My first post CF job as a SLP in a rural Florida school many years ago, was a bit interesting. The SLP before me had apparently gone a bit off the rails, by choosing to not do any IEPs for the year. Yikes! I worked through my caseload of more than 80 kiddos that year by getting creative, setting up centers in my tiny room and slogging through that towering pile of IEPs to get them up to date. It was a huge learning curve for me!
One of the things my littles told me was that the aforementioned SLP would also tell them “no talking” in speech as she put in a movie for them to watch every day. “No talking in speech???” I thought in a huff. While that “therapy” is definitely not effective or appropriate, it sparked a memory of the Hanen Program that I had used in my hospital internship. “It Takes Two To Talk” is still such a great resource for families working on language development and they have added the “Make Play Rock” series for supporting language growth in kids on the spectrum. The concept of OWL: Observe, Wait and Listen, has stuck with me all these years. Here’s a great info-graphic from Hanen about this technique HERE .
To generalize our field, we love to talk and we are word nerds extraordinaire! However, with many of my students on the spectrum, constant talking is like turning a fire hose on their brains. They need quiet and time to process all the language demands headed their way. I try to share with the teachers that I work with, especially when my kids head into inclusion classes, that the premise of OWL is really important…and hard to do!
Less language is also crucial when our kids melt down. Talking is often not helpful in these circumstances, in fact, it tends to tick them off more. Reducing sensory input, including language, can calm a situation down and give the child the ability to reset themselves emotionally. You can find a time later to process what happened without the emotion of the event, and it is much more effective!
I have also found with my students on the impulsive side of the curve, that teaching them to use this technique results in people wanting to engage with them more often. When they see that the student isn’t going to talk over them or interrupt them, and will actually listen to what they are saying, that makes them a valuable friend. Good listeners are hard to find these days!
It may feel like the opposite of what we are supposed to do, but in reality sometimes it’s okay for the SLP not to talk! Share your thoughts here….