There are no rules for conversations

by Adina Levy

Here’s my thought for today: There are no rules for conversations. No set, specific way that conversations ‘should’ or ‘must’ go. Natural conversations out in the real world don’t follow rigid patterns (yes, even Neurotypical {NT} conversations vary…)

If you’re teaching ND children to have very rigid conversations with rules, please stop!

This can be hard. There are many programs and training courses that many of us have learned over the years and relied upon. Many of these are wrong. Embracing change in our practice can be hard and can feel scary… but sometimes it’s the most important thing we can do to support ND clients and our community.

So what should we be teaching instead of rigid turn-taking rules? Here is my perspective about what we should be teaching around conversation skills:

  • Acknowledge that ND people and NT people have different ways of thinking, perceiving, and communicating. And the differences are fine. We need to stop asking ND people to act more NT. We need to teach EVERYONE to take on others’ perspectives and preferences.
  • Try to have conversations with people who enjoy your company, value you, and see you for who you are
  • Try to have conversations on shared interests, in shared activities of joy, and in unforced, no-pressure ways
  • Everyone has a right to communicate, and to be ‘heard’ (I use ” as not everyone communicates with sound!). Over time, a relationship needs to have some balance of each person being ‘heard’. There’s no rigid way this should look
  • Recognise that everyone has different communication styles and accept that different styles are fine, ok, interesting and wonderful!
  • We should not be valuing NT communication styles over ND communication styles
  • Not all ‘interruptions’ are rude. Sometimes people interrupt (or seem to) because of excitement, shared connection, passion. Sometimes speaking while another person is speaking is a way of sharing connection. Sometimes it’s a sign that the ‘interrupter’ has executive function or processing challenges, and has thought of something super interesting or pertinent to share, and they aren’t able to ‘hold it in’ for various reasons
  • Everyone has a right not to be hurt by others – so it’s fair to place some limits on conversations e.g. not saying hurtful things that upset another person is valid to teach. However we need to acknowledge that different people have different perspectives on what is upsetting/not OK. This is something to explore with the client, family, and their other contexts

I could go on but I’ll hold it there – If you want to go deeper, we will explore this and many other ideas more in the Neurodiversity Affirming Practice Workshop! I’d love to hear any thoughts and ideas this brings up for you!

If you’re a speechie and you’d like to learn more about Neurodiversity Affirming practice, check out my Neurodiversity Affirming Practice Workshop!