Communication – What’s it all about?
In my job as a school speech/language pathologist I work with children with a variety of communication deficits and needs. One part of my job includes being a member of our autism spectrum disorder evaluation team. In that capacity I have been doing a good deal of testing lately.
On one particular test that I use there is a section entitled non-literal language which really looks at a child’s understanding of idioms and metaphors (such as sayings like – you are such a turtle or the sky was crying great big tear drops). The children hear these sayings in the context of a sentence or short paragraph and then are asked what these things really mean. It has been very interesting for me to see the range of not only ability to decipher these phrases, but also the range of responses I get. This obviously is an area that most of our students on the autism spectrum struggle with, but it has been very eye opening for me recently to see how children go about trying to figure out what it means. Some children are very literal and just give the exact meaning of the words. Other children try to use some thought and come up with an answer that is closer to the mark and yet others are able to interpret some phrases on not others.
I bring this up because this is directly related to the broadband communication experience in which people need to focus on all aspects of communication not just the words being said in order to accurately interpret the whole message being conveyed. How much harder is it to truly convey your meaning when speaking on the phone to someone that when talking to that person face to face. Most of the time our children on the spectrum are focusing so hard on the words that we say that they completely miss our body language, tone of voice, pitch, rate or facial expression which leads them to misinterpret our meaning. This difficulty can not only lead to frustration on their part, but on ours as well. That is why I have found it so beneficial to begin working on helping the children I work with in the schools to start interpreting non-verbal communication. I will sometimes spend an entire session without talking at all only communicating non-verbally. This is great fun and it is amazing to see what these students are really capable of.
In the upcoming weeks I plan to talk about communication a bit more and I am going to begin watching a bit more closely the non-verbal communication that takes place in my school. I think this should be an interesting study. I challenge you over the next week to try talking less and using non-verbals more. I bet you’ll be surprised with the results.
Talk to you soon,