It can feel intimidating when you are told that you need to learn a new skill. We’ve all taken new jobs where this was the case. Here are some life hacks (tips) on how everyone learns new skills:
- Step outside your comfort zone. Be willing to try something new, knowing that it won’t always feel comfortable.
- Break it down. What are the sub-skills you need to learn to get to mastery?
- Focus on one sub-skill at a time. This can feel less overwhelming.
- Make it personal. How will this new skill benefit you? How does it support your career? Convince yourself of the skill’s value in your life.
- Learn by doing. Don’t be afraid to be hands on!
How does this apply to new methods of communication? The new device or method may be brand new for the person you support. You may feel that you need to know the device more than the person you support. You don’t.
You simply need to be willing to explore the tool together. The following tips will make it easier for you, and those you support, to use any new form of communication:
- Use the tools yourself!
- Watch how the person communicates now. Take what you observe and model on the device (laughing at a TV show would be a good time to model the word “funny”).
- Explore together and talk about what you do.
- If you press the wrong button, don’t worry. Just talk about it.
“Oops, I didn’t mean to say “frog”, hmmm, where is the word I wanted?”
- Keep it in the moment. Use the device to talk about what you are doing here and now.
- Ask open-ended questions. These get a lot more language than Yes/No questions. “What did you like about that show?” versus “Did you like that show?” (nods head)
- Give it time. You are both learning.
- Don’t give up! The person you support may need to see you model for a good while before they respond using the device.
- If you ask a question, wait. Wait until it is uncomfortable – then wait some more. Give your client the time they need to craft their response.
- Don’t worry about grammar. To start, you should think about modeling key words. Your sentences don’t have to be long. You don’t need to model every word you say.
- Respond to any manner of communication. The important thing is that they get their message across. They don’t have to produce perfect, grammatical utterances.