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Education: Special Needs


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Special Needs Digest

effective listening

Are You Listening?

by Jack Taulbee, Ed.M., M.A.

Regardless of a child’s disorder, effective communication begins and ends with listening. Listening goes beyond hearing the words.  Nowhere is this fact more truthful than when we are dealing with a child of special needs.

Special needs children experience a unique world of frustration and in turn will often speak in confused and frustrated terms when dialoguing with parents and others. Many of these children have stated they feel no one shares or understands their particular burden and more importantly, feel no one hears them when they try to explain themselves.

Some disorders can cause a special needs child busy-ness of the mind or a static that interferes with their verbal skills, while other disorders create a world of emotional states that disrupt interpersonal conversations. Even if the child had the vocabulary of a psychiatrist, it would still be difficult for him to convey his thoughts and feelings successfully.

Teachers and parents often find themselves discouraged with the lack of communication between themselves and the special needs child, yet it is in the listening where the healing can begin. Adults must take the time to listen carefully not so much to the words used by the child, but instead learn to attune themselves to the intent, feelings, and frustrations behind the words.

When the child begins to recognize that you are truly listening, he will feel safe. When he feels safe, he will share more information, even if it is limited in its expression.  It is in this sharing process where the much-needed breakthrough in communication will begin to take place between parent and child.

Listening goes far beyond simply hearing the words; it is a process that involves listening to the needs behind the words.


Jack Taulbee is the author of Understanding Children of Special Needs: What Every Parent Needs to Know.  To contact Jack or order his book, see his Web site.

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