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The Ins and Outs of Early Intervention

Fine Tuning Our Listening Skills

Published August 26, 2015 6:03 AM by jasna cowan

As a speech-language pathologist, I am very accustomed to measuring how a child understands language. What I have realized, however, is that hearing information and listening to information are two separate and completely different things.

What about our own hearing and listening skills towards the parent? Can we tune into what they are concerned about? Can we evaluate or treat the child and all the while listen with our hearts and minds about what the parent is communicating to us?

Sometimes it is direct, but other times it is not.

When a parent says, "My child can't sit still" or "I think she is totally fine" or "I want to know how I can help," this is all important verbal information from the parent we cannot just hear but we need to listen to. If not, we cannot get the little vital pieces we need to reach our full potential as their therapist.

SEE ALSO: Assisting Parents of Preschoolers Who Stutter

You see, the parent is the expert, not us. We need to actively listen to the parent. We need to be able to receive the auditory and sometimes non-verbal messages about what the parent is conveying to us and sometimes just listen.

 We don't have to jump into the expert role and offer advice, tips, and recommendations to them when they convey these messages. Sometimes listening and allowing parents to just express themselves, is what we need to allow them to do. We are the evaluators of a child's receptive language skills, but at the same time as a therapist, we need to be fully aware of how to receive language input and visual input from the parent to fully understand the dynamic of the family.

We not only receive the information, but we need to know what to do with it. Sometimes this entails being present as possible to  listen and watch for clues as to what the parent is conveying about their fears and concerns, what they are most proud of in their child, what they feel is a priority, and even if we can or can't help them.

Hearing what the parent says is one thing; actively listening and being present to get a better picture of what is happening for the family is another. I continue to work on fine tuning my listening skills on a daily basis to become a better therapist and person.

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