I come from a communications background. Before getting into the social service industry, I spent a few years working as a writer for a funding agent of Arts and Heritage. That job allowed me to understand the value of developing communication skills that I use to this day; whether I’m arguing with my better half, making plans with a friend, or attempting to detail an event with a participant.
With everyone having varying levels of articulation, it’s no wonder conflict arises because of what or how something was said, but I believe a well-established relationship is reflected in how you communicate with each other.
Years ago, I worked with a young gentleman that was new to Turning Leaf. He had only recently turned 18 and was dealing with some problems at home. He had gotten into some trouble and had some restrictions but understood that he had a world of opportunity ahead of him and just needed the proper guidance.
He came across as nervous and shy with every few words accompanied by a slight stutter. He would often slur words together or skip over portions of words with several syllables. It took a few appointments to get him to start talking but once he gained some comfort with me his thoughts began pouring out. Once talking was a comfortable activity for him, I was able to get him to sit down at the library and work on his writing.
In the beginning, I would ask him to write out the alphabet and can vividly recall the look of embarrassment he had when he was stopped halfway through and could not remember what letter came next. I told him there was no shame in singing the song if that would help and watched his facial expression melt away as he sang the song quietly and continued to write out the rest of the letters.
Letters became words, and words became sentences. Eventually, we started having dialogue with him writing down his answers. “Tell me about your favourite pizza? What’s on it? Where is it from? When is the last time you ate it?” The writing was far from flawless, but that was almost better. The flaws in his writing provided opportunities to reinforce proper spelling, punctuation and phrasing. Sometimes, the writing was messy and that was good too because it allowed him to work on the legibility of the writing and improve his technique.
I thoroughly enjoyed working with him and we grew to be able to have a very functional way of communicating. He was able to open up about things that he never mentioned to other support staff. His legal troubles, hopes, fears, dreams and many other things that allowed me to learn about him.
Eventually, he got the funding to get placed into one of our day programs, where he could have more structure and interaction with people. Currently, he lives by himself and has found a group of friends he spends his free time with, and although I no longer work with him, I am told by many of my coworkers that in addition to doing well, he is no longer shy and loves talking with staff.
— Tony Villion, Community Support
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