Beyond Child’s Voice: Repair Strategies and self-advocacy

by Carrie Jackiewicz, Special Services Coordinator

Communication Repair Strategies are one part of the curriculum we use to teach self-advocacy skills at Child’s Voice. These strategies are important for our alumni when they enter their neighborhood schools; they must know how to use repair strategies to advocate for themselves when they do not hear or understand something that was said by their teachers or their peers.

These repair strategies can be broken into three different categories: asking for repetition, asking for clarification, and asking for more information.

When a student missed something that someone said, they can ask that speaker for a repetition.

One of the first repair strategies our students learn is, “What?” or “Huh?” which can indicate to a speaker that they did not hear or understand. Later, our students learn to use more questions to ask for repetitions, including:

“Can you repeat that?” 

“Would you say that again?” and 

“I didn’t hear what you said.”

As our students mature, their repair strategies mature as well, leading to specific questions that ask for clarification of what someone said. Some questions tell the speaker exactly what they need, such as:

“Can you say it slower?” 

“Can you say it louder?”

“Can you move closer to me so I can hear you?” and 

“Will you say the last part again?”

Even more specific questions are:

“Did you say ‘cat’?”

“Did you say ‘cat’ or ‘hat’?” or 

“I thought you said ‘hat’”

which let the speaker know what part of a sentence the listener did not understand.

Some repair strategies ask for more information about the topic, who someone is talking to, and for meanings of words. If a student joined a group conversation but they could not figure out what the group was talking about, they could say, “What are you talking about?”

If a student heard part of a teacher’s direction, but they were not sure who that direction was for, they could ask, “Who were you talking to?” 

Sometimes, a student will not understand a vocabulary word or a new concept that is being explained. Students can use the following questions to ask for more information:

“What does that mean?”

“I don’t know what ____ means”, and 

“Can you explain that?”

When I observe our alumni at their neighborhood schools, I listen for their use of these repair strategies. I love to hear them use the skills they learned at Child’s Voice. I am always so proud to see them advocating for themselves. If they advocate for themselves at school, I know they will advocate for themselves wherever they go, and that is exactly why we teach self-advocacy skills at Child’s Voice.