Break a Leg! Using Theatre to Improve Communication Skills
Sometimes the last thing parents and teachers consider for children with speech disorders is putting them on stage, but it’s time to consider theatre as an amazing opportunity for enrichment that can actually improve communication skills. Whether your child is ready to take on Shakespeare or more content to watch a children’s play at the local cinema, try to bring a little theatre into your child’s life.
Acting for Everyone – Even those Who Need to Improve Communication Skills
What do Bruce Willis, Julia Roberts, and Samuel Jackson have in common with approximately 8-9% of Kindergarten students in the United States? Both groups of people have battled speech impairments. You might not be surprised about the fact that almost 10% of young kids struggle with communication skills, but it is sometimes hard to reconcile that people who rely on their voices (and can earn Oscars in part because of it) were once children who battled speech disorders. In fact, Samuel Jackson turned to acting because of his speech disorder. As with so many things in life, practice and the repeated opportunities to build skills are sometimes he most effective remedy, and participating in the theatre can have positive impacts on those who need to improve communication skills.
Acting in school productions, community theatre groups, as part of a children’s club, church event, or other activity can give your child with a speech disorder such as stuttering or an articulation issue the opportunities to do several things.
- Theatre coaches can teach kids who are anxious about public speaking methods for better breathing techniques, accent modification, and more, which are often tied to speech clarity.
- SLPs and voice coaches can help children learn vocal hygiene – how to care for the body parts most typically related to the voice (throat, facial muscles, etc.). The theatre is no stranger to voice coaches, so a child who participates in this type of enrichment program will be exposed to reinforcement of vocal hygiene.
Why Behind the Scenes Work Can Improve Communication Skills
Your child doesn’t have to be on stage during the performance in order to build communication skills and experience enrichment outside of the typical classroom. Working on set design, costuming, and props can give great benefits to kids struggling with speech disorders.
- They get to feel like part of a team, which is something they might not experience in the classroom.
- They gain more experiences for listening skills, following directions, and working in small groups.
- They are exposed on a regular basis to the actors and actresses who are using their voices to communicate, non-verbal cues on stage, and more.
Join the Audience and Improve Communication Skills
If your community doesn’t offer opportunities for children to participate either on stage or behind the scenes, your child can still benefit from theatre experiences. Live performances on stage are lessons in communication skills. They teach about things such as:
- Voice inflection
- Body language
- Voice tone and quality
- Accents and dialects
- Volume and clarity
- Listening skills
The theatre might seem like the last place you would look for enrichment activities for your child who has a speech disorder, but it can actually provide some very pertinent lessons and benefits. If you’re searching for an activity to support your child’s opportunities to build communication skills, make sure you explore your local theatre options with your child. Break a leg!