Ten important lessons my SLP colleagues taught me:

  1. Give direct, clear feedback when you don’t understand what a child is saying.  The honesty does not offend but helps the child know you WANT to understand.  It also serves as a role model to other children who may want to play and talk with that child but not know how to communicate and provide feedback.
  1. Use clear body language when conversing with children.  If the child is talking on and on and on, don’t be afraid to exhibit a “bored” expression.  Use the opportunity to illustrate the importance of listener feedback through facial expressions.
  1. Be exceeding patient with the child who has difficulty coming up with ideas and expressing herself.  Don’t try to fill in the blanks or hurry the child along.  Showing patience and explaining to other children that “Suzy is thinking and we can wait” is a lesson in civility and helps the anxious speaker to think and speak with greater ease.
  1. Help children organize their thoughts and comments with words such as “First… next… last…” It’s wonderful to see a child’s frustration turn to triumph when these three little words are presented as a guide.
  1. Don’t assume the quiet child who nods his head understands what you just said.  Provide opportunities for that child to repeat directions in a non-humiliating way.  Give him permission to say, “I didn’t hear you.  Can you say that again?”
  1. Behaviors that appear to exemplify motor planning deficits may, in fact, be language difficulties.  I continue to learn from my SLP colleagues about the impact of language challenges on movement, sequencing, and learning new skills.
  1. Teach voice volume control.  Just saying “Use an inside voice” is not enough for many kids.  Help them practice and don’t stop until they clearly understand the ways in which our voice volume and tone convey many different meanings.
  1. When a child achieves average scores on speech and language testing it does not necessarily mean that he has effective functional use of language in varying settings.
  1. Not all SLPs address pragmatic language… but I wish they did!
  2. All kids WANT to communicate and EVERY listener has a responsibility to help make that happen.

With love and thanks to all the fantastic SLPs with whom I have had the pleasure of working!

by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

image  By Jarry1250  (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 

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