Thursday, September 24, 2009

On the Phone

Because of his dysfluency, my son sometimes has a difficult time on the telephone. He actually does much better with relative strangers than he does with relatives. He seems to make more of an effort when speaking to people outside the immediate family to overcome the initial onset pause.

Since he's been at school, we've talked nearly every day for at least a brief conversation. As a result of this more frequent telephone interaction, I've become much more aware of the pause (sometimes painfully aware). Once or twice, I've taken on the role of speech therapist and reminded him, "Easy onset..." -- but he pretty much ignores me I think!

When he has to make a phone call to someone outside his comfort zone, whether it's to the Tech support desk or to someone in a class to check on an assignment, I believe he's learned to give some thought to what he plans to say before dialing. At home, I used to nonchalantly coach him. For example, he acted as a Junior Mentor to incoming freshmen when he was in high school. He was expected to call up the eight or so freshmen in his group and introduce himself and explain his role as a mentor. In this case, and almost always, I started my "coaching" with "Just say..." I think that prefacing it with that little word made the call seem easier, less weighty -- no big deal. To that point, he had little experience talking with peers; it helped him to have an idea in advance of how the conversation might go.

When he's speaking to me or to his Dad, there are usually a few of these long pauses; when we know that he has something to add, but is having trouble getting started. Although both of us know to give him time, I still think it doesn't hurt to remind him (nag him?) every once in a while of the strategies that he was given to help him get the words out.

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