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My daughter has impaired speech, and although she’s received therapy for many years, it still can be difficult to understand her. We find that her speech is clearest when she has enough time to take a deep breath, slow down and stretch out her words.
When she’s excited, anxious, or feels rushed, it makes for garbled speech production. At times, people mistake her inability to express herself clearly as a lack of intelligence – which simply isn’t true. Her frustrated huffing accompanied by an eye roll isn’t a behavior issue, it’s the result of an all-too-often dismissive approach.
If you have someone in your life that has difficulty with speech production, here are some tips to help minimize frustration:
- Admit you did not understand. Ask for a repeat. It’s OK to ask someone to repeat what they’ve said. Still can’t figure out a word? Ask clarifying questions to help:
- What color is it?
- What do you do with it?
- Is it a person? Place? Thing?
- Don’t pretend to understand. Nodding your head in understanding (when you don’t) and saying things like “Oh, uh-huh, I see!” is dismissive and frustrating.
- Don’t talk louder or more slowly. It is YOU who doesn’t understand – the person trying to communicate KNOWS what they are saying. Unless a person is hearing impaired, or requires more time to process words, don’t change your sound, tone, or speed; it may be viewed as condescending.
- Don’t complete someone’s sentences. Unless you are the person’s Bestie, don’t finish a sentence for them.
- Ask for confirmation. Repeat the sentence back to ensure understanding. “Oh, so chicken pot pie is your favorite dinner?”
- Be patient. Allow enough time for a complete response. No one likes to be cut off mid-sentence.
In summary, using the 6 strategies above can help us listen to understand rather than listen to reply, reduce frustration, and improve communication with those who have impaired speech production.