Clients, Dreams, and Transformations- Why my job is rewarding

I have had plenty of time to reflect on why I am so lucky. I am lucky to work with amazing clients that inspire me to be a better person each and every day.

I am lucky that I am not faced with the struggles that so many of my clients struggle with. I am lucky to witness the powerful transformations that each of my client experiences on their recovery journey.

I work with many clients who have suffered tremendous losses due to an auto accident and resultant brain injury.

Every client is different but each one has an amazing story – a story that I have the privilege of taking part in. I am allowed to experience, and help that client create their “new normal”.

The clients that succeed most amazingly, are those who embrace that newness.  Those who are able to see clearly how they are different — not only where the difference is negative, but where the new person is often better in many ways than before… sometimes more resilient…. Sometimes more creative… sometimes more patient.

Dreams can come true

Together, my clients and I are striving to shape this newness into something fantastic. Today, I got to experience some of the fun that goes along with this creative process.

Searching for the tools to make goals and dreams possible. This is what a Speech-Language Pathologist does.

What are you communication goals?

Five Steps to Improve Your Family’s Communication

shutterstock_81152836Strong communication among family members is said to be one of the top five factors present in families that thrive.

Working in the field of communication as a Speech-Language Pathologist, I know effective communication among family members is essential to a happy, healthy family but that doesn’t make it easier to accomplish during the hustle and bustle of everyday activities.

Communication, time to sit and have meaningful conversations with our family members, seems to be getting lost in today’s fast paced world.

In praise of slowness

I was motivated to focus on my family’s communication after watching a recent TED talk by journalist Carl Honore: In praise of slowness.

He described a letter that new undergraduates entering Harvard are receiving and the title of the letter is: Slow Down!

It seems that even prestigious educational institutions are realizing that you will get more out of life if you put on the brakes.  They are encouraging new students entering Harvard to do less and give more time to things – time that things need.

Time is a great first step towards improving your family’s communication.  Here are some suggestions to challenge your family to include more effective communication in your family’s routine.

Step One: Slow Down!

Carl Honore makes a point of highlighting that if people slow down at the right moments you can do everything better.

You can eat better, work better, live better.  The same goes for communication.  Trying to do more and more in less and less time to race to the finish line at the end of the day leaves little time for talking.

Slowing down will bring your family closer together and give more opportunities to share your thoughts and feelings.

Brainstorm with your family to see what things can be done more efficiently or not at all to make a little more to slow down.

Is there a meal that everyone can join at the end of the day with the tv turned off?  Can bedtime preparations be given a little more time to slow things down rather than resorting to the One-Minute Bedtime Story series?

Can you plan to drive somewhere a little farther to have time to talk and catch up in the car?

Step Two:  Keep your messages clear and concise.

If you have something important to discuss with a family member – be aware of their age and attention span.

Going into a lengthy description of a problem you are having will more than likely mean you will lose your audience, young or old.

Making clear, simple, statements will allow your concerns to be better received and there is a greater chance you will get family members to listen.

Step Three:  W.A.I.T.

If a family member comes to you wanting to discuss an important issue always keep in mind – W.A.I.T.: Why am I talking?

The key to successful communication is to be a good listener.  The person who is talking gets the floor to share their thoughts and ideas.

Avoid interrupting and if you have something to say think about why you are talking.  Repeat what the person has said to ensure you understand what they are saying.

Ask yourself, have you really listened to what the other person is trying to tell you first?  Do you understand what they are trying to tell you?

Step Four: Communicate face-to-face – use positive facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language.

Communication includes both the words that you use as well as non-verbal language.  In fact, research has shown that only 7% of what you communicate is done so with actual words.

The remainder of your message is relayed using your body language and tone of voice.

It is important to consider that the benefits of effective communication with family members requires face-to-face close physical proximity.

Consider your gestures and body language.  Nod your head in agreement to show that you are listening and engaged in what your family member is saying.

Show when you are confused so the person you are talking with can clarify what they are saying.

As much as you think about the words that you use, think about how you are sitting – do you have your arms crossed looking impatient or are you sitting comfortably so that your family member knows that you are listening?

Use a calm tone of voice to let the person you are talking with feel comfortable taking their time to communicate what is on their mind at this moment.

Step Five: Ask specific or open-ended questions

When we ask questions at the end of the day such as, “Did you have a good day at school?” your chances of having a longer, meaningful conversation with your child are slim.

Open-ended questions will likely spark more spontaneous conversations.  For example, “What was the best part of school today?”  “What did you think of the dessert I packed for you?”

If your question can be answered with “yes” or “no” that may be the end of your communication attempt.

Try making mental notes of friends and events that are happening during your child’s week so that you can ask more specific questions such as,

“Who did Mr. Jackson have to send to the principal’s office today?”

“Where did Abby and her family go on her vacation this year?  I saw that she was back in school today.”

Overall, be aware that communication is key to your family’s success and try to find ways to talk more together.  Be present, enjoy your conversations; however short or long, and appreciate that the multi-tasking universe that we live in doesn’t work for everything.

Autism Spectrum Disorder and Thinking “Socially”

What Are Cognitive-Communication Disorders?One in 88 children is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Asperger syndrome is considered by many to be the mildest form of ASD.

The social communication deficits evident in children with Asperger syndrome include lack of turn taking in conversation, lack of typical eye contact, body language, and facial expression and trouble making and keeping friends.

Thinking socially is an abstract concept and difficult to discuss since it is something we usually learn intuitively.

The Foundation

Often, children with AS will say they don’t care about having friends.  However, it is a social world. Children with AS will grow up to be teens and young adults with AS. So, the sooner they are taught to think socially the better it will be for them to assimilate in high school, college, job interviews etc.

Parents can assist their children with AS to think about how other people think and start to build those social skills. The goal of thinking and behaving in a social way is that others will have positive or good thoughts about us and want to return to chat again.

This is the foundation of friendship building.

How You Can Help Your Child “Think Socially”

Initially, parents and kids can discuss who a “friend” can be. Friends are typically close to us geographically, have similar interests and are close in age.

Let’s break down the steps of how to approach a person we would like to talk to:

  1. Start by choosing someone who is an appropriate choice at that time. For example, choosing a peer waiting in line for the school bus is better than when they are in the library. What would other people think if you approached them in the library?  Or, in the school bus line-up?
  2. Getting your body close enough but not too close to the other person (about one arms length away). What would people think if you stood too far? Or, too close?
  3. Ensure your body is turned toward them and your shoulders are relaxed. What would other people think if your body was turned away from them or you shoulders were riding high?
  4. Your body is in the right space. Now confirm your intention to initiate a conversation with your eyes by looking at the person’s eyes. What would people think if your eyes were looking at the ground?
  5. Start with a greeting and then select a topic that you think the other person would like to talk about. What would your classmate think if you talked about your science project? What would your grandmother think if you only talked about video games?

Parents can point out social situations that include these steps. Whether on TV or in your own families, be sure to point out the step and what the people involved may be thinking and how are enjoying the social time together.