Everyone Communicates Differently

Outcome: By the end of this lesson, you will have five strategies for communication and a better understanding of how to respectfully engage in conversation with people who may speak differently than you do.

Lesson Length : 15 minutes

Communication is a skill that may take anyone a lifetime to master. Being able to effectively communicate allows us to solve problems, pass on information to others, and most importantly allows us to connect with those around us. Even if someone converses differently than you are used to, it is important to include everyone in the conversation.


  1. Read through the five strategies on how to effectively communicate with someone who may communicate differently than you.
  2. Read over the five questions and think about how you would answer each one.
  3. With your new understanding, take time to answer the reflection questions to gauge what you learned. 

Activity Part I

Read through these five strategies to keep in mind when engaging in conversation.

1.Patience is Key!

Everyone has their own preferred way of communicating. If it is a communication method that is unfamiliar to you, make sure to be patient while in conversation.

2.Engaging in the Conversation

It is okay to tell someone you are having a hard time understanding them. A solution to this could be to ask some yes or no questions to make sure you are both on the same page.

3.Talk to the person, not about them

Make sure you are addressing and talking to the person, not talking about the person to whoever they may be with, whether it is a parent, caretaker, sibling, or interpreter.  If the individual is accompanied by someone who knows them well, you can ask them for some tips on how to successfully communicate with the individual. However, make sure you are including the individual in this conversation and asking their opinion instead of talking about them to someone else.

4.Get to know them, then adjust your communication style

When talking to an individual who you may have trouble understanding or to an individual who you may be unsure how they communicate, still speak to them in a regular manner. Automatically raising your voice, speaking to them like a baby (unless they are one), or pointing to objects may not be helpful. Try to get to know the individual first, and then adjust your communication style

5.Include everyone in the conversation!

Even if someone is non-verbal or chooses not to constantly engage with those around them, it is still important to continue to include everyone in the conversation.

Activity Part II

Using the strategies above, try and answer these scenario based questions.
  1. How would you respectfully approach someone who is clearly nonverbal? 
  2. What could be an appropriate response to someone when you are having a hard time understanding what they are saying? 
  3. When first meeting someone, how could you get to know them even if there is a communication barrier? 
  4. How can you ask the person who is accompanying the child how to most effectively communicate while including the child in that conversation? 
  5. What is the best way to ask a nonverbal child what activity they might want to participate in?

Pause and Reflect

  1. After reading this lesson plan, would you feel comfortable communicating with someone who may not communicate the same way as you?
  2. Do you feel these strategies would help overcome some language barriers?