St. Augustine Woman's Journal - Educational Resource to the Women of St. Johns County Since 2009

Building Communication Confidence Among Children


February 1, 2020 | View PDF

For some children communication is like a “walk in the park.” Using good eye contact, taking turns, and understanding social implications are natural tendencies. Effective and assertive communication is the norm for these children. There are other kids who try to relate but have extreme difficulty because they feel so “different.” For them it is easier to isolate or be drawn toward an electronic device. There are also many levels in between these two communicative extremes.

Social language therapy is one of my favorite aspects of speech pathology. With treatment, children become so empowered when they learn to understand unspoken rules of communication, realize hidden meanings behind what is said, and begin to put it all together. By moving through fears of relating to others in a protected way true growth can occur.

One of my teenage clients was well-aware of discomfort in relating with other people. Mark described it like this: “It was difficult to communicate in general, and even harder to talk about my feelings. I couldn’t find the right words to explain what was happening. That even made it harder to think of what I wanted to say. Sometimes I became so upset that I isolated; I stopped relating to people and mainly played games on my phone.”

Treatment involved using a task analysis to identify and work through Mark’s triggers. Therapeutic techniques were implemented to dampen “reactive” centers of the brain so that higher level thinking could be used more effectively in communication. Within a safe space, comfortable and confident communication emerged. At the same time, we were able to roleplay situations, moving from least to most difficult. When struggles were overcome in a safe environment they were then carried out in real-life settings and with various communicative partners. Calm and effective communication is now more frequent for Mark. He has come to enjoy being with friends in many situations. We continue to work through other circumstances as needed.

Research shows that many behavioral issues result from the lack of knowledge and use of appropriate social language skills. Many who bully others don’t have appropriate effective verbal/non-verbal coping mechanisms, thus they act out. At the same time, children that don’t know how to express themselves are often bullied by their peers. The problem being addressed—behavior—is not necessarily the root of the issue. The difficulty lies in not knowing how to express wants, needs, and ideas.

If you are concerned that a loved one may have communication difficulties related to social difficulties, you can ask yourself a few simple questions. Does my child or loved one show:

(1) difficulty with conversational skills, maintaining and extending the topic, demonstrating refined social conventions, using language for varied functions?

(2) difficulty understanding others in order to predict their behavior?

(3) difficulty taking the perspective of another and modifying/changing language according to the situation?

(4) difficulty reading body language, facial expression, and tone of another’s language?

Please call or e-mail the office to set up a complimentary screening if you notice any of these “red flags”. Communicative difficulties, especially those related to anxiety, tend to create more negative feelings towards oneself and others when not dealt with efficiently and effectively. I’d be glad to talk to you about an evidenced-based approach used to break the negative cycle and begin using healthy routines. Skills that affect relationships with peers, teachers, and family can be addressed.

After all, when your children or teens develop good communication skills, they begin to affect change in their own lives and in the lives of others. More importantly they come to know and love a part of themselves that they didn’t realize was inside.

Carolyn Smallwood

After almost 25 years in the world of corporate therapy, Carolyn began New Day Speech Therapy Services, LLC. In a relaxed and home-like environment she offers individualized and quality services to those of all ages. She serves clients with social, developmental, neurological diagnoses as well as others seeking to improve their communication skills. Carolyn also works with swallowing and nutritional decline. Her unique continuum of care allows for a progression of skills gained individually, in groups, and finally in the community.


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