The Human Connection

Conceal, Don’t Feel: Processing Emotion in the Speech Room

“The cold never bothered me anyway,” is a line from the hit song Let It Go, that I, my students, and undoubtedly you dear reader, are all too familiar with. Unfortunately, I also believe it’s a mentality or students believe they need to adopt for any situation they’re placed in. I like to believe I have a very good rapport with my kids, and that they can come to me with anything. Most of them take advantage of this, and it’s a gesture of trust I appreciate more than anything in the world. Of my student who do come to me with what is bothering them, it will take anywhere from four to nine exchanges of “Is everything okay?” “Yeah. I’m fine.” before a student will get to the root of what is bothering them.

I’m an empath by nature, which probably comes from my experience with my own emotions. In all honesty, I can only remember experiencing any emotion in a big way; everything has always felt like an end-of-the-world event, be it positive or negative. On top of this, I feel the need to relive the emotion and its event over and over and over, analyzing, reanalyzing, and overanalyzing everything, with many different conversational partners. There is no such thing as trying to figure out how I’m feeling on any given day, which has led me to be attuned to others’ emotions. Which brings me to how I help my students process their emotions in the speech room….

  1. Do You Want To Talk About It?
    The first thing I do is ask the student if they want to talk about it. The next thing I do is decipher their answer. Sometimes, no means not now, but give me five minutes, and sometimes it means no. Usually it’s the former if they’re distracted or out of sorts for the remainder of the session. Yes is a much easier reply and doesn’t require analysis.
  2. Let’s Just Take A Minute.
    I let my student either choose from three calming activities to gather themselves if they don’t want to talk but need to regroup before working. This can be drawing, sitting and doing nothing, or taking a few deep breaths–whatever works for the student. This gesture allows us both to focus where we need to be focused and move on.
  3. Do You Need My Help?
    If the student wants to talk, after assessing the situation, I always offer my help, which the student is always able to accept or refuse. I do this so the student knows that they are never alone in any situation, and that I will help guide them to the best of my ability within my role in the school, and know that I value them and their needs as a person first.
  4. Plan Next Steps.
    This is fairly self explanatory but, if the student needs my help, we plan our next steps. We map out who needs to be notified, what exactly is bothering us, how to handle the situation, and potentially how to resolve it if the situation is ongoing. I like to hear the student’s action plan first, and then see if they want my advice.
  5. Follow Up.
    In a day or two, I’ll check in with the student to see how their plan worked. If they tell me everything is good, then we’re done. If not, we go back to step 4 and work on a new plan.

So much pressure is put on students now, both intrinsically and extrinsically, that I am always checking in and taking their emotional temperature. If I’m an adult and can’t always deal with my own emotions, I can only imagine what my student, who is struggling with expressing himself is feeling. My challenge to you this week is to go out of your way to check on someone else’s feelings, even if there’s nothing wrong. Check in with other people because you genuinely want to know how they’re doing, and go beyond the “I’m fine.” You’d be amazed at the world of good it will do you both.

Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP

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