In this post we will focus on how to best receive information from the person we are communicating with. To find out what someone else thinks or feels can be a crucial part in finding good adjustments and solutions to problems that occur. If the person we want to support and help feels involved in the process, like he or she can influence the efforts that will be put in place, we can dramatically increase our chances of success.
Countless support efforts and interventions have failed because one has overlooked gaining support from the person in question. If we can take part of and share other people’s mental images it can give us better insight and a better understanding that can then be the foundation for collaborative solutions and strategies.
That visual supports can benefit someone who is less verbal might be easy for us to understand. But experience tells us that it can be just as beneficial for someone who is very verbal. It can sometimes be hard to realize what exactly we agreed upon or what the value of the conversation was after a heated verbal argument or conversation
The foundation of good communication lies in us being able to see the same mental images, or that we can see and understand each others different mental images. The visual support can complement the spoken language to improve the ability for imagination and to increase the time available to process the information.
When a problem occurs, the efforts and adjustments we use will be based on the explanation of the problem that we think is correct. If the problem continue to occur, we need to look at if perhaps our explanation model was incorrect. It is crucial that we stay curious and continue to look for more information and not rely on general explanations that might later prove to be incorrect.
To complete a successful conversation, where the goal is to receive information, we ought to have clear answers to the following questions.
Why are we having the conversation?
If we can answer this question in a way that makes it clear what benefit the person we are talking to will be able to draw from it, we increase the chances for collaboration and engagement. If we fail to communicate these personal benefits and instead only communicate how the surroundings will benefit, then we are in a dangerous territory where the conversation might be experienced as a reprimand. If this happens we might see resistance to participate and collaborate.
Who is leading the conversation?
It is usually an advantage if the child already has a positive relationship to the person leading the conversation. If this person is unsure how to lead the conversation, it can be useful to first be coached by someone with more experience. Sometimes, it can also be beneficial with a more neutral person to lead the conversation. A person whose role is clear and someone that the child doesn’t have a closer relationship with.
Where should the conversation take place?
Choose a place that is experienced as positive by both parties. Make sure you don’t get interrupted during the course of the conversation. If it is beneficial, you can also be in separate rooms while still using visual supports, e.g. when you chat on the computer using instant messaging.
When should the conversation take place?
Choose the best time possible. Avoid stress and times right before lunch or snack breaks when blood sugar might be low. Don’t choose a time that competes with other activities that the child rather be doing. Decide in advance on a maximum time limit for the conversation. It is better to take a break to continue on another occasion than to continue when the child is tired or starts to lose focus.
How will the conversation take place?
Choose the type of visual support that works best with the particular individual. Do not choose the type of visual support that you personally prefer!
This is an example of how visual support can be used to gain information about a problematic situation:
Kate is 8 years old and is in the third grade. She is a very intelligent and verbal girl. Most things in school come easy to Kate, but it’s harder for her during recess and while interacting with her classmates. One big problem is that she is very stressed during lunch break. She usually runs to the cafeteria to be the first in line. If she doesn’t get there first, she sometimes pushes her classmates out of the way and on a few occasions someone has gotten injured. Kate doesn’t seem to care about the reprimands she is getting, she is only focused on being first in line, no matter what.
The adults are considering writing a Social Story to help Kate understand how standing in line works. They think that Kate needs to learn that you don’t always need to be first and you sometimes have to wait for your turn. But before they write the Social Story, they want to know how Kate sees the situation. Kate already has a person that she meets with on a regular basis. They usually meet to discuss and figure out different situations that occur.
This time the adults decide to figure out the cafeteria line situation using the visual support “Computer Chatting”. Kate likes the idea and thinks it’s exciting because the rules are that you are not allowed to talk, only take turns to type on the computer.
This is the result of the “Computer Chatting” conversation that was done using Triple Stories.
Click on the picture to see a larger version
It turned out that it wasn’t being first in line that Kate cared about. She was just terrified to be left alone in the cafeteria with an unknown adult. Her mom had warned her about strangers because rumor had it that there was a man nearby the school who was trying to make contact and be touchy with the children. Kate had misunderstood her mom and made the interpretation that the she needed to stay away from all adults at school that she didn’t know personally. No wonders Kate wanted to be first in line so she could avoid the danger!
Thanks to the information that was gathered, the explanation model changed so that the efforts and adjustments to correct the problem came to look completely different.
We need to be like detectives. Keep looking for the right explanation to make sure we get as much as possible right from the beginning.
Please leave a comment below describing ONE thing that you were able to take away from this article.