In most jobs, communication is used constantly throughout the day. This may include greeting a customer, sending an email, answering the phone, speaking with management, providing and understanding instructions for a task, or writing a report. 

Successful communication generates idea sharing, increased productivity and straightforward conflict resolution. Miscommunication in the workplace frequently causes business shortfalls in addition to breakdowns of working relationships.

Before a person even gets a job, they often rely on their communication skills to demonstrate their skill sets. Resumes, phone calls, and interviews are all based on the skill of communication and are integral in the good seeking process. 

It is clear to see how some people with communication difficulties can struggle to achieve employment or perform to an optimum level in the workplace.

Can a speech pathologist help me in preparing for job seeking?

If you have a communication difficulty a speech pathologist can assist you in the goal of seeking employment. They will first help you to determine specific areas that you are having difficulty in, and then provide individualised therapy to target these. 

They can assist you to improve your communication in all stages of job seeking including:

  • Asking establishments for job application processes
  • Navigating websites and understanding the business you are applying for
  • Understanding job descriptions
  • Making and answering phone calls with potential employers
  • Creating an effective resume to communicate individualized skill set
  • Conducting yourself in a way which matches the job you are applying for
  • Understanding interview questions
  • Effectively answering interview questions
  • Managing and troubleshooting common communication problems which occur in interviews and application processes
  • Advocating for your needs and goals in the job role
  • Accepting an employment offer and understanding the information that follows

Can I get support if I already have a job but want to communicate better?

As communication does not stop after you have obtained a job, a speech pathologist can assist job holders. This includes verbal, written and social communication. Additionally, speech pathologists can assist people to access and use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) in the workplace. 

Areas which a speech pathologist can help you in include:

  • Writing emails, reports etc.
  • Literacy skills
  • Understanding instructions and following procedures
  • Making sentences which effectively convey your message
  • Understanding other people’s language
  • Improving memory of spoken information
  • Understanding a range of workplace vocabulary
  • Saying sounds clearly
  • Managing and problem-solving issues with voice volume
  • Practicing safe voice use to avoid voice injury
  • Making appropriate conversation with others
  • Answering the phone in a confident and expected social manner
  • Determining how to vary interaction styles based on your communication partner
  • Problem solving and conflict resolution using communication
  • Choosing the right AAC option for your workplace
  • Setting up or adding to and AAC system to suit your needs
  • Providing strategies of how to include people who use AAC
  • Assisting you to advocate for your needs

What should I expect during appointments?

Your first appointment will be dedicated to finding out about factors which influence your communication, including your areas of strengths and weaknesses.

From here your therapist may conduct formal and informal assessment to determine how therapy can be tailored to your specific needs and personal goals.

The frequency of ongoing appointments depends on your lifestyle, presenting issue, and therapist recommendations. 

Your speech pathologist will work with you to determine the best approach. Newly learnt skills will be applied in a manner which mimics natural workplace environments to assist generalisation of these skills to all contexts.

This may include mock scenarios such as responding to an interview, phoning the therapist to discuss a business proposal, using technology to create emails and search information, and managing social conversations with the therapist.

For young learners, motivation may be facilitated through the use of games and apps. 

After your appointment your therapist will typically provide you with easily achieved home tasks between sessions.

This will continue your learning outside of appointments, in addition to assist you to transfer your new skills to all environments. 

The therapists at Harrison Speech Pathology are experienced in working with all ages and therefore are able to assist people with their communication during any stage of their working life. Get in touch to find out more.

The human voice is unique to everyone. Your voice can help express your personality, emotions and even your physical health. Your voice is created by the vocal cords in your voice box (larynx). Our vocal cords open and close as we inhale and exhale to let air in and out of our lungs. Our vocal cords produce sound (voice) when they come together and vibrate as we breathe out. Problems with voice can happen to anyone!

What can cause a voice problem?

Problems with your voice can be caused by one or a combination of factors, such as:

  • Overusing voice (e.g. shouting, talking over loud background noise etc.)
  • Dehydration
  • Stress/Anxiety
  • Reflux
  • Chronic Cough
  • Illness/Disease
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Stroke
  • Natural Ageing
  • Smoking 
  • Significant Alcohol consumption

What can I do to help my voice?

There are several things that you can do everyday to ensure you maintain a healthy and natural voice. 

