‘It Takes Two to Talk’- encouraging communication

Participants Diana Hendersen and Bruce Kij are guided through their course work by VisAbility Speech Pathologists Helena Challis and Julie Flynn

We often underestimate the ways we communicate. As humans, we adopt a total communication approach and this includes speech, facial expressions, gestures, eye contact and much more.

Participants Diana Hendersen and Bruce Kij are guided through their course work by VisAbility Speech Pathologists Helena Challis and Julie Flynn

That’s the basis of the Hanen Program (link opens in new window) focuses on all these areas with its parent-centred program ‘It Takes Two to Talk’.

As the name suggests, the program aims to guide and empower parents, so they can build a rapport, encouraging effective communication and interactions between themselves and their child to help their children learn language naturally throughout their day together.

Establishing a connection

The course is currently offered by VisAbility to parents of younger clients aged between 0 and 5 with language delay. The small group sessions are held at the Perron Centre once a week over an eight week span with additional home visits for one-on-one parent coaching feedback.

“We’ve seen a lot of success with this well-established Hanen program at the Perron Centre where parents coming together as a small group. During the session we establish individual goals which parents want their child to achieve. They then go away and put what they’ve learnt into practice” explains Helena .

We don’t just advise on communication, we also highlight the importance of interaction

Helena Challis
Speech Pathologist

Letting the child lead

The program includes three individual home visits from a speech pathologist where children and their parents are filmed putting techniques into practise. Guidance is then given on how to modify and improve their approach.

“At first I wasn’t sure what I’d make of being filmed and felt a little awkward, but this critiquing is very good. When you watch back the film, you can see areas where you can improve and the therapists are always encouraging,” explains Bryce Kij, participant and dad to three-year-old Dania.

VisAbility Speech Pathologists Helena Challis and Julie Flynn are both certified to deliver the ‘It Takes Two to Talk’ workshop. Established thirty-five years, Hanen is pioneering in its approach to communication and language development, providing strategies which are easy to implement.

“The ‘It Takes Two to Talk’ program offers practical advice and support, encouraging parents to say less, stress key words, to slow down, show and have more meaningful interactions. We want adults to follow their child’s lead and use opportunities to add language to all routines and activities,” explains Julie.

Putting strategies into practise

Diana says the course is making her more of her interactions with her son, Patrick

One of the parents enjoying the rewards is Diana Henderson, mother to 18 month old Patrick, who has a vision impairment and developmental delay.

“I have learnt some new terminology and new practices here including ‘owling’ so I have become a better conversational partner. Essentially this technique makes you more aware. I go down face-to-face with Patrick, communicate at his level and allow him to take the lead,” Diana explains.

The mum of three participates in the program when Patrick is at the VisAbility playgroup.

“I’m now using these techniques on his two older sisters who are seven and five.”

Fellow participant Bruce Kij has also embraced the “It Takes Two to Talk” strategies for himself.

“My daughter has a life-limiting condition. She was in and out of surgery in her younger years so has delayed language and developmental skills. As a stay-at-home parent, I’m embracing what I’ve been taught,” Bryce explains.

”As adults we charge ahead, but we need to slow down for our children. This course has taught me to be more observant. By being more repetitive, animated and interactive with my daughter, communication is improving.”

“Speech Pathologists Julie and Helena give clear instructions, offering encouragement to practice these techniques. The critiques after the filming are invaluable. It’s not just my daughter who’s benefiting, but also myself. I am a solitary person but I’m getting insights on interaction, so it’s beneficial all around.”

Hanen Program outline

The key elements of the Hanen ‘It Takes Two to Talk’ program include:

  • Recognising your child’s stage and style of communication so you know the steps to take
  • Identifying what motivates your child to interact so you can get conversations started
  • Adjust everyday routines to help your child take turns to keep interactions going
  • Follow your child’s lead to build confidence
  • Add language to interactions with your child so they can start to use it when they are ready
  • Modify the way you play and read books to help them learn language
  • Alter the way you speak to your child so they understand new words.

‘It Takes Two to Talk’ requires a significant time commitment from parents in order to ensure the best possible learning experience. Once you’ve completed the program however, the strategies you’ve learned will become such a natural part of the way you interact with your child that you won’t even notice you’re using them. The commitment you put in will pay off during every interaction you have with your child.

Funding is available through the NDIS. If you’d like to learn more, please apply for services here.

Visit the therapy page for children and youth or early intervention to learn more about therapy services on offer.