Ready to Learn Part 2: Teaching Your Child During COVID-19

COVID-19 has not only disrupted your life, but your child’s educational needs. We know definitively that your child is not returning to school in mid- April, so what now? You have to help your child maintain some semblance of normalcy. This week we will work on setting realistic goals and expectations for your child’s learning and daily needs during this lock down. The first step is to create a realistic  Weekly Event Calendar for your child. The calendar will now become your child’s daily routine.  Below you will see a replica calendar that was created for a client. For privacy reason, I changed the name to Imeh. Imeh means peace in my language (Ibibio).  We did not put a set time on Imeh’s calendar because there will be off and on days.  There may be days Imeh will not want to wakeup at 8:00am and we kept that in mind as we created the calendar. For example, on a day Imeh decides to wake up at 11:00am and not at 8:00am, Imeh still has to brush her teeth, but if Imeh sees that on her Calendar, 11:00am is schoolwork time, Imeh may insist on doing schoolwork. Your child may refuse to wake up on your set time, and because you had written time into the Calendar, it may confuse your child. Therefore, it is best to  focus on establishing consistency and not focus on time management at this time.

Imeh’s Daily

Weekly Events

Simplifying the Steps to Brushing Teeth

Prior to COVID-19,  you and your child’s ABA providers or special education teacher may have been working on independently brushing her teeth, or independently getting dressed but you are not able to maintain that goal.  It is okay to modify that goal. Below is how we modified Imeh’s goals .

  1. Imeh will follow her mom to the bathroom independently with less than 6 verbal prompts with 80% consistency.
  2. Imeh will identify her toothbrush and will allow mom to assist her in brushing her teeth with 7 verbal encouragements with 70% consistency.

How will you reward your child for completing her goals?

Reward system

  1. Plan with your child on what she wants to earn, after completing each task.
  2. Be sure the reward last long enough for you to be able to get ready for the next activity on the schedule ( give about 15 to 20 minutes break).
  3. While I am not a big fan of putting a child on the screen first thing in the morning, desperate times do require flexibility, therefore, your child should be allowed to earn her TV time for anything that is completed successfully.
  4. Put a time limit on the TV watching, she can earn time back after completing more work.
  5. Consult with your ABA or other providers, what they used as a reinforcement that worked.
  6. Use a timer on your phone or download a time timer https://www.commonsense.org/education/app/time-timer
  7. When it comes close to transitioning time, start reminding your child that the time is almost up.
  8. Remind your child that when the timer goes off, it will be time to eat breakfast.
  9. Don’t walk over and turn off the TV, as it may upset your child and cause meltdown, rather encourage your child to check the calendar.

How We Simplified Imeh’s Breakfast Expectations

  1. Imeh will transition to the breakfast table when her timer goes off with less than 6-8 reminders
  2. With encouragements, Imeh will eat 60% of her food prior to the timer going off.
  3. Imeh will finish her breakfast when the timer goes off (make sure to give your child 30 minutes, before you encourage her to cleanup).
  4. With verbal prompts and hand over hand (if needed), Imeh will assist in cleanup of breakfast utensils with 70% consistency with 6 verbal reminders.

Your child is probably doing all  of  the above skills independently and if so make your goals slightly higher. However, because we are working towards having consistency and making our lives easier to manage, starting with lowering our expectations reduces our stress.

How will you reward your child for completing her goals?

  1. Be sure to give room between each routine of about 10-20 minutes.
  2. Your child may need to go to the bathroom before schoolwork starts, that gap between activities allows for the bathroom break.
  3. During the reward break, it is also time for you to collect your activities and be ready to support your child’s educational needs.
  4. Include a mental break for yourself. Make sure the reward last long enough for you to be able to get ready for the next activity on the schedule and also have a coffee or tea break.
  5. Given that your child is about to work on cognitive tasks (learning), this maybe a great opportunity to have a calm quiet reward.
  6. Your child can listen to her favorite music and jump around etc., in a safe area until you are ready.

Setting Up your Learning Station

This will be different for each child. Some children work best at the table and others work best on the floor.  Your child’s work area should be clear of any distractions. It should only have items needed for learning. Please don’t setup work area in the room most traveled or near the area your child plays at.

childon ipadThis child learns best working on computer

This child learns best on a table with no clutter tablework

sittingbeansThis child learns best with sitting on a bean bag

 

 

Essential Tools for Any Child’s Learning Area

  • Preferred sensory toys (please consult with your OT)
  • Visual schedule of intended work
  • Break Schedule and type of breaks
  • Timer
  • Boxes for storing the tasks.

