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5 Ways To Presume Competence


As Speech-Language Pathologists, we know that the language we use matters.


Presuming competence is a core principle of neurodiversity affirming care.


Using neurodiversity affirming language impacts not only our interactions with our clients but also how we frame reports, write goals, and talk about our clients.


Here are 5 ways we can presume competence in our everyday interactions:

  1. Do - accept and understand each child’s individual strengths and abilities. Don’t - solely rely on standardized tests scores and developmental norms to determine skills and abilities.

  2. Do - focus on a child’s potential: e.g. this child has excellent creative thinking skills. Don’t - focus on the child’s perceived deficits: e.g. this child cannot engage in back and forth communication

  3. Do - describe the child’s level of support: this child thrives when given access to sensory supports. Don’t - use labels like high or low functioning.

  4. Do - acknowledge and respect a child’s communication skills. Don’t - assume that because a client isn’t speaking, that they cannot speak. Instead make alternative communication supports accessible. Here is an episode we did on AAC myths

  5. Do - Use strength based language: e.g. this child is passionate about dinosaurs. Don’t - use deficit based language: e.g. this child has aggressive behaviors and is obsessed with dinosaurs.

By making these shifts, we can better presume competence and fully accept and support our clients.


If you want more information on these 5 tips, check out our Youtube Show: Making the Shift Episode 48

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