I have a fun new challenge for speech-language pathologists to try with students and clients of all ages. Do you love sharing your passion for helping others improve their communication skills? Do you wonder how you can spread awareness of how learning to communicate better is enjoyable and beneficial? If you said yes to both, then try the Chit-Chat Challenge to spread awareness and encourage parents, families, educators, clients or patients to:
- Hire more speech-language pathologists to meet the needs of deserving children and adults.
- Seek our services for themselves and their kids sooner rather, than asking others for advice or waiting.
- Learn more fun and feasible ways of generalizing speech-language strategies into daily routines and activities.
Here’s how the Chit-Chat Challenge works (model this with a communication partner first):
- Close your eyes and picture taking turns going back and forth with your partner on a seesaw.
- Just like being on the same seesaw, you and your partner need to discuss the same topic, listen to one another and smoothly connect your communication.
- Just like taking turns on a seesaw, you and your partner need to balance the length of each back-and-forth communication turn.
I call this a “chit-chat duet.” You and your partner engage in a continuous communication dance. Try it for one minute to do the Chit-Chat Challenge!
What are the best parts of a Chit-Chat Challenge?
- Any communication partners can participate in this challenge!
- Partners can take any number of turns to complete a single challenge.
- The form of communication for every participant remains unique. You partner may communicate using a gesture or sign, an augmentative communication device, or a phrase-length utterance, for example.
- If the challenge seems too easy, add a speech or language goal into the chit-chat turns.
- Demonstrate ways this challenge is fun for students or clients to try at home—even with a partner who might experience challenges communicating.
How can we make a Chit-Chat Challenge even more motivating?
- You know what your partner will communicate more about? Any topic they love! Pick something funny, things that make them special, or whatever they like doing.
- For less verbal or unmotivated partners, come up with fun ways your partner takes turns using his preferred form of communication.
- Some partners appreciate receiving praise and/or a reward for completing the challenge. Or try displaying a one-minute timer and see how many turns they complete before it runs out.
- Increase the fun factor by communicating in a desirable place, including a toy to hold and discuss, or adding in a turn-taking game.
What are some reasons to care about this challenge?
- People will appreciate practicing communication turns—especially on a first date! They learn to balance and connect their communication turns. (These turns include commenting, answering questions, asking questions, making choices and decisions, sharing ideas, describing photos, telling about feelings, and more.)
- People who take on the lead role for this challenge practice valuable communication and life skills, such as patience, listening, adapting communication, compassion for others who take communication risks, and connecting with a communication partner.
- The challenge helps you incorporate supportive research into everyday practice. You’ll find a link below summarizing research on how using back-and-forth, continuous communication interactions stimulates multiple language and communication skills.
What are some ideas for a mind-blowing Chit-Chat Challenge?
- Open up challenges for all kids, regardless of whether or not they receive speech-language services.
- Substitute kids for adult partners who receive treatment.
- People love viewing and sharing fun experiences. Ask partners to give signed consent to record their participation.
- Start friendly competitions among SLPs as to who can host or witness the most challenges.
- Participants who complete a Chit-Chat Challenge might appreciate a cool certificate.
Imagine if there was an International Chit-Chat Challenge day. Prepare for this communication and listening event by engaging in one-minute challenge with one or more clients. Then encourage family members, educators or care providers to take on this challenge with your clients. Your participation and encouragement with this challenge spreads eye-opening awareness on the joy and benefits gained from learning better communicate skills.
Links to supportive research:
- Research from 2015 reveals at-risk children can increase their language skills when intervention includes joint engagement with adult partners. It shows that making continuous communication interactions yields better results than exposing children to higher vocabulary.
- In 2013, the Norlien Foundation published research validating the importance of responsive “serve and return” engagement between an adult caregiver and a child, even for brain development. This responsive engagement maintains a child’s interest and enthusiasm for continuing to take speech, language and communication turns.
- A recent study by Anna V. Sosa, and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, published in 2016 by JAMA pediatrics, revealed that playing with electronic instead of traditional toys make it less likely that children will engage in the verbal give-and-take with their parents that is so crucial to cognitive development.
Keri Vandongen, S-LP(C), aka “Speech Keri,” provides speech-language services for families with young children through her private practice in Alberta, Canada. She also offers online video training and techniques to enhance speech-language practice and carryover. firstname.lastname@example.org.