How to Work with Your Child

It is important to start from the bottom to the top. This means use this week as a setting up routine and reviewing work week. Go through the packages the teacher sent home and take out things you know your child is familiar with and has done in the past. Keep things simple

Simple Learning Goals for this Week

  1. Imeh will sit and complete 3 peg board with less than 7 reminders
  2. Imeh will complete 3 sorting trays with less than 5 reminders prior to taking a break.

This has not been an easy week, but I hope by sharing some of these ideas, I am helping in some ways. Know that we are all going through a defining moment. There are numerous online resources that has great ideas. Please click on the links below for more resources.

https://www.superduperinc.com/landing/onlinelearning.aspx

https://teach.com/online-ed/psychology-degrees/online-masters-applied-behavior-analysis/aba-digital-autism-resources/

https://www.commonsense.org/education/app/time-timer

https://www.commonsense.org/education/app/choiceworks-calendar

staff_54_2223410517
Uduak (Udie) Osom holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology from San Jose State University. Udie has served students of all ability levels from preschool through grade 12, for over 20 years. She is very passionate about neuro-developmental disabilities and social-cognitive disabilities. She is the owner/director of Innovative Therapy Services, a pediatric speech, language and social skills clinic in Santa Clara, CA. She can be reached at ussom@pediatricspeech.com.

How to Implement Visual Schedule for Learning At Home Due to COVID-19

I am sure most teachers have given children packages and are probably expecting you to implement them, but how do you start when you are so overwhelmed, working and also trying to calm your child down? First things first, it is okay to feel overwhelmed, COVID-19, has taken  the world by storm.  Let’s start by simply using this week to create a schedule and a routine.  I know it is not what we had all hoped for, but it has happened and so we must all work together to make this transition as smoothly as possible for our children.  Many are back on track with teachers and are working via online learning with your teachers. However, not all of our children are that fortunate, some children are going to have a rough patch for a couple of weeks, unless they have consistent schedule and routines. If we can create some normal daily routines for those kids that rely heavily on sameness or are have a tough time with transitioning it will make teaching  easier.

Let’s start with the basics of a visual schedule. A visual schedule is a set of pictures or words that shows what is happening daily. Parents with children diagnosed with Autism are familiar with visual schedules, but most of them have not had to take on the teacher roll. We are going to work first on creating visual schedule so to assist in establishing routines for school work at home.  The visual schedule will help your child  know what activities he is going to engage in daily. This will help you and your child feel less anxious and feel more in control.

How to create your schedule?

Schedule2

schedule3

Step 1: Make a list of your daily routine and also the schoolwork you plan to implement daily.  It is important to start with the schoolwork your child enjoys and is successful at and in the future you add new assignment. Start your list with familiar routines. Your routine will include common occurring tasks and instead of school put “School work.”

Math2

Math1

 

 

 

 

Soting

My advice is to cut out the pictures so you can move them around on your Calendar, because when things change, and the routine on the Calendar stays the same, you may end up with a very unhappy child.

Step 2

I am hoping you have a laminator at home to cut out the pictures and laminate, but if you don’t, just tape the pictures onto an index card or card stock or any hard surface paper. Then Velcro as shown  above and if you do not have Velcro use tape.  During work time also have a schedule for expected work and along with  the work a reward system to help the child stay on task.  There are lots of resources out there.  You can make your own reward board or order  you can buy from Amazon. More ideas to come. To find ideas and pictures for your schedule  or activities below:

https://lessonpix.com/clipart,

http://www.silverliningmm.com/

https://www.lakeshorelearning.com/resources/free-resources?ref=hpS2

staff_54_2223410517
Uduak (Udie) Osom holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology from San Jose State University. Udie has served students of all ability levels from preschool through grade 12, for over 20 years. She is very passionate about neuro-developmental disabilities and social-cognitive disabilities. She is the owner/director of Innovative Therapy Services, a pediatric speech, language and social skills clinic in Santa Clara, CA. She can be reached at ussom@pediatricspeech.com.

