When speech-language pathologists work with middle and high school students, we can focus our services more on real-life topics—both in addressing academic skills and social interactions. Students at this level also tend to take more ownership of their sessions by recognizing areas needing more attention, helping set goals, and identifying strategies that work best for them.
Working with older students and young adults gives SLPs an opportunity to look at goals to enhance community involvement and employment skills. Students tend to be much more invested in these types of interventions. Even students who in previous years tended to check out during sessions get motivated by activities focused on skills they want to learn.
Some of those more interesting life skills involve practicing communication through social media and texting. Social media and cell phone use make up a significant amount of how today’s interactions occur, and students have high interest in these modes of communication.
Classroom teachers also use social media or messaging apps to post assignments, and encourage students to communicate and collaborate with each other, creating an academic relevance to using this type of communication in sessions.
My approach when providing interventions for older students is to have fun. Here are some activities I use to foster social media or texting communication skills for older students:
- Teach the meanings of different emojis and how some can be perceived as threatening or bullying.
- Teach commonly used abbreviations (such as LOL, OMG, BTW, IDK, BRB, IMHO).
- Clarify how using all capital letters or excessive exclamation points might come across as yelling.
- Discuss appropriate language and acceptable information to share on social media versus what should not be posted.
- Teach about lack of confidentiality with anything placed on social media. Even texts can be copied and sent to others without your permission (screenshots happen!).
- Teach what types of communication are appropriate for texting and what are not. For example, casual social communication is appropriate, but not more formal exchanges.
- Talk about situations when it’s inappropriate to use your phone: during class, when talking to someone in person, or during dinner.
- Help students pay attention to autocorrect and recipients. Have them practice checking and rereading their messages before sending, and make sure they double-check that the recipient is who they intended, especially if the recipient might also be part of a group text.
- Explain the dangers of messaging or friending people you don’t personally know. “Stranger danger” applies to text and social media, too.
- Work on learning how to use video chat apps, like Facetime, Skype, or Google Duo.
Marian A. Lowther, MS, CCC-SLP, is an speech-language pathology mentor for Pinellas County Schools in Florida. She has worked as an SLP for more than 32 years in rehab hospitals, school settings, and private practice. Lowther and Nicole Shaffer, MS, CCC-SLP, will present: “Team Up With Your School Union To Advocate For Successful Outcomes,” at the ASHA 2019 Convention on Thursday, Nov. 21, at 11 a.m. See the convention planner for more information.