Maintain hydration. Hydration plays a large role in maintaining healthy vocal cords. Drinking plenty of water not only quenches thirst but, also keeps the vocal cords hydrated and moist for effective and efficient voice production. If you are dehydrated, then your vocal cords are dehydrated which may make it difficult to produce a clear and healthy voice. Drinking 6-8 glasses of water per day can help maintain a healthy voice.

Decrease Alcohol and Caffeine. Decreasing or eliminating the amount of substances containing alcohol and caffeine can also assist in maintaining a healthy voice. Caffeinated or alcoholic substances can dehydrate your body and vocal cords and can also cause your vocal cords to become irritated and sometimes inflamed if a lot of the substance is consumed. 

Decreasing or eliminating smoking. Substances such as tobacco can weaken or damage the respiratory system, which is needed for breathing and a clear, healthy voice. 

Speak in moderation. If you have been using your voice for a long period of time, your voice may begin to get tired and need a rest. Just like if you are running, after a while your body may begin to feel tired and need a rest. If you are required to use your voice frequently for work, try setting aside some realistic rest times throughout the day as much as you can. 

Nose breathing. Breathing through your nose instead of your mouth as much as possible can also help maintain a healthy voice with good breath support. Your nose acts like a filter when we breathe and can filter most environmental pollutants from entering our throat and lungs. 

Some behaviours to AVOID for a clear and healthy voice:

  • Frequent throat clearing – try having a drink of water or swallowing saliva
  • Talking over loud background noise – try turning down the TV or music, walk away from air conditioners 
  • Shouting/Yelling – try waving or whistling to get someone’s attention and move closer to the person 

Signs/Symptoms of voice problems

There are several signs and symptoms to watch out for if you are concerned about your voice. Some of these include:

  • Gradual or sudden changes in the tone/pitch of your voice
  • Gradual or sudden changes in the loudness of your voice
  • Abnormal voice qualities such as, sounding:
    • Strained
    • Breathy
    • Rough
    • Shaky 
  • Having periods of or complete loss of voice
  • Noisy breathing
  • Frequent throat clearing and/or coughing
  • The sensation of having something stuck and/or tightness in your throat
  • Shortness of breath

How can a Speech Pathologist help?

A Speech Pathologist can help in many ways. The treatment approach and techniques will vary for each client. Therapy is individualised to each client depending on their presenting problems and the cause of these problems. If you are concerned about your voice, it is best to see your General Practitioner (GP) or an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Specialist prior to booking a speech pathology appointment. Some voice problems may require medical management by a Specialist or Doctor prior to or in addition to Speech Pathology intervention.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) includes any method of communication that is used to enhance or replace verbal speech. There are two different types of AAC – aided and unaided systems.

Unaided AAC is where you don’t use anything else but your body. These include:

  • Sign language
  • Gestures
  • Facial expressions
  • Body language

Aided AAC is where you use an added support to assist with communication. Such as:

  • Writing
  • Pictures
  • Communication books or boards
  • Speech generating devices
  • Communication apps

Many people use a combination of AAC to communicate.

When can you use augmentative and alternative communication strategies?

AAC can replace speech, supplement speech or it can give someone who is unable to speak a voice. We all use forms of AAC every day. We use AAC when we use hand gestures and facial expression. For example, if you are in a noisy environment, you may use things like hand gestures to help get your message across. People may use pictures to help them express words and sentences or people may use a speech generating device to speak for them when they are unable to communicate verbally.

AAC can be used in any environment for a number purposes including greeting people, requesting items, asking questions, telling stories, sharing feelings and more.

What are the benefits of using AAC?

Communication is a basic human need and AAC gives everyone a way to communicate.

There are many benefits of using AAC such as:

  • Developing understanding and use of language
  • Adding extra support for speech
  • Developing and utilising a range of literacy skills
  • Assisting people to express their needs, wants and feelings
  • Helping communication partners understand the message of the AAC user
  • Taking the pressure off verbal communication
  • Increasing participation in public and group situations

What’s involved with augmentative and alternative communication?

People with severe speech and language difficulties will benefit from AAC. Selection of an AAC system should be done specifically to the needs and skills of the individual.

Selecting the right type of AAC will depend on a number of different factors:

  • Level of difficulty with communication
  • Preference for which type of AAC they would like to use
  • Communication needs
  • Motivation to use AAC

Give Harrison Speech Pathology a call to make an appointment to further discuss augmentative and alternative communication options.

Image source: Pixabay

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