as a group.
Free Social Skills Lesson Planner

More Resources for Speech-Language Pathologists:

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