As humans, we LOVE to label things. The human brain loves to organize, categorize, find patterns, find meaning, and generally make sense of things.
However, it is often in the Naming of Things that we get into trouble! Names and labels are a constraint or limitation. Labels put things into “boxes”, which prevents thinking outside of the box!
We see this all the time with our students: they get a diagnosis or a “label”, and suddenly that changes the expectation for them – their expected behaviour, their expected ability and achievement, and their expected place in the classroom, in social groups, and even in society.
The label we apply shapes how we approach our kids, and I have SEEN children start to live into those labels – behaviours, lower quality of work, and less connected to peers and the school community. We create labels to make sense of things and organize information; however, the hidden cost is that we also create LIMITATION.
And we don’t just label our kids! One label I have a HUGE pet peeve with: Speech Therapist !! Why?
1. We do SOOOOOOO much more than SPEECH …
Quite frankly, I didn’t complete 9 years of university to do speech therapy! Yes, I am very CAPABLE of performing speech therapy, but speech is just the tip of the iceberg! I have dedicated my education and career to LEARNING – to understanding how children learn, and to understand how to HELP children to learn. So, what does a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) DO? Help Kids! (and adults!) with:
- Language comprehension (and reading comprehension) – frankly, you can’t learn if you can’t understand what you hear or read!
- Expressive language – how we organize, plan, and express ourselves through speaking and writing (how many times have you heard someone complain about being a poor public speaker, or saying they SUCK at writing? Yeah, that’s us. We do that!
- Reading, writing, spelling: Literacy is just language, on paper (or, on a screen, as kids these days would say!). Problems in speaking or language = problems with literacy.
- Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Verbal Reasoning – ever “talked” your way through a problem? Even if it’s “silent”, we THINK in WORDS.
- Social Skills – what do they say, 95% of language is nonverbal? I swear that statistic changes every time I see it. Regardless, getting along with others means standing far enough away that people can’t smell you, not saying weird things, blinking occasionally, and being aware of what your Resting Face looks like. We know how to teach that to kids. **
- Speech (yes, its true. We ARE speech experts. But I refuse to be pigeon-holed!)
- And beyond – SLPs are increasingly working in areas of attention, memory, ADHD, and Autism. Did you know that SLPs actually work with children that have NON-VERBAL Learning Disabilities? BLOWN. Now THAT is outside of the box!
Again, humans LOVE to create meaning. To me, “therapist” conjures up images of laying on a leather couch telling a stranger about what your dad made you do as a child (for example, pick up all the salamanders in the backyard after a rainstorm so he could take them to school to show his grade 9 science class). I hate the word therapy. Not a whole lot better is “intervention”. Now I have a picture of everyone who ever loved me showing up unexpectedly to tell me that my obsession with ketchup chips has gone too far, and has become a problem. That doesn’t fit for me either. Neither does remedial tutor – I have visions of a humourless, semi-retired substitute teacher saying “when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking”. Of course, I mean that in the nicest possible way – I am NOT labeling semi-retired substitute teachers!
Each of these terms imply that something is WRONG and needs to be FIXED. Often through a diagnosis, we are applying a LABEL, to say that there is a normal way of learning, and all kids should fit into that normal box. And if they don’t, it’s a PROBLEM that needs to be fixed through remediation, intervention, or therapy. How do kids FEEL when they hear those terms? How do WE think of kids that need therapy, remediation, special education, or intervention?
Where in “therapy” and “intervention” is there room for words like confidence, success, skill, achievement, or potential? Perhaps I’m an idealist, but what about the idea that kids will be kids? I assert that kids learn at their own, individual pace in their own, individual way – and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
See, I don’t do therapy. I unlock the potential in children. I’m not an interventionist. I facilitate skill development and knowledge transfer. I’m not a tutor. I customize strategies, materials, and instruction to optimize how – and how quickly – children learn.
Speech Improvement Calgary
With my students, we co-author an INTEGRATED learning system that is custom tailored to their individual learning needs. Together, we engineer a program with engaging activities that motivates our students. We co-create a PATH to success with some BUILT-IN special bonuses for our kids – independence. Confidence. Self-esteem. FUN! This is the path children wander down on their transformational educational journey with us – a journey where learning occurs through DISCOVERY, not through teaching, therapy, or intervention. And at the end of their journey lies achievement.
- So, who am I? Everything needs a label … I like to think of myself as an educator, a consultant, a trainer, and a coach. Rather than Speech Therapist, I think I have settled on the title “Speech-language-literacy-thinking- problem solving-social skill learning-potential optimizer, success-builder, skill-development facilitator, and child-transformer”. How would THAT look on a business card? I know kids like anything to do with transformers … And you thought Speech – Language Pathologist was a clunky title!
** As I am reflecting on what social skills are, I am reminded of some of my socially awkward adult friends and good-naturedly point out some of their social blunders. However, I am very aware of how devastating social-cognitive challenges can be and do not intend to be insensitive to that in any way.