Talking to Children and Adolescents

  • Theodore Shapiro
Part of the Applied Psycholinguistics and Communication Disorders book series (APCD)


Child therapists frequently admonish their supervises to speak at the level of the child. Surely, this does not signify that one speak with the speech of the child, but rather at the level of the child’s linguistic competence and ability to grasp what is being said. Thus, the words and grammatical structures that we use ought to coincide as closely as possible with the child’s general cognitive abilities and the actual lexicon that he or she uses. Indeed, this might well be considered a general dictum in adult therapy. Significantly, the impact of using a patient’s own words as opposed to using an alien vocabulary is manifestly effective. We certainly should avoid speaking to patients in metapsychological terms or in the argot of our particular theoretical framework. So why should we use one of the many pretentious codes unless our aim is to further distance us. Instead, we should substitute for classic Latinisms the lingua franca that dominates the therapeutic milieu. Furthermore, since the patient should be doing most of the talking, it ought to be his brand of lingua franca. This task becomes even more controversial when we deal with age-stage related abilities of children and especially those of adolescents wherein the particular variations in linguistic performance characterizing that stage confound our comprehension still more.


Linguistic Competence Transcendental Meditation Therapeutic Milieu Nursery Teacher Imaginary Companion 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Theodore Shapiro
    • 1
  1. 1.Cornell University Medical CollegeNew YorkUSA

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