What Is Communication Anyway?
Communication is what being a human being is all about. We do it all day, every day and are so expert at communication that most of the time we don’t even realise we’re doing it! If asked ‘what’s communication?’ most of us will say it’s to do with talking to each other. This is very true but there is so much more to communication than speaking, in fact most studies show that only around 10-20% of human communication is speech! So what’s the rest then? Here are some ideas:
- Gesture – we can all think of people who ‘talk with their hands’
- Eye contact – one look can say it all!
- Facial expression
- Tone of voice
- Proximity (how close/far away we are from each other)
- Body position and movement
- Noises that aren’t words like ‘uhu’ or ‘mmm’
- Written words
- Symbols like smileys or emoticons
- Sign languages – ‘proper’ sign languages or our own made up signs!
What Can Go Wrong?
Lots of things can cause communication difficulties and in many cases there is no identified physical cause. Communication problems can affect one or any combination of the following areas:
- Interaction - Learning the foundation skills of interaction and speaking – cause and effect understanding, taking turns, enjoying being with other people.
- Social communication skills - understanding and following the ‘rules’ of conversation, developing friendships and understanding/using non verbal communication like eye contact, facial expression and tone of voice.
- Speech - Pronouncing words and learning about speech sounds.
- Expressive Language - Putting words together into spoken sentences and using the right grammar.
- Receptive Language - Understanding spoken words and sentences.
- Vocabulary - Learning, remembering and using the right words.
- Attention and listening - sharing joint attention to a something with another person, paying attention to what is being said.
- Voice - very quiet, hoarse or gravelly sounding voice.
- Higher Level Language Skills - Reasoning, problem solving and inferencing (‘reading between the lines’).
- Behaviour - Often severe communication difficulties can show up as ‘challenging behaviours’. For example, if you have no words to say ‘Go away, I don’t like that!’ you might find that hitting out communicates the same message very effectively.
- 1 in 10 children in the UK (that’s 2 or 3 in every class at school!) have communication difficulties that are severe enough to need specialist support. That’s over a million children across the UK! (Source: I Can)
- Half of children in some socio-economically disadvantaged populations have speech and language skills that are significantly lower than those of other children of the same age. (Source: Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists)
- An estimated 60% of the 7,000 children and young people aged under 18 who pass through young offender institutions have difficulties with speech, language and communication. (Source: Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists)