Support Communication During Conversation

Learn these five skills

Skill 1:

Adjust spoken input:


  • Avoid using a “parenting” style and choice of words. Example: "I told you that yesterday. We’ve been over this before.
  • Simplify input; One idea at a time; Eliminate unnecessary words. Example: 
    • "We’re going out to eat." vs. 
    • "We’re going out to eat then perhaps a movie after that, but I’m really not sureI’ll get back to you."
  • Greetings/Closings: Example: "Hi there!"  "See ya later!"
  • Questions:
    • Open-ended question: Example: "What would you like to eat?"
    • Choice question: Example: "Are you thinking of pizza or a salad?"
    • Clarification question: Example: "You'd like pizza?"

(Note: Avoid asking questions with the intention of quizzing the person. Example: "Remember what we talked about doing for dinner?")

  • Comments
    • Cue memory: Example: "We talked about going out to eat."
    • Directions: Example: "Pass the parmesan, please." OR "Tell me more about ____."
    • Acknowledge: Example: "The pizza is pretty good." OR "Thanks for coming with me!"

Skill 2:

Adjust non-spoken (non-verbal) input:


  • Tone of voice (Calm, kind, neutral tone of voice; avoid "parenting" or reprimanding tone)
  • Facial expressions (Relaxed, smile-if appropriate to the situation, adjust eye contact according to cultural norms for that person vs. stern, bored, not focused on the person)
  • Body language (Relaxed but respectful, adjust personal space – distance between you -  according to cultural norms for that person; vs. arms folded across chest, authoritative stance)
  • Gestures (head nods, thumbs up/down, number of fingers to show quantity, okay sign, point to what you are talking about)
  • Printed words (topic list or agenda) to supplement what is being said*

 *If the person uses an augmentative/alternative communication system, such as an alphabet/phrase board, voice output i-Pad, etc., incorporate this into your conversations.

Skill 3:

Wait and listen.


  • Remember - after a brief question or comment, stop talking to give the person time to think and respond. Silence is okay.
  • Patiently listen and show interest in what they have to say.

Skill 4:

Summarize and check in.


  • Briefly summarize the key points (key words) of what has been said to help the person remember, to make sure you’ve understood each other correctly and to show your interest. Example: "I'm so glad you got to go out with your family on Sunday." *
  • You can also ask the person a question or ask them to repeat back in their words what they’ve heard to check their understanding. Example: "You went out with your family on Sunday?" OR "Share what you did on Sunday." 
  • Write down notes to help both of you remember the key points. Support use of memory tools for this (See Module 5 for more on this topic.).

*Sometimes a person will nod while you are speaking suggesting that they understand you. However, they may be struggling to keep up and may be too embarrassed to let you know.

Skill 5:

Patiently repeat.


  • Take the person’s lead concerning when and how often you should repeat information that is difficult for them to remember. Example: “Is it okay if I remind you about____?”


Posted on BrainLine April 29, 2020.