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The SLT Blog: Communication Frustration

Bríd O'Connell, one of the Speech and Language Therapists at DSCNE has given some of her tips on: Dealing with frustration when a child can’t communicate their wants and needs.

Children with Down Syndrome often have speech and language difficulties that may impact on their ability to communicate what they want and also to be understood by others.

Below are some general hints and tips for dealing with moments of frustration.


  • Discuss frustration your child. You can use a visual such as the one below to explain different emotions and what they feel like in our bodies. For children who might have difficulty understanding the word “frustration”, you can talk about feeling “angry” instead.

  • Acknowledging that you can see they are frustrated is important for example “You’re angry, it’s hard to not get what you want”

  • Slow down the pace of what you are saying – model the calm voice, calm body you want to see from your child.

  • Be mindful of your own non-verbal cues for example frowning.

  • You can model phrases like "no," "stop," "wait," "my turn," and "me too."

  • Spoken words are not the only means of communicating and so Lámh can be really useful in this instance.

  • When playing with other children, look  for toys that don't require a lot of language to operate.

  • Inform other children that yours is attempting to be friends with them. Remain close by to assist in problem solving.

  • When your child manages their frustration well, give them praise.

  • Observe your child's attempts to communicate with you. Observe their behaviour and expressions; for example, a child who holds his stomach might be attempting to communicate to you that he is feeling ill.


In the moments of more intense frustration…

  • Decrease the overwhelm: children struggle to process information when they are under stress. While it may be tempting to jump in with lots of words and explanations of what’s happening, it may be more useful to speak less, listen more (with compassion), slow down, and use simpler language.

  • Less stimulation: In addition to talking less, it might occasionally be beneficial to gently move your child (if possible) to a quieter area.

  •  Less instruction: times of stress, frustration, and discomfort are not the times to teach something new. It’s important for your child to feel calm again before you can teach them something new.

We hope this helps - let us know what works for you and your family.

Photography by MIAN Photography&Training

DSCNE currently has two SLTs who both work two days a month. For more information check out our SLT area https://www.dscnortheast.ie/slt

You can add your child's details to our Expression of Interest list via : https://forms.office.com/e/tzcaJjazQj

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