Sunday, March 6, 2016

5 things SLPs should never say...

Being an SLP and talking go hand in hand.  
I have met SLPs who aren't big talkers, but I think that variety is few and far between. 
As a rule, WE LIKE TO TALK.  
I, for one, am a major league talker.  In fact, I even talk in my sleep. 
I joke and say that one day my mouth will get me in big time trouble.
It has come close a few times.  
Even more than that, I'm a truth speaker.  Too much truth can rub others the wrong way sometimes.  

I'm not much into censoring myself....
BUT many times, to be the empathic professionals that we are, 
we have to. 

Along with my cohorts, the Frenzied SLPs, I want to share with you...

FIVE things SLPs should NEVER say

You know...lazy.  
Do I think that some students are lazy? 


We probably all think this now and then. We can vent and rant and rave in private if needed, but we should never ever say it to them...or their parents. 


First, telling a child he/she is lazy won't help anything; it won't fix the problem.  In fact, it would likely do more harm than good.  Saying it out loud would likely embarrass/offend/anger the student (and/or parents) and alienate you from him or her when you actually need to be a team. Secondly, the fact is that we can't prove it.  Maybe what we perceive as laziness is actually hopelessness, depression, apathy, fatigue, etc.  The list could go on and on.

I've heard the "L" word said in IEP meetings, at parent-teacher conferences, in classrooms and in hallways.  It makes me cringe. Frankly, I think it's just plain mean and feels dangerously close to name calling. Kids come to us with many complicated factors, and it's our jobs to treat them as they come- with all their baggage and blessings alike.  It's also out jobs to find a way to motivate them. In most cases I'm all for calling a spade a spade, but in this case it's best to fight the urge.  

When there are 2 or more children together - big or small - stuff happens. 
Schools (and therapy groups) are jam packed with students, and they don't always get along. To be honest, as a young therapist, my immediate response to any conflict (name calling, hitting, mean remarks, snatching toys from each other, you name it) was to say "Why did you do that!? At some point during my career it dawned on me that it was just a stupid question. Yes, I said stupid. Boy, would my little students would be all over me for that! We should never say "Why did you do that" in response to bad choices. 


Well, primarily because asking for a reason implies that there actually is a good reason. There is no acceptable reason for being hurtful to someone else - no matter how much a child may feel justfied.  Instead, we need to verbalize that it was unacceptable.  How will children know that if we don't teach it? 

Also, the chances of a child you have in therapy being able to express, at that moment of frustration or anger, any reason for having done the dirty deed he did, is slim to zilch.  Still, I hear this from the mouths of educators all the time. I've said i which is how I know what an automatic response it can be, but it is never a good one! 

Soooo when scenarios like the ones mentioned above happen, this is another common phrase we hear. 
Don't say it, and I'm sure you can guess the reasons why.  

It's part of our job to teach about expressing feelings, about repairing social breakdowns, about communicating empathy, but we shouldn't force students to apologize for the sake of apologizing (often so we can move on with our lesson).  We can suggest an apology, but if it's forced, it's no good. Also, the moment we say it, we are giving the "hitter," (for example), more attention than the child who was hit.  Also, when we spout off, "Say you're sorry," any sympathy they might have been feeling for their peer will likely be replaced with humilation. We may even get into a power struggle. Instead, tend to the other child and give the child who behaved poorly some time to feel remorse and accept responsibility on his own.  If it doesn't come, later we need to teach that what he/she did was wrong/hurtful/harmful/unacceptable, and even why it was wrong. Explain that part of repairing mistakes is making amends by apologizing.  We can tell about how we had to apologize to someone one time, and we should model it. An apology should be expected AND shoud happen, but only when the child is emotionally ready to remorse regret to his "victim." Otherwise, it's empty.

This, for me, is a biggie.  I've said it.  Then I quickly regretted it.  I would never say it again, and I don't think any SLP should.  No matter how easy I think something is or how much I think "they've got this" it might just be hard for one of my (or your) students.  If we say it, how in the world would a child not feel inadequate/dumb/worthless/humiliated if they can't do it? What if it's not easy for them?  I would be devastated to know that my words caused feelings of failure.
 Let's erase this phrase from our profession altogether.  It's just too risky to say out loud.

(or some variation of that)

As SLPs, we've probably all felt this way at one time or other.  
Some students have big, even seeming unsurmountable problems, and sometimes what we are doing doesn't result in progress. Sometimes we feel hopeless, and that there is nothing else we can do for a child.  I once heard a teacher say, "we have exhausted all means of helping your child." 

I thought....really???? No we haven't.  It might feel like that sometimes, but it's not true.  There is always something else to try. We may not know what that is at the moment, but it's our job to find out.  Consult with other SLPs, research, pick the brains of mentors, harass your supervisor for assistance, beg for help from your resources, try something out of your comfort zone, email your former professors or even strangers at the local university.  Go in search of answers and input. We might be the only person in this child's life going to battle for him or her.  If worse comes to worst, get the child assigned to another therapist. 

Can you think of more!? 
I want to know! I'm still learning. Aren't we all? 

To read more posts on the topic, check out my SLP friends below! 


  1. I need #3 for my own middle child. Thank you for the parenting advice this morning! Great post. #5 is absolutely right on. Never say give up!

    1. Thanks Sparklle! Sometimes it's easier to apply good sense with our students than it is our own children! hahah Hang in there, momma!

  2. Such a well written post. Thank you so much for all of the information that you provided. It really gets me thinking harder about the things that people say sometimes and shouldn't! Thanks again, Manda

    1. I think we can always improve our filter. Thank goodness I've developed mine haha Thanks for the kind words, Manda ;)

  3. Brilliant insights as usual. I would say, though, that sometimes finding the motivation behind why someone said or did something provides a clue into what the person is experiencing themselves.

    1. I agree, we need to find out the "why" to get a glimpse into their little psyches (is that how you spell that?) to get to the deeper root of it. I try to find out using different wording. It's all in the way you word it. The "why did you do that" always seems to have an annoyed tone with it ;)

  4. As I read each section, I thought, "Yes!" The whole post is so on target! Thank you for bringing up another way to deal with apologies. I've had so many students who only learned the 'I must say I'm sorry' part and never got the idea of remorse and changing our actions.

    1. Thanks, Linda. Apologies are tough. No one wants a fake one, and hopefully the real ones eventually come. Fingers crossed.

  5. Great post! I try to be especially aware of saying, "This is easy" and teach my students that things that are easy for them may not be easy for others. I can't whistle, but my 8 year old says it's easy! It's just so important to be aware of how a short statement can impact another person so greatly.

    1. Thanks, Kristen! Sometimes the kids even say the "this is easy" and I don't allow that in therapy either. It's all relative :)

  6. I completely agree with you on all counts! Especially the "l" word. Oh.My. I HATE it when I hear people say that, along with "he's just dumb". Ugh.

  7. We here suppose that there are never all means exhausted for a simple reason that we are not aware of all the ways to lead the child though the hopeless period!

  8. great parenting advice!thank you, its very hard to follow these tips, but when you do your life gets a lot better, and the most important thing that the children are happy, also there are some things you never say to a woman!


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