The importance of ‘Hello’

Lessons Learned from Abroad

I have recently returned from the trip of a life time; a long awaited trip to France to watch the Rugby World Cup with my husband and tour the south of France.  It is the first time we have travelled abroad since having children many years ago so was very special for us both.  I took quite some time off blogging whilst I was away and just soaked up as much as I could from being immersed in a different culture and language.

Not being at all proficient in the French language, I was interested to see first hand how powerful the simple act of saying ‘Hello’ was.

“Bonjour!” with a smile was the most important word for us to learn and use when travelling in France.  I am guessing that it may be the most important communication starter in any language….

The simple act of being able to greet someone with a smile and word (be that verbal or non verbal) helps to offer warmth, positive connection and a start to any social interaction.  We started with a greeting when interacting with  Uber drivers, those in cafes and restaurants who were pouring our coffee or serving us our pastries and with those who passed us by on the street or at the various tourist locations we visited

  1. Do we focus on teaching the social communication act of greetings with our children? 

I am sure we do but I will be doing so now with far more gusto and intention than previously.


We managed to ‘get by’ with ‘Bonjour’ and ‘Merci’ as our only French words.  These words started and ended many of our social interactions successfully and in a positive, warm manner.

Learning these simple, positive communication rituals early teaches children how to start a conversation with another human in an appropriate manner.  Often when a child moves past ‘Hello’ , they start to feel more confident to engage.  It certainly breaks down that first hurdle which is so important for our hesitant and less able communicators.

Saying ‘hello’ doesn’t have to be verbal.  It can be communicated with eyes, hands (a wave) or even your body.  If we positively interpret a child’s attempts to greet us in whichever way they are able to, we will encourage this behaviour to grow.

For those children who find that saying ‘hello’ feels awkward or uncomfortable, we can continue to model this when they are with us.  Resist the urge to pressure your children to say ‘hello’ as we want them to associate greetings with positive emotions; not with angst or fear.

  1. How can I teach ‘hello’?

You can start by making it your intention to explicitly model saying ‘hello’ to others when your child is in your presence.  Use an animated voice and happy smiling face as you do so that your child is more likely to notice and learn from your modelling.

You can prompt your child to say ‘hello’ to others but start with those communication partners that your child […]


Personal Communication Dictionaries

Does your child or a child you work with communicate using unconventional gestures that are sometimes missed or misunderstood by others?

It may be challenging at times for others to understand your child’s emotional state, wants, needs and ideas especially if your child is nonverbal or if your child has a complex communication difficulty.

When we don’t respond appropriately or accidentally ignore a child’s communication signal, communication can breakdown and development can stall.

Creating a Personal Communication Dictionary for your child can help others to recognise your child’s efforts to communicate and reinforce these in positive ways.

A Personal Communication Dictionary is a document with information about the individual ways that your child communicates.

It details what your child does, what this might mean and how the communication partner can respond to the communication behaviour seen.

Why are Personal Communication Dictionaries Needed?

These documents can be incredibly helpful for communication partners as well as for your child.  Partners can get to know your child, recognise communication behaviours and interpret these communication attempts appropriately.  This helps back and forth interaction to grow.  When children have their emotional states, needs/wants and ideas understood by others, communication continues to grow.

Personal Communication Dictionaries can be compiled by Parents and/or Speech Pathologists and distributed to all other adults who spend time with your child.  Your child’s gestures, body language, facial expressions, vocalisations and signs can even be photographed and included in the dictionary.

A mix of text, photos and pictures can create a beautiful, authentic document all about your child and how your child communicates.

How to get started…

Head to and download your free template.

Start to write down in as much detail what your child does…any little idiosyncratic behaviour, sound, gesture or action your child makes to communicate.

Does your child jump up and down and flap his or her hands?

Does your child take you by the hand and drag you to the front door?

Perhaps your child likes to engage in repetitive humming when playing by him or herself?

Once you have detailed all of the behaviours, you can then match these behaviours to an interpretation of what your child may mean when he or she engages in each behaviour.

The final column can be used to explain to your child’s communication partners HOW they can respond in a way that will help your child.

Here is a quick example:

What I do

I place the palm of my hand on my chest and pat my chest repeatedly

What this might mean

I am learning the Key Word Sign for ‘more’.  When I use this gesture, I am communicating to you that I want more of the item, food or drink or I want you to do more of the action you are doing e.g. I often use this gesture if you are chasing me or tickling me and I want you to continue.

What you can do

Please acknowledge my attempts to request more.  Say ‘More!’ and model for me the Key Word Sign as you […]



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