Speaking loudly can be so tough! People don’t understand, so awareness about what causes it might be the key. Remember, they are there ones being ride, not you. All they needed to say was, ” can you lower your voice?” No need to tell you what to do or remind you of what you already know. If you’re voice bothers them, they are welcome to stand back! Here are my thoughts, from teaching preschool and kids for about 25 years:
*Get help. In my observations, loud talking is a trait that goes along with being neuro-diverse. A neuropsychologist or psychiatrist are Don’t be afraid to get a diagnosis for you or your child. That can open the doors of support with medication, behavior therapy, occupational therapy, biofeedback, etc. Take care of yourself, you deserve it! For families, make sure teachers and other adults understand as well. If your kids need it, use a 504 plan or IEP so they get a fair learning environment. Schools also provide help if you have an IEP. If their negative experiences cause anxiety or depression, that can be a factor to help your child get an IEP. Your kids aren’t being bad, they’re not ignoring their teachers or purposefully being rude. They should never be punished, but always supported.
For parents and teachers–
Speaking in a voice that is appropriate for the situation is a social-emotional skill that is affected by a child’s neurological and sometimes psychological development. In my career I’ve seen a lot of loud talkers, who are generally kids with ADHD, autism spectrum/Asperger’s, sensory seeking kids and kids with auditory processing disorder. There may be other things going on, but these things are what I have had experience with.
The problem is that these children can’t focus on the volume of their voices while they are focused on something else or distracted by something, whether in their own mind/body or something in their environment. I take a whole child approach, and this is what I learned from teaching these kiddos:
*Focus on supporting skills of paying attention to their bodies and responding appropriately; self-awareness, listening skills, and social-emotional skills. Give kids routine and structure to practice these skills. Just as you watched your kids to see if they were ready to potty train, bought them their own little potty, and encouraged them along the way, the foundational skill was paying attention to their bodies and responding appropriately.
In the same way, when we teach kids to take turns speaking, recognize how their body and mind feel, to problem solve conflict, communicate kindly with their friends, and practice public behavior; we teach them skills to hear themselves, interpret situations clearly and choose an appropriate voice for that situation.
*Make house rules about voices as well as behaviors. My rules about voices were simple and clear. Use inside voices indoors, shouting/big voices outside. Positive encouragement is key! You have the rules, but your kids will need help remembering them since they don’t focus well yet. Whispering in a child’s ear is helpful, especially if you put your arm around them or a hand on their shoulder. Walking over to a child who is loud is much more effective than hollering across a room. #guilty! It is hard to interrupt yourself to do this over and over, but well worth it in the long run. No child wants to feel like they are annoying their parents or teachers all the time.
*Speak to your child when you have their complete attention. Switching focus between something distracting and something they need to do takes a lot of practice. Role model giving them your complete attention too. ( I know, I love my phone too! The struggle is real!)
*Provide times for brain breaks or quiet time. Being over-stimulated or over-tired doesn’t help kids or us adults!! With a routine that includes breaks, kids focus easier on what their body is telling them. We used soft music to cue their brains. My favorite was James Taylor, but there’s soft music in almost all genres.
*There is power in using non-verbal signals. A hand on your child’s shoulder or arm around them shows them love and acceptance while you are reminding them to listen to their voice. Or when you catch their eye, use a ” turn the volume down” signal, finger to your lips, or a signal you’ve talked about that no one else will notice, like pulling on your earlobe. I always gave a thumbs up when I saw that I was acknowledged. Positive reinforcement and encouragement for effort is much more important than for success.
*Sometimes remind everyone- siblings or classmates, rather than just one child to use inside voices. It just feels better than being singled out.
*Help kids with transitions. Transitions tend to be difficult times for these kids, so when they are done with active play, outside play or something exciting or new, you can make the transition smoother by asking them to do some deep breathing or to make their bodies feel loose like spaghetti. Watch their bodies before moving on to help you know when they are calm. There are lots of children’s mindfulness CDs you can use as well. Short, daily time in mindfulness, prayer and/or meditation is very effective in helping focus and lower stress. I would watch to see when their bodies got settled before moving on with whatever needs to happen. Providing this routine helps them notice their body and learn to self- regulate.
*Give kids choices. Taking responsibility for choosing activities is an opportunity to have them plan what supplies they’d need, where they play and what kind of voice they could use.
*There is a lot of power in nonverbal teaching. A soft hand on a child’s shoulder, an arm around them, standing in their proximity without speaking, even blocking their sight- line when distracted helps them focus on your directions or questions completely.
Good luck, hope this helps!