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Worried About A Little Chinese Girl


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I hope I have put this in the right place.

 

I am really worried about a little Chinese girl in my setting. She has been with us for 4 terms and has hardly uttered a word in all that time. She is very timid, rarely smiles or shows any sign of enjoyment of anything. She reminds me of a permanently startled rabbit!

 

She is the youngest of 5 children and all of them were also very reluctant speakers (but did speak by the end of their time in Nursery.) She speaks in Cantonese at home. She seems to understand everything that she is asked and can follow instructions. She is extremely creative and spends a lot of time colouring, painting etc but does not interact with other children at all and will not join in any sort of free play, preferring to cling to her TA.

 

She gets very upset if a different adult comes into the building and is very dependent upon her TA, who has not done much to help her integrate.

 

It is very difficult when she is upset as we don't know if she is in pain or anything. we have to fetch an older sibling from school if it seems really serious as her parents do not speak English well. We have talked about getting a set of cards with expressions/pictures on for her to use to show what is the matter but her TA has done nothing about it as she seems to enjoy her dependence upon her.

 

I realise that I have 2 issues to deal with (the child and her TA) but, being quite new to Nursery, I feel that I need some advice so that I can prepare her for school. I have talked to other TA's in school who have mentioned PECS but I don't know what that is or whether it would help.

 

Please would someone be able to help me - or give me some starting points

 

Thanks.

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PECs are a picture resource to help her communicate http://www.pecs.org.uk/shop/asp/default.asp

You could also try http://www.makaton.org/

 

My past experience with Chinese children is that they often attend 'Chinese school' at the weekend where parents are advised not to 'expose' them to English and this can cause a delay. The parents of a Chinese child who currently attends our nursery have refused a Speech and Language referral or support.

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If this child clings to TA and TA making no effort to integrate her then I would suggest you change her key worker. That way she has to get new relationship and prepares her for the change in September. I would also look at the communication fan sparklebox does to get her to at least express her needs to you. Become insistent on her answering you e.g. in register. Repeat yourself over and over in a patient but firm way until she responds - don't let her get away with not speaking.

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I think part of the problem is that she has been allowed to get away with not speaking for so long. But she is SO timid. I like the Communication fan idea because she will be communicating in some form. Will it be an excuse to not speak for even longer though?

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Guest Wolfie

What is her non-verbal communication like? Does she make eye contact with other children or adults, does she use gestures and expressions to communicate?

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A lot of areas have EMAS (Ethnic Minority Achievement Service) who are there to help with children who who have EAL. May be worth finding out is there is one locally who could help. This need not be a referral but asking for help and advice in the setting, but ours did come out to meet the child and parents when we needed help .

 

A lot will depend on her skills in her first language, it may be difficult to find out but if she is fluent and at the expected stage in her own language it may just be a shyness or reluctance to use english. A problem really arises if they are not fluent in their first language.

 

We had a child who never used language in the setting for 6 terms, emas helped with our understanding of why and that to force the issue can actually cause more delay. This child is now fluent in english and her other language and is happy to use both. we have a lot of EAL last year as we had 4 with the same language they used this in play and other children began to understand it and join in. A year on and the EAL children are fluent in both languages.

 

we found that by learning some of their first langauge often prompted them to speak to us, as we are often so bad they have to correct us...we were singing head shoulders knees and toes in 4 different languages at one time, all other children joined in and it became a game , children began to understand about different languages and it was beneficial to all.

 

Perhaps a change of keyworker or a share system may be of help to encourage her to be less dependant on 1 person, we always try to have more than 1 person who can act as keyworker for children, trying not to allow a child to become too dependant on 1 person, our feeling is what if they are ill, or not there , it can cause a lot of problems with a dependant child.

 

We use makaton for all songs we sing and at snack time and at other times as normal daily routine, PEcs may be helpful but as it is an exchange system may not be appropriate, whatever you you do keep using and modelling good English at all times, talk about what you are doing, and what the child is doing as well, surprising how much can come back when the child feels confident and ready.

 

Inge

 

 

 

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I am having a very similar problem to yours Kamillar with a Chinese girl in my class who has recently joined us. She is unwilling to speak and does not even use gesture! She is in Reception and has two older siblings who also attended the school. One was a selective mute throughout the school and one who spoke very little. We recently had the one who did speak a little on work expereince (she's now Yr 10) in the class next to us and she was really hard work. She barely spoke at all and did not even interact with her sister in school. In fact the two girls barely looked at each other all week.