A Successful Play Date for A Child with Social Challenges

In our Lions group we have been teaching the kids how to engage in dramatic play (pretend play) related to meal planning.  We began our group using unstructured dramatic play themes and quickly realized that our clients needed more of a systematic frame work. We moved from unstructured dramatic play to a more structured dramatic play,  but the goals remained the same. With  structured dramatic play, children can be given specific guidance. This allows opportunity for them to fill in the missing steps in their play. Using the structured approach, we are able to create pre-determined scenarios and then the children are able to make choices and discover solutions. You can easily do this at home too.

First step, create visuals to front load your child on expectations and addressing conflicts. Front Loading is a strategy  that is commonly used to provide students predetermined guidance and reminders for applying necessary skills, strategies, and behaviors to be successful in the day’s learning.  Secondly, do not bring too many children into the scene, I suggest just 1-2 children (children that match your child’s personality or are patient). Different children will need different levels of facilitation during play dates.   Your child may need assistance with waiting his or her turn (i.e., recognize whose turn it is, verbalize when it is his turn, and notify his friend when it’s his or her turn), request items from a friend (i.e., ask for a card or a game piece that he needs), give his peers eye contact during play, increase pretend play, and increase sharing and showing toys to peers. Keep the play date loosely structured and be sure it is not longer than 60 minutes for the first 3 sessions. Build the play date around a theme, like making things together. Create a simple outline or objective that you are able to tract progress. See below some objectives.

  • My child will  use her/his phrases to give instructions to her/his partner or protest during the activities.
  • My child will send he/his partner to go and retrieve the needed items using the appropriate phrases, body language and proximity
  • My child and her/his friend will take turns making the sandwiches
  • My child will engage in pretend play while eating the sandwich, making comments to the animal and play partner.

Create Visual for Boundaries:

  • Set clear boundaries for all the kids.
  • Offer materials that are motivating all kids
  • Provide visual cues in the environment that support and
  • Have scripts that will help promote ways to address social conflict resolution.

Example: Make real sandwiches together and Invite Animals stuffed animals to join in the fun.

  1.  Making something together will hold both  of the children’s interest (play doh, sensory low key to regulate your child) 15 minutes (semi-structured) and use the play doh to bake or build things around a central theme.
  2.  A simple dramatic play can making sandwiches  (bring bears, dinosaurs, dolls to eat with you guys).

 

 

Building a Successful Inclusion Team for Teens with High Functioning Autism

Adam is a gentle 14 year old boy that I have known since the age of 3, right around the time he was diagnosed as having High Functioning Autism (HFA). Academically, Adam is excelling with some support from his school, his tutors, a private counselor, an OT and speech therapy in the form of social skills support. To us he is doing exceptionally well, except he truly is NOT. Adam’s social struggles is not apparent to most, because he has been taught to mimic the social behaviors of others by way of scripting.  A social script is a short narrative written in first person to help one learn how to cope in problem situation. When Adam was younger and most of his behaviors were common knowledge among his peers, simply scripting incidents for Adam worked well. However, now that he is in high school, social relationships are a lot more complex. Everyone is looking at themselves through the lenses of their peers.  High school is full of hidden agendas and it is very complex to navigate even for an average teenager.

Adam recently had an incident that required the parents to call an IEP meeting. During the meeting, a well-meaning team member voiced that the parents needed to come to terms with who Adam is and not expect that the world will continuously cater to Adam. According to his parents, Adam has been silently struggling at school, some kids are friendly to him and others teasingly refer to him as corky. Adam shared with his family that he does not feel like he belongs and does not feel comfortable voicing his confusion to his teachers.  After the meeting, Adam’s mother pulled me aside sobbing and asked if she was expecting too much from the team. She questioned her judgment in putting him in the school and wanted to know if it was better to home school him. This one was tough! I could not answer, and I honestly could not think of the right response. I took permission to ask Adam his feelings about the school and his experiences. I asked why he had not reached out for help from me or other people working with him.  In Adam’s eyes he thought we would be disappointed in him. He felt ashamed  of failing and most importantly Adam felt pressured to succeed,  because we had all been praising him on how well he had transition into high school.

Adam shared that because of his anxiety of not wanting peers to reject him, he was willing to put up with kids and “their silly name callings”  so that he could be their friend. He knew they did not really know or understand him.  I worked with Adam on ways to discuss his concerns with his counselor. Adam was also invited to his second IEP follow up meeting to share with the staff what he liked and did not like about the school. He chose to stay in the school and the school added him to their student social cognitive class, taught by an SLP. My experience working with Adam taught me that sometimes, we unknowingly put pressure on kids when we do not clearly define our expectations. I shifted my narrative from telling Adam that I was so proud of his successes to carefully defining what true success meant. I worked with Adam in recognizing how important his emotions were to everyone. We created personal scripts for emotional success.  We are almost at the end of the school year and Adam by his definition is feeling “cool.” He has joined two clubs and has connected with one other student.

