I found a really nice article on the web talking about 10 skills we need to be a good listener. I think the author does an excellent job pointing out the skills we need in order to really hear what others have to say. When interacting with a person who has autism, it is so essential to listen. Even if that person is not verbal, they are communicating in ways that deserve our attention and respect.
The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention.
-Rachel Naomi Remi
I am adapting the list from the website (www.skillsyouneed.com/listening.skills.html/) to listening to our children with special needs. I think it is a great list and quite relevant for all people.
1. Stop Talking
When communicating with someone who has Special Needs, it is easy to over talk. If that person is slower to respond or takes more time to say something, our natural response is to talk even more. If you are talking, you are not listening.
2. Prepare to Listen
Relax. Focus on your child. Try to clear your mind of the many distracting thoughts and plans running through your mind. Invest in what your child has to say and give your attention to it fully.
3. Put the Speaker at Ease
Show your child that you are listening to them. Smile and nod encouragement. Show your interest and investment in what he is saying.
4. Remove Distractions
Put down your phone. Turn off the computer and tv. Listen with your whole body and mind.
Try to take your child’s perspective. Imagine how they feel and how things seem from inside their body. Drop pre-conceived notions of what you think they are going to say and actually listen to what is said and why.
6. Be Patient
Give your child time to formulate what they want to say. Silent pauses are ok, even if they feel too long for you.
7. Avoid Personal Prejudice
Your child is an individual. He may have different ideas and opinions than you. Listen to what he tells you so you can have a better understanding.
8. Listen to Tone
The way someone says something, their emphasis, timing, volume adds a lot of information to what they say. Conversely, some people with challenges have a hard time with their emphasis, timing and volume. Take it within context and listen to understand.
9. Listen for Ideas, Not just Words
Link together ideas that your child expresses to you. With children who have difficulty with communication this can be quite difficult to do. Try.
10. Wait and Watch for Non-Verbal Communication
Listen with your eyes as well as your ears. Facial expressions. Gestures and body language all deliver very important information in the communication package.