Building Reflective Skills
Happy New Year! Whether you set new year’s resolutions or not, January is always an excellent time to reflect on the past year’s successes, challenges, habits, joys, and more. The idea of reflection inspired us to write this month’s blog post about the benefits of reflection and how to build reflection skills for all developmental levels.
We use self-reflection in a variety of ways during speech-language therapy sessions. For learners that are working towards articulation and/or fluency goals, self-reflection is an excellent way to consider how words and phrases sounded to them, and make changes to support clear communication next time. As another example, we may use a client’s current mood and energy level during sessions as an opportunity to reflect on, compare, and contrast how they managed said feeling in the past, utilizing emotional vocabulary, expressive language, and mindfulness to create a plan for their session that honors their present state.
We love using a ‘cherry and pit’ analogy to support clients as they recall and reflect. ‘Cherries’ are positive in nature, whether experiences, feelings, actions, outcomes, etc. while ‘pits’ are typically negative in nature, or indicative of a necessary change or growth area moving forward. Here’s an example: my cherry from the weekend was getting to spend time with friends, while my pit is that I felt pressure from friends to stay up later than I wanted to and therefore felt tired after.
Often, responses to the ‘cherry and pit’ analogy guide meaningful conversations and activities during sessions! Based on this scenario, we might choose to model clearly communicating and setting boundaries, then working on a variety of skills involved in doing so such as articulation skills to promote clear communication or brainstorming alternative solutions and perspectives to promote problem solving skills and empathy. At home, asking your child what the ‘cherry’ and ‘pit’ of their day was might garner a more meaningful and enthusiastic response to the typical “fine” or “nothing” you may receive when asking “how was your day” or “what did you do today” because it evokes a sense of playfulness and creative thinking.
We recognize that some clients are still working to hone the underlying cognitive, communicative, or sensory processing skills that are requisite for this kind of reflective self-expression. In those cases, we use an approach that emphasizes mindful discussion of the present moment. We do this by narrating, or describing and commenting on what is happening right now using language that references multiple senses, including sound, sight, and interoception, and names and validates all emotions. The ability to process, understand, and discuss present stimuli and situations are foundational skills for recall and reflection on past experiences, even recent past, that can eventually lead to goal setting and planning ahead.
Reflection activities have the potential to target many cognitive, emotional, and communication skills. Frequent reflection builds skills in the areas of mindfulness, expressive language, problem solving, planning and initiation, emotional and sensory awareness, and likely more that we aren’t even considering! We highly recommend incorporating reflective activities at home, whether it be narration of present moments or the ‘cherry and pit’ exercise. We would be more than happy to talk with you about ways to do this specific to your child and their goals, just ask!
If there is anything we can do to further support your child, we welcome a check-in call to discuss your specific ideas and questions about anything at all! We hope your month (and year) ahead is filled with reflection, evaluation of goals and intentions, and joy as well as continued growth in learning, self-expression, and communication.