What I learned from this experience,  is that as educators, we play a significant role in being allies to families by reserving our judgments. Additionally, even though the law requires that we provide inclusive learning environment, it is not inclusive, if the person does not feel that they belong.  We can go beyond accommodating students, to accepting and welcoming them and their families by truly hearing and doing our best to understand.  We must try to go above and beyond the law, especially since not all disabled students feel comfortable enough to come to us. Take time to check in with the family, don’t wait for the IEP call. When we listen with the intent to hear, a lot can happen.

How Can SLPs Help?

  • SLPs may be able to best support students with communication disorders by assuring these students that it is okay to talk about bullying and that school personnel want to help and support them.
  • Make it a priority to seek out and understand why some children that have HFA are not in your social cognitive group and if they need the program work with the team to get them into the program.
  • If your school does not have a bully program, work with your team to create one.
  • If a child reports that he or she is being bullied, thank the child for reporting the bullying.
  • Alert the appropriate person at school and follow up with the child.
  • As clinicians we recognize that some students, especially those with pragmatic language disorders or ASD, may be viewed as chronic “tattlers” in that they repeatedly inform teachers and school staff of rule breaking by peers. Create a visual scale and script that shows that student what is bullying, Why it is bullying, how bullying starts. Work with the student to recognize when to report problems.

https://leader.pubs.asha.org/doi/10.1044/leader.ftr1.16012011.8

https://learningally.org/Blog/3-tips-parent-teacher-collaboration

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/May-2018/Ensuring-Your-Child-is-Supported-at-School

fun 2015-01-21 022About the Author:  Uduak (Udie) Osom,  was one of those students who entered college searching for her calling. In 1990, she discovered that her passion was in helping others. As the saying goes, “The rest is history.” In 1992, Udie graduated with her bachelor’s degree in communication disorders and science. In 1997, she received her Master’s degree in communication disorders and science from San Jose State University. She has more than 20 years of experience working with children with various disabilities. Udie is very passionate about neuro-developmental disabilities and social-cognitive disabilities. In 2000, she developed a social skills program that pairs typical developing students with students diagnosed with social cognitive disabilities (Autism, Pragmatic Language, ADD etc). She went on to develop a secondary program “All for 3’s.” Her other specialty is Pediatric Feeding Disorder, emphasis in premature babies and kids. Udie has worked as a consultant for several schools, conducted numerous workshops for schools, written and published articles.  Visit Innovative Therapy Services to Learn About Our Program

Teach Children to Share their Feelings

Children respond differently to feelings than adults do. Depending maturity, some children are able to share about their feelings and what you as an adult can do to support them. Emotional maturity does not always correlate with intelligence or age. You can have a very intelligent child, but social and emotionally they are not able to share or understand their emotions. Children respond to different feelings based on their day to day experiences and also based on their emotional maturity. Their ability to cope and share these feelings is crucial to forming and sharing relationships. Emotional language development involves learning what feelings are and how these feelings impact us and others.

Create An Emotional Language Chain
When your child is upset, take simple steps to acknowledge their feelings and sequence what happened, acknowledge how they feel and talk about what to do about their feeling. An emotional language chain simply means making a list of feeling vocabulary words or using simple feeling phrases frequently. It is similar to how people use daily affirmation words and phrases. For example, “I am sad because mommy did not buy candy, I am okay because I can play with my favorite teddy, ” “I am angry because I bumped my head, I feel better because mommy put ice pack on it.” To reduce emotional breakdowns, try to follow the  simple tips:

  • Routines should be predictable and flexible
  • Balance active times with quiet times
  • Make time to deal with feelings if routine changes
  • Talk about feelings – what, where, why

It is important to have a ready to use emotional language vocabulary words or phrases during emotionally challenging situations. It helps the child calm down and reduces our tendency to negatively respond to the child’s emotions or tantrums. For example, you needed to rush out of a store and had very little time to take your child to go visit his favorite isle in the store and this caused a meltdown, instead of giving your child a long explanation , you can simple state, “I am sorry I made you sad.” “I know you are sad,” “It is okay.” “I know mommy did not take you to look at…” Encourage your child to share their feeling in a similar manner. The more you use these phrases, the more your child will become familiar with the phrases and connects the phrases and vocabulary to his or her difficult situations. Your child will eventually learn to connect those words and phrases to his/her emotions and become a better communicator.

