A parent contacted me about their child who is due to be discharged from Speech & Language Therapy. Child has done a (generic) programme and can answer all the questions on the worksheets. However, the same child still struggles to start and keep conversations going.
My response was:
Tests and assessments are not ‘communication in real life’. Test results tell us something about the knowledge the child has about the tests or worksheets. It also gives us an idea of what they might understand and how they process information. It does not mean they can use the communication skills independently.
For any other parent whose child can ‘talk the talk’ but does not ‘walk the walk’, here are the steps to becoming an independent communicator:
1. (with others) experience the situation.
2. (with others) experience communication about the situation.
3. (with others) think about the communication and the situation using words and pictures.
4. (with others) practice words, language, and communication in structured situations.
5. on your own, practice communication BUT think about the situation afterwards with others who know you well.
6. communicate independently.
These steps are what ‘transferring skills’ is all about. So often people are expected to make the transition from step number 3 (reflecting on communication) to number 6 (independent communication).
Being supported to go through all the steps is ‘communication in action’. It is practical and it is functional communication. It is what Speech & Language Therapists do and what they can support others to do when they are commissioned to spend the time (properly) with everybody involved.