Practice techniques

There are lots of ways to help you learn communication skills:

• The quickest way is to video yourself for a few minutes, then replay and discuss with an adult. It's easy to see what needs changing. It may be uncomfortable but the result is worth it. Continue until you are successful. If you don't own a video camera, borrow one from school or elsewhere for a session.

• Alternatively, get an adult to mirror exactly what you say and do, then discuss it afterwards.

• Get someone to help you role-play. Check your eye contact, face talk, voice and body talk. Do you sound serious or friendly, assertive, passive or aggressive?

• Try out the skills with dolls, soft toys or puppets.

• Keep a record of your new, improved skills, e.g. smiling more, speaking louder.

• Get someone to take 'before' and 'after' photos of how you smile, stand and move while you aren't aware.

• Practise communication skills every day. Reward small changes

Acknowledge, reward and praise any new, assertive behaviour, even if it is a tiny step in the right direction. For example, reward the girl who smiles when she relates a positive move, or the boy who sounds less miserable than he did the day before. When they do it naturally, point it out. Here are some examples:

eye contact, a real smile, being friendly to other children, sitting quietly (not shuffling their feet), and being empathic to a schoolmate.

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