Communication is a process of sharing information, sending or receiving information (Bolding & Wehmeyer, 1999). It can be verbal or non-verbal. What is said, what is not said, and how something is said, all effect the information received. Forms of communication vary extensively and include symbols, songs, lighting, sign-language, pictures, eye contact or lack of eye contact, body posture or movements, facial expressions, and gestures. Further, the situation in which we receive information may also influence what is communicated. Something communicated in a dimly lit room may have a different meaning than if communicated in a different setting.
Effective communication skills provide a method of expressing needs, wants and desires (Anderson, Seaton, & Dinas, 1995) and are important skills for self-advocacy (Wehmeyer, Agran, Hughes, 1999). Being able to advocate for a specific job or specific job features (e.g., benefits, setting, responsibilities) could mean the difference between a good job and an unacceptable job. Self-advocacy in the work place can help provide a consumer with some of the skill necessary to identify job and career goals.
The following materials will provide a brief overview of three types of communication skills: conversation skills, body language, and listening skills. This is not intended to be an exhaustive review but just a beginning. For additional suggestions on communication skills, the reader is encouraged to look at some of the web links or references at the end of the document. A facilitator might assist the consumer in examining communications skills and how they might be made more effective.
Effective communication skills can be important components of effective self-advocacy efforts (Wehmeyer, Agran, & Hughes, 1999). Communication skills include:
Helping a consumer improve their conversation skills should include a review of potential problems in conversations. Ineffective or problem conversation skills include:
Conversational skills can be learned using social skills training and role-play exercises (Wehmeyer, Agran, & Hughes, 1999).
Page updated 10/30/06
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