2019- Was A Truth Revealing Year

In 2019, I learned about survival, compassion, love, community, and most importantly, I learned that life is worth all the pain.  In 2019, I had a cancer scare, blood bacterial infection that nearly killed me, I had an open heart surgery and a lung surgery. Yes, it was a year like no other, but I cannot help but smile.  Some people see me surviving all that and not being bitter or depressed as a strength, but it is because I allowed myself to be vulnerable, I allowed others to show me compassion. This is not my first open heart surgery, nor my first brush with death. I guess am like a cat with 9 lives. The difference this time around was I had so much I wanted to live for. I had so much riding on staying alive.

In 1978, when I had my first open heart surgery, I had no idea what death meant to those I loved, I was a child. In 1992, when I had my second open heart surgery, I was a college student and I also was struggling with insecurities of life, so I was indifferent about dying, don’t get me wrong, I was scared of the unknown about death, but I was not thinking about my love ones. This time around, not only were the surgeries more complicated and the chances of dying more significant, but for the first time in my life I cared about living.

I was vulnerable to the truth of why death matters. I was vulnerable to the truth that life is not just about the person living it. It is not just about us; it is about the community that has made us who we are. It is that community, that you must fight for, it is the community that makes it worth smiling about.  It is that community, that told me, you are going to make it, we are here for you. It is that community that I wanted to live for. For the first time in my life I recognized how much I meant to so many people. Parents, my neighbors, relatives, friends, colleagues, doctors and nurses all assured me that my life was worth smiling about. Their compassion gave me the strength and took away the bitterness.

I am now able to answer the question about not being bitter, nor depressed, it is because my community has said I am worth more than Tetralogy of Fallot. I am worth more than a cancer scare. I am worth more than a blood born bacterial infection.  Life is about the lessons we learn, not the pain we have suffered. The pain allows us to be vulnerable, it allows us to cultivate our truth, it allows us to love and be loved. Thank you 2019 for giving me a lesson in vulnerability and human kindness. I am not sure what lessons awaits me in 2020, but I am taking the lesson of vulnerability, compassion, and human kindness into 2020. Happy New Year and Wishing you the Best in 2020!!

fun 2015-01-21 022About the Author:  Uduak (Udie) Osom,  was one of those students who entered college searching for her calling. In 1990, she discovered that her passion was in helping others. As the saying goes, “The rest is history.” In 1992, Udie graduated with her bachelor’s degree in communication disorders and science. In 1997, she received her Master’s degree in communication disorders and science from San Jose State University. She has more than 20 years of experience working with children with various disabilities. Udie is very passionate about neuro-developmental disabilities and social-cognitive disabilities. In 2000, she developed a social skills program that pairs typical developing students with students diagnosed with social cognitive disabilities (Autism, Pragmatic Language, ADD etc). She went on to develop a secondary program “All for 3’s.” Her other specialty is Pediatric Feeding Disorder, emphasis in premature babies and kids. Udie has worked as a consultant for several schools, conducted numerous workshops for schools, written and published articles.  Visit Innovative Therapy Services to Learn About Our Programs

May 2019 Bring Internal Success!

Before I could even blink, 2019 was already upon us. I had the expectation that 2018, was the spring of opportunities. Even though I had not made any big New Year’s resolutions, I started 2018 optimistic about the great possibilities that the year would bring. I had expected that by December 2018, I would have hired two full-time speech and language pathologists, completed my book, and presented three parent workshops. Even though I have not accomplished all of these goals, I am not disappointed with myself, because, I accomplished more than I had anticipated.  2018 taught me how to stay focus, relax and how to create simple steps to greater internal success. In the past, my drive to accomplish external success, often left me depleted. In 2018, I learned to focus and work on my internal success. The constant outward search for external success often blurs our internal  success. The problem is that external success is extremely fragile, if you don’t have internal success, you are going to feel defeated in challenging times. External success without internal success means that when unexpected life event occurs, the facade collapses and you’re left with self-doubt. In life, we are all going to be challenged and we will feel as if our goals and resolutions are not attainable, but if you work on your internal success, you will bounce right back.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with starting the new year with the believe that you are going to accomplish great things. However, you will face self-doubt, you will be criticized, you will disappoint people, and people will disappoint you. Start this year with the goal of establishing internal success. Focus on building self-love, work on creating time for yourself, work on self-acceptance and love yourself through challenging times. Internal success means accepting yourself and making peace with yourself.  I am starting this year with the expectation, hope, confidence, and the faith that I am going to achieve a greater HARMONY within myself. Happy New Year! May the year be kind to you and may you accomplish big and small things in 2019.

