Communication Strategies for Therapists

April 26, 2024
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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As we celebrate National Speech-Language-Hearing Month this May, we’re reminded of the universal challenge and importance of clear communication — not just for those specializing in speech and language but across all therapy disciplines.

As speech-language pathologists, we have a toolkit of strategies that help. We hope these ideas can be as beneficial for PTs and OTs as they have been for us, making every therapy session more meaningful.

1. Understanding Without Words

Sometimes, what we don’t say speaks loudest. Observing a patient’s nonverbal cues, like hesitation or discomfort, can tell us a lot. How we position ourselves, our facial expressions, and even how we arrange our therapy space can make everyone feel more at ease. It’s about creating a space where trust grows naturally.

2. Bringing Visuals into Play

We’ve found that visuals can bridge gaps where words might fall short for kids. Something as simple as a drawn-out exercise or a colorful diagram explaining a body part’s function can light up a client’s understanding. It’s about making complex things simple and accessible.

3. Leveraging Tech in Small Ways

Even basic technology can help overcome communication hurdles. Apps that simplify communication, show pictures instead of words, and convert speech into text have opened new doors for us and our clients. It’s less about the gadgets and more about connecting better.

4. The Beauty of Simple Language

We’ve learned that clarity beats complexity any day. Using simple, everyday language ensures our patients grasp what we’re saying and keeps them engaged and involved. It’s not dumbing down; it’s about ensuring understanding.

5. Encouraging Two-Way Conversations

We make every session a dialogue, not a monologue. Asking for feedback or thoughts helps our kiddos feel heard and often gives us insights we might have missed. It’s not just about instructing; it’s about listening and adapting.

6. Stories That Teach and Connect

We’ve noticed that sharing stories or using metaphors can sometimes illustrate a point better than any textbook explanation. Stories help us find common ground, relate, and motivate.

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