Every now and then children can struggle with communicating with people due to speech difficulties usually stemming from oral-motor issues, either from an oral impairment from tongue or palate which is the roof of the mouth, or a short frenulum which is the fold beneath the tongue. These disabilities usually cause them to be nervous and afraid to speak to the general audience. For example, when they are in school presenting for public speaking, they may stutter in presenting their speech. Nevertheless, there are solutions to help one-self to gain confidence to speak to the public. So today, I will be sharing my four tips to help your child when performing for public speaking.
Script or Written Notes
The first technique is to make a script or a written note to paint out the outline like a beautiful art on a canvas. By doing so, the children will have the opportunity to unleash their creativity by interpreting the important points of their topic to be presented in public speaking. For instance, let us say the topic is about a holiday, you can provide your child with the characteristics or what they will be doing there on the holiday destination. This helps them to gain amazing ideas of what to describe about the topic on holiday which makes them stand out from the others. Thus, increasing your child’s confidence level in speaking to the group of audience as they will constantly have a brainstorm of ideas to free their minds and enjoy the very moment they are speaking on stage. Moreover, you can help your child by finding a topic that is within their comfort zone or which they have some familiarity in since they had experienced it before as this will feed them with a never-ending flow of ideas to captivate their audience. For example, a topic on your child’s favourite food which you can write down all the important ideas or points into a piece of paper and evaluate them before putting them in a script outline for your child to speak.
Practice Makes Perfect
Before an actor performs, they will practice and prepare like musicians and even a project manager before they present to their audience. Similarly, a child will also need practice before they perform on a stage with audiences they do not know. Help your child to make preparation by encouraging them to perform their public speaking with you; the parents as an audience. As their practice audience or mentor, you may guide them by providing constructive criticisms and words of encouragement to lead them on the right track to perform on stage. By doing so, you have given your child that moral support and encouragement for them to perform for their audience while keeping them motivated and enjoying the art of public speaking which not only make you as a parent happy but also your child.
Eye Contact & Gestures
There are times where we as adults find it difficult to maintain eye contact and show the right gestures when talking in some situations. Even for children, they are having trouble to engage and communicate with acquaintances before they make friends. So, the best way to help them is to practice with the family first. Help them start a conversation with you or their grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunts, or sibling first as the starting point. Once they find comfortable to speak to the family then step up to their friends, teachers or even neighbours before letting them speak to a stranger that you and your family knows. This not only helps them to build courage but also acquire skills in eye contact and gestures with people and how they should interact with the people they meet. Thus, this helps both you and your child to find weaknesses and correct them before they step on stage to deliver their speech to their audience.
Re-imagining the stage
The stage or podium can be a frightening place with everyone staring at your child before they present. Even we as adults find it frightening to just step up on a stage and speak as if our very life or death is determined by it. This may be one of the most challenging struggles to overcome, the fear of being on stage. Thankfully, there is a way to reduce the anxiety experienced by your child when being on stage known as systematic desensitization, a behaviour therapy which can even applied without the aid of a psychologist. The process involves exposure to the stage gradually before leading up to the main stage. For example, at a practice with just family members with you as the audience, you can set a small stage for your child to present it to you and their siblings then gradually move up with more family members, their friends, neighbours and finally to the main stage. This will help them build confidence while standing on a stage presenting to a big audience.
Another method to reduce stage fright is to re-imagine the stage and the audience. Sometimes the best solution to solve a scary thing is to re-imagine them to be something less terrifying into something cute and cuddly. For example, you may tell your child that the people sitting, and listening are like their favourite comic book heroes such as Batman, the Avengers and others and that they are being on stage to talk, is like disseminate an important message to their heroes. This will help them cope their stage fright and make them feel more comfortable to be on stage to present to an audience on unfamiliar faces.
Go with the flow!
Lastly, help your child to go with the flow by teaching them how to remain calm and relaxed while on stage. Help your child out by avoiding preparations on the last minute or rushing them to prepare for the speech as this will have adverse effect on them as they will experience distress and nervousness causing them to be stuck, stammer or lost for words on stage. As a parent, you can help them by giving them a pep talk before they step on stage to deliver their speech. These pep talks before they head on stage will help reduce the anxiety build-up before their turn on stage which can be very nerve-racking for them to manage by giving them pointers or hints about their audience, revising the important points, some breathing exercise and giving them an encouragement before they head on stage. In addition, you can also tell your child to go with the flow of their speech in which impromptu connecting words they know together with the topic they are presenting which gives them a free flow to speak unscripted allowing them to engage fully with their audience.
To summarize, children with speech difficulties who wish to show their talents in public speaking will need help to foster their confidence to socialize. Their difficulties may make them feel incapable of publicly speaking their minds but as parents being there for them and guiding them along the way helps them overcome their fears of the stage and the audience. Thus, helping your child build up their resilience, their skills and confidence will get them far and beyond.
Thank you for reading through my tips for public speaking for children with speech difficulties. I hope these tidbits of information may help you and your child to build their confidence on stage and in society. Always believe in your child regardless of their difficulties to foster a brighter and happier future for them.
We've also prepared a Youtube video for a much more quicker digest of the tips for public speaking presented by our speech therapist, Hema:
Link to our video: https://youtu.be/bdOHSmfl0Jk
Alternative BGM version: https://youtu.be/swZ8CyytZnA