Many times, students with communication disorders are mistaken for those that do not understand the material. It is not the student's fault, though. Sometimes their bodies decide what comes in and what goes out, rather than the student being able to choose. Let's look at some of the different ways our bodies interpret information when we struggle with communication.
Occasionally, our mouths tell our words to just stay quiet. The mouth tells the brain, "whatever you need to say can wait a while." This is why, even when we try with all our might, some words do not come out. We know what we need to say, but it is stuck on the tip of our tongue. Other times, our tongues make us use different words than what we have planned. Letters sound differently than what we imagined. Instead of the word being stuck on the tip, the tip of the tongue rewrites our sentences before we can change them back. Even our voice gets out of control. We talk too loud or too soft and are just as surprised as those around us. We may not always choose how our words come out, but we can certainly choose how we feel about it. If our mouths are out of control we can try communicating in a different way, like writing or pointing, and keep moving forward with the activity. Our mouths do not decide what we do, we decide.
Letters and printed words sound funny some days. We look down at a story to start reading and it seems we picked a book in the wrong language. Or, when we begin reading the sentences do not make sense. Maybe these strange stories are just a new way of speaking though. We can learn how other people communicate. We like to understand others, so learning how others speak is a great way to achieve our goal. We know others do not always understand us, either. Maybe we can teach them what we mean by showing pictures or writing down what we mean. It is important to keep trying. We want our friends and teachers to know our different ways of speaking will not block our success and fun together.
Hearing and Auditory Processing
What do we do when we cannot hear what our friends are saying and we have already asked, "what?" Lets think. We could: write down our thoughts, draw our thoughts, use pictures to explain what we mean, or we could use motions with out hands - as long as no gets hurt. Why is it hard for us to understand, though? Most people use their ears to hear and a few of us use different parts to hear. The different part used is not always the same for you as it might be for me. So, voices have to go through a maze to find where to be heard and do not always find the exit. It may also be hard to hear if our brains decide to forget what we have just heard and do not tell us someone is speaking to us. Even if we cannot control how or when we hear, we can still control how we feel about it. Let's keep trying until both of us understand one another and we will achieve much more than if we just give up!
Remember to wait for friends to finish their own sentences. They know what they want to say, you do not have to tell them.
Make a plan with your teacher on how to ask for help.
Always look at the person you are trying to talk to or work with. They may not know you are talking to them if your eyes are focused on something or someone else.
Say what you can, even if you think you will not finish. A few words help find the rest of them.
Take your time. Our bodies need enough time to adjust to the new ideas we create. Let your mouth and ears figure it out, even if you have to go slow.
Remember we are not all the same, but that does not mean we cannot get along! Help your friends and teachers and let them help you in return when they can!
My Future Classroom
My goal, while teaching and in every day interactions, involves waiting much more than I currently practice. I will look the students in the eyes and wait for them to give a response, verbal or nonverbal. I have rushed through many conversations and have seen first hand how it affects those close to me.
The idea of creating a tailored plan for students with communication disorders sounds both exciting and beneficial. The student could and should be involved in the process of developing the plan, letting the student know I care and what to help in the learning process. Everyone needs help at some time, and no should be excluded because they do not know how to ask for help.
The best way to teach a child how to slow down and relax is to show him or her. I do not mean bringing out a step by step rubric or a list of check points. I mean I am going to decidedly change my behavior to reflect how I want my students to perform during their own difficult times and their classmates difficult times. The best way to teach is by example.