fun 2015-01-21 022About the Author:  Uduak (Udie) Osom,  was one of those students who entered college searching for her calling. In 1990, she discovered that her passion was in helping others. As the saying goes, “The rest is history.” In 1992, Udie graduated with her bachelor’s degree in communication disorders and science. In 1997, she received her Master’s degree in communication disorders and science from San Jose State University. She has more than 20 years of experience working with children with various disabilities. Udie is very passionate about neuro-developmental disabilities and social-cognitive disabilities. In 2000, she developed a social skills program that pairs typical developing students with students diagnosed with social cognitive disabilities (Autism, Pragmatic Language, ADD etc). She went on to develop a secondary program “All for 3’s.” Her other specialty is Pediatric Feeding Disorder, emphasis in premature babies and kids. Udie has worked as a consultant for several schools, conducted numerous workshops for schools, written and published articles.  Visit Innovative Therapy Services to Learn About Our Programs

Learning Language through Play

Play helps children learn language and communication skills. Children are motivated to connect and learn when it is functional and meaningful and fun to them. The language used in play, for example encourages the development of turn-taking and conversation. When children are engaged in play, they use language to interact with others. Turn your daily routine into fun play. Your daily routine offers many opportunities for you to help your child learn to play and develop language.

  • Loading Dishes: A simple task like loading the dishes offers an opportunity for you and your child use language, take turns and play. For example, when loading the dishes or unloading the dishes talk to your child. Improve your child’s language by labeling your actions and naming the items/objects. You can say, “Papa is putting the fork in the dish washer.” When it’s your child’s turn, you can say, “Your turn. Put the fork in the dishwasher.” Be patient, if your child does not do it correctly. Do it with your, remember your child and don’t do it for them. Remember your child is watching to see what you are doing.
  • Grocery Shopping: Grocery shopping can be a fun way to build your child’s language, play and memory. Before going to the grocery store, take out your smart phone and with the help of your child, take pictures of the things you need from the store. Help your child learn the names of the items by taking turns when taking the pictures. At the store encourage your child to remember the names of the items that you took pictures off. It is also a fun way to help your child learn about categories by going isle by isle. Label the isles, fruits, vegetables, breakfast etc.
  • Waiting at the Restaurant: Encourage your child with positive language when you see your child waiting before your order is taken. Waiting can be hard, especially if they are hungry, but teach them that waiting can be fun, by playing a fun game such as, “I spy with ….” If you have never played this game before here is a link to get you started https://www.tripsavvy.com/how-to-play-i-spy-3267651.

About the author:

fun 2015-01-21 022Uduak (Udie) Osom holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology from San Jose State University. Udie has served students of all ability levels from preschool through grade 12, for over 20 years. She is very passionate about neuro-developmental disabilities and social-cognitive disabilities. She is the owner/director of Innovative Therapy Services, a pediatric speech, language and social skills clinic in Santa Clara, CA. She can be reached at: ussom@pediatricspeech.com.

Three Tips to Promote Active Listening

Active listening is the key in having effective communication with anyone, especially children. Listening helps us understand what the speaker is saying, understand how the person is thinking, or feeling and helps us ask the right questions. Therefore, it is important that we teach children to use active listening as it is the key to getting along with others. When I work with my clients on the following skills: understanding directions, sharing ideas, problem solving, and conversations, I always start with three key steps of active listening.

