Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sue Scheff: Communication and Your 13- to 18-year-old

Communication and Your 13- to 18-year-old

During this period, teens spend much of the day outside the home - at school or at after-school activities and with peers. Take time every day to talk with your teen to share opinions, ideas, and information.

Here are a few tips to help you communicate with your growing teen:

Make time during the day or evening to hear about your teen's activities; be sure that he or she knows you are actively interested and listening carefully.
Remember to talk with your child, not at him or her.
Ask questions that go beyond "yes" or "no" answers to prompt more developed conversation.

Take advantage of time during car trips or standing in line at the supermarket to talk with your teen.

Provide activities that offer opportunities to improve communication skills, such as attending or engaging in sporting and school events, playing games, and talking about current events.
Typical Vocabulary and Communication

Adolescents essentially communicate in an adult manner, with increasing maturity throughout high school. Teens comprehend abstract language, such as idioms, figurative language, and metaphors. Explanations may become more figurative and less literal. Literacy and its relationship to cognition, linguistic competency, reading, writing, and listening is the primary language focus in this age group. Teens should be able to process texts and abstract meaning, relate word meanings and contexts, understand punctuation, and form complex syntactic structures. However, communication is more than the use and understanding of words, it also includes how a teenager thinks of him/her self, their peers and figures of authority. They are seeking independence from family and trying to establish their own identity. They are now able to think in an abstract manor and become concerned with moral issues. All of this shapes the way a teen thinks and therefore communicates. Taking time to be with them and listen to them becomes increasingly important so that when they test the limits of their relationship with you, there is an established solid foundation that they will respect.
What Should I Do if I Suspect a Problem?

You should have ongoing communication with your teen's teachers about overall language skills and progress. If your teen's teachers suspect a language-based learning disability, comprehensive testing will be necessary. This can include a hearing test, psychoeducational assessment (standardized testing to assess a child's learning style as well as cognitive processes), and speech-language evaluation.

If your teen has a specific communication difficulty, such as persistent stuttering, he or she should be referred to the school speech-language pathologist. If your teen has already been referred to the school speech-language pathologist (an expert who evaluates and treats speech and language disorders), you should continue to routinely communicate with the therapist and your teen's teachers about goals, language activities to practice at home, and your teen's progress. Tutoring for specific subjects may be helpful.