We have just started her on a talking partner programme (not sure if you have this where you are - think it came from Bradford LA) which is used throughout school for EAL chn and chn with social difficulties. It is a 10 wk programme which is done by a NN/TA with 3 chn (20 min sessions three times a week). Am really hoping that it is going to make a difference - it works really well for our EAL chn so am quite optimistic. One of the TAs higher up the school is able to use BSL and so she is teaching me a little bit at a time. So far this has gone really well and at registration time this child is now able to sign and say good morning.

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Hi, I had a similar issue with an Indian girl in the nursery. She would come into nursery and just stand near the door. Then she started following me around and if I moved she would cry. She showed no other emotion or facial expressions in any situations but mum said she was very chatty at home. It has only been in the last couple of weeks that we seem to have had a break through. It sounds aweful but I had to start ignoring her and let my TA take her away from me. She played silly games with her got no reaction for about a month. Then one day the little girl started laughing! Now she comes into nursery smiling and showing us different things. She still has no English but talks in her home language to us.

I definately agree that you should change her key worker. The TA will have to get used to her not being there next year and surely she is not giving enough attention to the other children in the group? Have you heard of Boardmaker? It's a really useful resource where you can print off loads of pictures and symbols to use as visual timetables and cue cards,etc. It is quite expensive but well worth it if your setting will pay for it. We also find that talking through puppets or on toy phones helps children who will not talk otherwise.

Ariel, do you have any more information on the talking partners programme? Sounds interesting as I have quite a lot of EAL children.

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I agree with all the above, particularly with reference to changing her TA,who seems to be enjoying the situation.At my previous setting, we had a member of staff who picked out particular children and literally 'smothered' them with attention.When I picked her up on this it caused the most awful problems, but it had to be said. Adults like this are often very needy individuals, and are certainly not doing the child any favours.Interestingly, on a recent child protection course, the tutors were at pains to tell us that staff who behave this way, could be considered as abusers...........................that's another debate of course, but I'd definately go along with changing her.

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Thank you for all of your sound and in depth replies. It's reallynice to know that peopleare willing to give up valuable time to offer help.

 

I will certainly make steps to adress the dependence situation. I feel that I've maybe failed there by not being more confident enough to have done that before now. although it might involve both of them getting upset!!

 

I really like the idea of a communication fan with relevant pictures on. We do use some limited sign language in Nursery (well I do with my group for things like 'yes please', 'no thank you', fruit time, milk, water etc) but I don't know how much is done by her group and if she joins in too. I'll check that out. At least she will be communicationg in some form with her peers and other adults. I just think she must be so lonely and frightened behind thase tiny little expressionless eyes and I just wonder what goes on in her mind.

 

She doesn't like to play outside, although I have manged to get her to play on the slide a little, but only by herself. She generally avoids situations where there are lots of other children playing and will not make eye contact even if there's only one other with her. It has got to the point where the other children don't tend to make moves towards her or try to involve her in their play because they know she doesn't respond. Some of our older girls who are soon to move into school love role play do you think I could work with them to get her involved?

 

I had thought that we could do some thing that involved Chinese food or something that was more relevant to her life that might draw her out of herself. What do you think?

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Guest tinkerbell

I have read all the responses to your problem k and as usual there is some wonderful advice.I have absolutely no experience of a child with different language not speaking in class, i have had a mute which took nearly a year for her to come around I kept her as a year 1 and we made great progress and now she has moved on she is mute again!!!

How do you communicate with her parents? would there be any milage in inviting the parent in to see how the little girl was in class? The parent could perhaps help with the chinese food idea you are thinking of, perhaps a mini topic showing artefacts etc

Could you pair up the class for 5mins now and then ,to share books,talk about something (I know she isn't ready yet but she will seee what is expected), work on computer /beebot, making snack...is there a child she would work with?

Tinkerbellx

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Have you spoken to the parents about your concerns? Also with the food/culture it is sometimes better to get the home picture before well intentionally introducing a stereotype image which might not reflect reality.

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She may be just in the "silent" period of learning English as an additional language, which is quite normal. As you say she uses her home langauge seemingly confidently she should be able to develop her english use because she will be able to use the deeper understanding of language structures that she has as hooks. Does anyone use her home language in the setting - e.g. saying good morning in different languages anyway to encourage that cultures and beliefs aspect? Thare is a DFES publication here which may help.

 

Inclusive practice within a rich communicative learning environment is also very important - but forcing her won't help I'm afraid, most EAL learners will use their developing english in time and move out of the silent period. It's also important not to assume SEN though - if she's developing language in her first langauge in just the same way as monolingual speakers then cognitively she's operating at the same level.

 

Cx

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