  • Listen with an open mind: I teach my clients how to listen so that they pickup details and intent of what is being communicate. I teach my clients that they have to understand what the person said and what the person wants. I teach them that listening means you have to be present. I teach my clients that listening takes time from you, it takes caring and it takes being patient.
    • Reflective Listening: With my older clients, I teach them that they must reflect back what they have heard. My clients learn to understand that reflecting is when you understand that the statement requires that you are truly thinking about the person and what the person is saying to you. When you reflect back what the person is saying, you are inviting the person to say more, and you are willing to pay attention and you are willing to truly understand them. I teach my clients to show that you are reflecting, be sure to repeat back to the person what you heard. With my clients we practice using words or phrases such as, “Let be sure I understand…,” ” I am just making sure that I hear you, did you say…,” “I heard…, but I am not sure if you meant…,” etc. Reflecting on the intended message allows you to verify that you are hearing and accurately getting the message. You can use reflective listening to help reduce emotionally charged conversation. It also allows the speaker to calming clarify and feel validated by you.
    Ask open-ended questions: The final part of our lesson is generally learning to ask open-ended questions versus closed ended questions. Open-ended question encourages the speaker give more explanation. They are conversation encourager, inviting the speaker to share details.

fun 2015-01-21 022About the Author:  Uduak (Udie) Osom,  was one of those students who entered college searching for her calling. In 1990, she discovered that her passion was in helping others. As the saying goes, “The rest is history.” In 1992, Udie graduated with her bachelor’s degree in communication disorders and science. In 1997, she received her Master’s degree in communication disorders and science from San Jose State University. She has more than 20 years of experience working with children with various disabilities. Udie is very passionate about neuro-developmental disabilities and social-cognitive disabilities. In 2000, she developed a social skills program that pairs typical developing students with students diagnosed with social cognitive disabilities (Autism, Pragmatic Language, ADD etc). She went on to develop a secondary program “All for 3’s.” Her other specialty is Pediatric Feeding Disorder, emphasis in premature babies and kids. Udie has worked as a consultant for several schools, conducted numerous workshops for schools, written and published articlesVisit Innovative Therapy Services to Learn About Our Programs

What are Your Communication Behaviors in Conflicts?

I grew up attempting to avoid conflict at all cost. I quickly learned the best way to address conflict with my parents and other adults was to use the stonewall technique.  In the stonewall technique, you simply stop talking and out wait the person. However, I knew it always left me drained.

As I got older, I decided that since I was unable to walk away from conflict, it was best to take charge.  I became the proprietor of conflict, especially with my Dad. While I truly loved my dad, I would describe my relationship with my father as that of two aliens forced to occupy the same solar system.  We did not know or understand each other, in that my dad was “all or nothing,” “glass is half full,” kind of person, whereas I am an optimist, go with the flow, things will work themselves out.  I had always used the stonewall approach with my dad, and it never seemed to resolve any of our differences. He was relentless with his expectations. He had expectations that I would become an accountant, and I knew how terrible I was at math, and I was never able to stonewall my educational expectations. When I mentionedthat I was going to be a speech pathologist it did not go well. Therefore, I never spoke to him about it again; if he brought it up, I became defensive.

I became an expert in defensive communication. Whenever I spoke to my dad about anything I anticipated his response, therefore, I often started the conversation by attacking, “I know you are not going to agree or accept anyway, but I just wanted to tell you….?” Knowing that this would upset him and that he would start criticizing my choice, I had my armor defensive victim role ready. This became our cycle until I gradually stopped communicating with my dad unless it was unavoidable. One day, I was working with my young adults’ social skills group, and we all had to answer questions about our communication styles, and that is when my role in conflict became very clear. I wrote down the following questions for myself:

  1. Why do I have this need to be right all the time?
  2. Why is it hard for me to hear others during conflicts?
  3. Why do I feel that to resolve conflict I must win?
  4. Why have I become this person that seeks out conflict?
  5. Why do I always take on the victim role with certain people?

I have come to recognize that resolving conflict takes patience, accountability, and compromise. Regardless of who you are, you are going to feel hurt when people do not agree with your position or comments. However, it is always wise to take three steps back and analyze your response. Take accountability in how much you are willing to communicate, how much you are willing to accept ,and how much you are willing to change your perspective on the situation. Like it or not conflict is in our DNA. To manage and resolve any conflict I am learning to comprise. I have come to accept that resolving conflicts with our friends and families often takes more time, patience, and creativity, but the results are often more rewarding than playing destructive roles.

fun 2015-01-21 022Uduak (Udie) Osom holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology from San Jose State University. Udie has served students of all ability levels from preschool through grade 12, for over 20 years. She is very passionate about neuro-developmental disabilities and social-cognitive disabilities. She is the owner/director of Innovative Therapy Services, a pediatric speech, language and social skills clinic in Santa Clara, CA. She can be reached at: ussom@pediatricspeech.com.