Making your CU accessible - speech difficulties
People with speech difficulties are often isolated as a result of other people's fears that they will not be able to understand what is being said to them. However, the person with a speech difficulty will be used to the problems of communication and will be patient. Remember, they probably won’t have difficulty understanding you.
Someone who has learned to negotiate life with the difficulties of a speech impediment will probably turn out to be a very caring and empathetic member of your CU.
- Show that you are willing to take time to listen.
- Don’t shout or use over-simple language - limited speech does not mean limited intelligence.
- Try to put the person with speech difficulty at ease so that speech will come more easily - have a sense of humour!
- If you are in a hurry, be honest and arrange another time to talk
- Give the person good eye contact - and even though you are concentrating, try not to frown or appear tense – nervous body language adds to tension
- If talking to someone with a stammer, ensure you look at their eyes, not at their lips - this makes the stammerer self-conscious and their stammer will become worse.
- Don't try and finish sentences for anyone with a stammer or other speech difficulty unless they ask you to do so.
- Never pretend you have understood what has been said unless you really do. This is very frustrating or even insulting to the person communicating with you.
- If there is loud background noise, try and find a quieter place to talk.
- When the person starts talking, do not be too quick to stop them.
- If you are not understanding all that’s said, listen out for some key words and you may get the gist. If you think you have got a few words, repeat them to the person to check you are understanding them, and then ask them to confirm.
- If you can't get a word which is clearly important, ask the speaker to try another word or phrase which you may be able to understand.
- If things prove to be difficult and you do not understand anything, say so with a smile, and ask the person for one key word. This will give a context and help you tune in.
- If you are completely stuck, try to enlist the help of someone who is 'tuned-in' to that person's speech to help you.
- Ask the person to write down their point unless they have a condition that would make writing difficult or impossible.
- If things continue to prove too difficult, give it a break and try later - but first make sure it's not urgent.
- Find a discreet way to make sure they know the whereabouts of a toilet so they don’t have to ask in an emergency.
- At the end of a distinct section of the conversation that you think you have followed, it is often a good idea to summarise. This will reassure both of you.
- It takes practice, but you will find the more you talk to that person the easier it gets.
- Assume nothing - always ask.
www.afasic.org.uk – Charity helping children and young people affected by speech, language and communication difficulties.
www.stammering.org – British Stammering Association, offering support to all those affected by stammering.
www.speakability.org.uk – Information on communication difficulties caused by aphasia.
This resource is part of our Accessible CU series, created especially for Christian Unions by Through The Roof, a Christian Disability charity. To read this article in full, and other articles on including disabled students, download the student version of Through the Roof's publication Be a Roofbreaker for just £3.