Collaboration: a jargon free diet

I have been working in the ‘field’ of special needs for the past 14 years and even when I think I am watering my language down to be ‘jargon free’ and ‘user-friendly’ I still fall into the trap of using phrases and expressions only to be understood by fellow special education colleagues. On monday I was having dinner with a friend and recalling a situation which had happened the week before where I was having coffee with a colleague on the spectrum and we had bumped into my friend’s brother and father. I explained to my friend that I had informed his brother that my colleague was on the spectrum. I sent an emergency text message! I had at the time, seen this to be appropriate as I wanted to make sure that all members seated around the table would feel included and that if my colleague made an inappropriate remark that this would be accepted under the pretext that he is ‘on the spectrum’. My colleague tends to perseverate (he asks the same questions) and even when statements are laced with context he has difficulty interpreting social cues and is literal with his understanding of language. For example, when I told my colleague that my friend’s grandfather is a famous writer his response was ‘He’s famous? Who is he? I don’t know him’. I felt awkward and no one else did. In fact there were other times during the course of our lunch where I had slipped into my therapy role, which I really didn’t need to do. After I completed the story to my friend who I was having dinner with he asked me what ‘being on the spectrum’ meant. I had done it again!

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