Speaking in lists

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  • Post last modified:December 8, 2011

As you know,  my littlest minion,  Emmett,  struggles with speech and language.  Subsequently,  communication can be rather challenging at times. It’s taken a great deal of time and effort to sorta……bridge that communication gap.

As part of this communication gap, we have a hard time conveying requests to Emmett in a way he can understand. Having said that, Emmett has made huge progress this year. However, despite this progress, we find ourselves many times unable to effectively communicate back and forth with Emmett.

Recently, we had a breakthrough of sorts.

I don’t remember exactly how we discovered this but how we discovered it, really doesn’t matter. What does matter, is what we discovered and how well it has been working. I thought I would share what we have figured out in hopes that it may help someone else to overcome communications challenges.

For a long time, we have struggled with getting Emmett to do what we needed him to do. We have tried all kinds of things to help with this, like visual queue’s as an example. Nothing seemed to help and it became very frustrating. Simple things like getting his coat on so he can go to therapy was extremely challenging. Then one day we tried something a bit different.

We had made the mistake of underestimating his comprehensive language skills. We got wrapped up in the challenges with speech issues and expressive language, that we sorta missed the forest for the trees.

What we discovered that Emmett comprehensive language skills are quite honed. It became apparent that he may have been getting so frustrated because we weren’t speaking to him in the manner in which he needed us to. As I mentioned earlier,  we have tried visual type things but nothing worked well. As it turns out, we should have been using verbal lists. Once we discovered this, part of that communication barrier that had stood between us and our youngest angel was shattered.

I have dubbed this speaking in lists.

Emmett has responded amazingly well to speaking in lists. He has somewhat of a linear view on life and by speaking to him in the form of lists, helps to put a chronology to things that helps him to understand what is going on around him. If this sounds really difficult, it really isn’t.

In fact, it was the simplicity of this that probably contributed to it being overlooked for so long.

Basically, when we have to do anything that requires Emmett’s cooperation, we explain the itinerary in the form of a list. For example, several times a week Emmett has therapy. When we wake up on those mornings, we prepare Emmett for the day by saying the following: “Emmett, today we have, breakfast, nap, nuggets (typically what he has for lunch), therapy (we usually use the actual names of the therapists) and then brothers“.

He will typically repeat it back to us a few times and then he’s set.

When it’s time to move to the next item on the list, we simply review what is going to happen, and he will simply transition.

As the time approaches to leave for therapy, we will say this: “Emmett, first we need pants, shirt, shoes and socks. Then coat and then therapy (again, we use the actual names of the therapists)”.

This seemingly simple act of speaking in lists, has dramatically changed the dynamic of our communication.

I’m not sure why this works so well for him, but I suspect it has something to do with predictability, chronology, control and actually finding a way to speak with him that works.

I just wanted to share this with all of you out there. I’ve actually been meaning to do this for awhile now but just haven’t had the time to sit down and put this together.

I hope this helps someone out there and it’s found to be a useful technique. 🙂



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Rob Gorski

Full time, work from home single Dad to my 3 amazing boys. Oh...and creator fo this blog. :-)
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I`ve used this in the past and it works great, he knows what is expected and when it is going to happen so no meltdowns. As he has gotten older we don`t have to use it as much(everyday kind of things) but still use it a lot if we are going on trips or are doing something new.