There seems to be a theme that runs through my practise every school year. One year it was Apraxia of Speech, another was all things related to AAC. That’s one of the things I like so much about being an SLP is that you are always learning and no two years/clients/teams are the same. This year the theme is confidence. While I have always known how important it was to build confidence, this year has shown me just how much. Confidence in a child is huge. It allows children to go out and explore more of the world, take risks, make new friends or try to talk to new people. In therapy and in school it will let them keep working on those aspects of their lives that can be really really really tricky.
We have all have had a child (or will have) that is soo hesitant to try and work on their goals because they feel like they just can’t do it. In these cases progress can be slow because they are hesitant to try and can feel overwhelmed. In some cases, which always makes me sad, they have had a bad experience with an SLP and don’t want to be there. Part of our job is to build up their confidence, through success and developing trust so that they can move forward with therapy and, as always, the end goal is to be successfully discharged.
Keep in mind that it is not only the children who have significant communication challenges that need a boost in confidence. I have seen children with mild articulation difficulties that due to their lack of confidence, it has impacted their lives greatly. For example, I had a little girl who had a mild frontal lisp but because she was self conscious about it, she rarely talked in school. By working on it and my taking the role of coach and cheerleader, she was able to gain the confidence to talk more in school even though her lisp wasn’t completely “fixed” at that point.
Another thing about me is that I’m a huge fan of Vygotsky and always have his principles in mind when working. When working with children, always keep in mind the level that child is at in relation to their goals. What kind of supports do they need and don’t need. What can I do to make it hard enough so that it is challenging but not so hard that they won’t be successful? This too builds confidence.
Providing specific feedback is important. This helps speed therapy along but also shows children (and their parents) what is going right and what you are skills working on. Using phrases such as “that’s getting close, now remember _______” or “do remember when _____ was tricky for you. Now it’s easy.” These all help build confidence.
Praise is also a big consideration when building confidence. What kinds of praise are effective and appropriate for that specific child. Some children don’t like high fives, others do. Some kids want very matter of fact praise such as “good job,” “that was a great _____.” Other children may want a bigger production made. As well, it is also important to acknowledge their hard work especially if it was a hard session and it wasn’t as successful as you had both hoped.
Finally I want to thank all the children who remind me daily how important confidence is. I want to especially thank a little guy who is no longer hiding when meeting new people but now approaches them and talks with them although it is still very difficult to understand him. That is how confidence has impacted his life.