I have always loved words. What fascinated me was the manipulation of words to give the right amount of meaning and flavor to what I wanted to express. Words, I noted, can be used in a myriad of ways to create connections between people, reflect emotions, promote good will, make strong statements, and soothe anger.
In graduate school I learned that my interest had a name: Pragmatics, the use of language in a social contexts by knowing what to say, how to say it, and when to say it.
As a new SLP in hospital and preschool settings, I was drawn to SLPs, teachers, and professionals who formed an immediate rapport with clients and students and commanded their attention. By observing their techniques and skills, I discovered their secrets of success. For example, instead of asking “Do you want to color?”, I observed an SLP say to a 4-year-old, “It’s time to color. Do you want markers or crayons?” Providing information and offering choices allowed the clinician to be in control, the child to feel engaged, and resulted in a more productive session.
After my husband and I had our first child, a friend recommended the book How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. The authors, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, stress the importance of words in enhancing relationships with your child and provide techniques to accomplish this, such as reflecting feelings and using “I” statements instead of “you” statements.
When I decided to stay home after my fourth child, my home became my laboratory in using the tools outlined in this book, which had a tremendous influence on the well-being of my family. I joined a discussion group based on this book at the local Jewish organization for children and was later asked to lead a group.
I now provide parent education workshops and teleconferences based on the original How to Talk book as well as the How to Talk So Kids Can Learn at Home and at School. The tools outlined in these books give students the opportunity to develop higher-level language skills such as problem-solving, and asking and answering questions. Many parent participants in these workshops are teachers, physicians, SLPs, occupational therapists, and mental health professionals who want to use these techniques at home and work.
My love of words and background as an SLP has provided a professional niche as a parent educator and the rewards of helping parents and professionals communicate more effectively with children.
This article was published in ASHA Leader, January 20, 2009.
Soclof, A. (2009, January 20). A Love for Words, a Passion for Pragmatics. The ASHA Leader.