Holidays are a time for visiting. My own very large, boisterous extended family includes nephews and neices with physical and cognitive limitations, older people with serious hearing problems, and folks who hear fairly well, but process information slowly.
We aren't unusual. According to the American Speech and Language Association: "Hearing loss affects approximately 17 in 1,000 children under age 18. Incidence increases with age: Approximately 314 in 1,000 people over age 65 have hearing loss and 40 to 50 percent of people 75 and older have a hearing loss."
So if you're talking to someone over 65, the odds are good that they will have trouble hearing. Many more people - including many younger folks - have had strokes or other brain injuries that make it hard for them to hear, process language, or speak. And some people just stutter.
Holidays are a time for sharing stories and good times together. Don't let speech and hearing problems stop you.
Tips for Talking. I want to share this video. It was put together by Laura, a 27 year old who was hit by a drunk driver 5 years ago and had a stroke. She's aphasic, meaning she has problems processing language and speaking.
She provides simple tips for talking to people like her. Many of the same tips help people who are hard of hearing, who stutter, or who have other language processing problems. Heck, I think they might help for almost all of us.
Speak at a slow and normal pace.
Say one thing at a time.
Don't shout or talk down to people.
Talk in a quiet place.
It can help to ask Yes or No questions.
Wait for an answer.
Watch for understanding.
A Day of Listening. When I was in high school, my now mother-in-law urged me to talk to my grandmother and write down some basic geneological information. Now geneology interested me nt at all. But I never regretted the four hours I spent talking to Oma that night. I learned about her childhood and how she was forced out of school in the fourth grade. I heard about the day her brother died, and how she worked in her father's tavern, mopping out the back alley when the outhouse overflowed. I learned how she accidentally wound up alone in America at 16 not speaking the language and meeting my grandfather. I heard about them losing all their money during the bank closures of the 1920's. I learned about obstetric care and birth control in the 1930's. I learned about how much she and my grandfather cared for each other and for my mother.
The holidays are a great time to talk. The veterans of World War II are dying. As are their wives and sweethearts. What was it like to be in the country when almost every able bodied man between 18 and 40 was overseas? What was it like growing up during the Great Depression? Or the 50's? Or during the Civil Rights movement or in the days of segregation? Ask.
Some simple changes can make it easier to have those conversations - and much simpler ones. Speech and hearing problems can be among the most isolating of disabilities. Take the time to listen.