The Power of Words Within the Speech Therapy Setting

The Power of Words Within the Speech Therapy Setting

As a speech-language pathologist, I would say that I was trained to be very much in tune with words and how words have a lot of strength to them. The average person usually just talks and uses words without really thinking too much about them, but not us SLPs. We analyze every word that we write and we always take a few extra moments to choose our words wisely during oral communication. Why? Because we truly know that words matter. We get it.

Words can build us up and words can break us down.

Not too long ago as I was strolling down the hallway, I saw one of my students walking to class. As he was walking, he passed one of his teachers and that teacher said to him,“Hey there trouble maker. Are you staying out of trouble?” The boy smiled and nodded, the teacher gave a thumbs up, and the two of them continued on their merry way. The communication exchange was simple, to the point, and it took all of about 10 seconds.

But I have been obsessing over those 10 seconds.

I can’t help but replay that scene over and over again in my head. I try to look at the scene through the lens of an educator, then I look at it through the lens of an SLP, and finally, I look at it through the lens of a human being (a human being who genuinly cares about other human beings). I cringe. The scene and the whole exchange upsets me. The words that the teacher chose . . . bleh. Those words, they left such a yucky taste in my mouth.

Words can build us up and words can break us down.

Because here’s the thing, at times, that boy that the teacher was talking to, he’s a bit of a free spirit. On more than one occasion, the student’s behaviors in school have gotten him into some hot water. But ya know what? He’s working on it. He’s a good kiddo with a good heart. With each new day, he’s learning how to make better choices. Does he still have a ways to go? Sure. He’s a work in progress, like all of us. But he has come a long way and I know he will continue to improve. So that’s why I get all bent out of shape when I hear negative words thrown his way.

And I know the scenario was not meant to be a negative one.

Believe me, I know that calling him “trouble maker” and asking if he was staying out of trouble was not meant to be a jab at him. I know prosody well and how its features can alter the meaning in words that we say. That teacher communicated in a manner where the attached rhythm and tempo of the exchange was friendly and humorous. There’s no way that the teacher was trying to be rude or mean. That was quite obvious. But for me, it all comes back to words and how words have the power to build us up or break us down.

Words are just that powerful.

Amanda Fuller spoke beautifully about the power of words in THIS POST from a couple of weeks ago. “[Words] can stir every kind of emotion inside us. They can take us on fantastical adventures or transport us to another place. They can build us up, or tear us down. They can mend a broken heart or they can be source of the damage in the first place. We all know the pleasure of a witty joke, or the rush of a sincere compliment offered by others. Likewise, we also know the sting and crushing blow of thoughtless or deliberately cruel words flung our way.”

Words can build us up and words can break us down.

I’ve been thinking about words lately and I believe that we, as a society, need to be more aware and mindful of the words that we choose to use, especially when those words are being directed toward children. One of my all-time favorite quotes comes from a person I follow and admire named Josh Shipp. He often says, “Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story.” How spot on, right? I think the same could be said if we tweaked it just a bit by saying that every child is one caring word away from feeling successful. Because feeling successful is a prerequisite to being successful. Truly successful. When the self-esteem and well-being of a child is high, he or she is much better able to perform both in and out of the classroom-setting. And with high performance comes high success rates. Love it!

We are what we eat.

Just like how the right kind of food can help us to grow strong and healthy, the right words can do the same. Consider THIS interesting experiment by Danielle Laporte. Long story short, she and her child had two apples. For about a month, they would say mean things to one apple and nice things to the other. After a month of doing this each day, they cut both apples open. The one that was “fed” mean words was rotten. The one that was “fed” nice words was well preserved. Whoa! Crazy, right?

In closing . . .

How about instead of saying, “Hey trouble maker,” we could say, “Hey hard worker!” Or instead of asking, “Are you staying out of trouble,” we could go with “Keep up the good work!” Because remember, words can build us up and words can break us down. So let’s build children up. Let’s “feed” them nice words. Ok? Ok! 😉

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