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You guys. The office is almost done! Those of you who know me know that I’ve been talking about the building of this office for WAY too long. But seriously, finished product coming soon! This project has taken much longer than anticipated (yes, I know everyone tells you this will happen). I am starting to see this space look like a place where little, medium, and adult sized humans can thrive, and it is making me think about the similarities of building a structure and improving communication skills. You have to master the first step before moving to the next or else nothing really sticks, and the end product is incomplete with gaps that are hard to go back and fix. Maybe it’s just the speech and language pathologist in me but I love a good analogy. This one is coming straight from my construction zone to yours: The sequence of building an office is like the sequence of building communication. Here are the 5 most important steps:
FOUNDATION IS KEY. We found that our foundation had a HUGE sink hole when we started demo work. Who knows how it got there (nobody could really give us a reason, just a shoulder shrug), and it was going to cost unexpected $$$, but we knew we needed to have it filled in. Imagine not filling that sinkhole in. I close my eyes and see that part of Swanson Speech Therapy’s home office would basically be built on air, with me walking in everyday wondering “will today be the day this side of the room slumps and crumbles?”. Just like the concrete foundation was key to the overall success of Swanson Speech Therapy’s office standing for years to come, pre-linguistic skills are the key to rich and meaningful communication. Pre-linguistic skills like: joint attention, self-regulation, cause and effect, and imitation are the first things our little humans (any sized human for that matter) need to master before sharing meaningful communication with others. Without these skills, words, and the meaning that they carry would crumble.
THE STUFF YOU CAN’T SEE MATTERS. Oh my, there is SO much that goes in to the walls of a building. Like, so much. And it seemed to take the bulk of time for this project to get electrical, plumbing, framing, etc. done and green lighted before we could move on to other more fun, parts of the space. Receptive language (understanding of words) can be the same. Unless you are looking for it, it can be hard to see everything that a little one knows if they are not yet using words. It can also be very easy to forget how important it is to build these receptive language skills up. People often assume that kids understand the long, complex sentences we are using. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “oh ya, she understands everything”. Too many times there is the assumption that kids ‘understand everything’ because it’s hard to tell, and so it’s assumed the knowledge is there. Never assume. And remember understanding precedes expression and is more important than we (adults, parents, therapists) often give it credit for.
LETTING PEOPLE SEE IN IS EXCITING. I didn’t realize I would feel this way until it happened, but getting windows and doors installed made for great days. They really made it feel like the space was put together. Both things keep you warm, they give a way for you to see what’s going on inside, they make the office space a place that is inviting, and allow others to walk in. Expressive language (using words, pictures, symbols to communicate) can be like doors and windows. It lets others see in to what a person is thinking. I have a child I am working with right now that is having what speech and language pathologists like to refer to as a “language explosion” and let me tell you, it is one of the coolest parts about my job. He has so much to tell me that I’m pretty sure he doesn’t stop talking our entire session and has a permanent smile on his face now that he can finally share with me and let me see in to all the fun and wacky ideas inside his head. Besides being exciting, being able to share your thoughts with others is powerful whether it is verbally, through gestures, or a communication device.
YOU HAVE TO WAIT TO WORK ON FINISHES. We are just now getting to the finishes (aka fun part of a remodel). There have been too many days to count that I have walked down the stairs to see our flooring, paint, tile, handles to cabinets, sitting there and think “I just want to see those up and in the space NOW!”. I think the same thing goes for a lot of families who have kids in speech and language therapy. Incorrect production of specific sounds can be the most obvious part of a speech and language delay or disorder so there is often a push towards “fixing” those parts of speech and language. Same thing goes for words, and using more of them. Don’t get me wrong, these skills are incredibly important, but it is more important that we are patient and wait until a child masters foundational skills like joint attention, emotional engagement, and receptive language before targeting the speech “finishes”. By doing so, the words that we hear will contain more depth and provide a richness that would be otherwise absent if foundational skills were not given their due attention.
THERE WILL ALWAYS BE WORK TO DO, REMEMBER TO ENJOY! This is a quickly learned skill being a homeowner, and I’m sure the same will go for the office space. Things break, get old, and need to be replaced. There will be new ideas, toys, and books to share, carpets will need to be cleaned, and the upkeep will always be there. The joy of having a space to welcome the families I work with and do the job I love will also be there, and it’s something I’m going to try hard not to lose sight of. Same goes for communication, we ALL have something to work on when it comes to communicating with others. It doesn’t matter if you are a little, medium, or adult sized human, we all have communication strengths and weaknesses. I think the important thing to remember is that we are present in the strengths we all possess today without thinking too hard about what we hope to have tomorrow.
That’s it for today, blog post of pictures of the new space coming soon!
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