Zoom, Google Meet, WebEx, FaceTime… these video conference platforms have become common household words over the past few years. However, for some people with communication disorders, video chatting can be incredibly challenging. Read on to learn a few tips we as communication partners can use to make video chatting a more pleasant experience for our loved ones with communication disorders.
We all benefit from nonverbal communication cues – whether it’s how our eyebrows pop up to show surprise, showing a glowing smile, or seeing how our lips move to give cues about what speech sound we just produced, being able to see your communication partner’s face is key to aiding in comprehension. For any relatives who are hard of hearing, or who have trouble understanding language or reading social cues, being able to see your face will be incredibly helpful. Make sure you’re well-lit and that your camera is facing you so that your entire face can easily be seen on the screen.
If you aren’t actively talking, make sure to put yourself on “mute”. This usually looks like a microphone across most video chat platforms (see below for what it looks like in Zoom). You can unmute yourself by tapping the same microphone button again when you’re ready to contribute to the conversation. This will reduce any ambient noise that might be distracting to someone with attention challenges, which could impact listening comprehension or create interfering noise for someone with a hearing impairment.
It can be incredibly fun to have your entire extended family together at once, from Grandma Jo in Alaska all the way to five-year-old Timmy down in Alabama, however, when it comes to video chatting, it can be helpful to hold multiple video chat sessions with smaller groups of people. This reduces the number of times we have to shift our focus from one conversation partner to another and reduces the amount of talking over one another that’s somewhat inevitable with video chat.
Speaking or talking over one another… for a person with a communication disorder or hearing impairment, competing voices can be very challenging to tease apart. Make sure you’re taking turns talking – at my recent family Thanksgiving Zoom, we each took turns saying something we were grateful for, and then called on the next person to speak – that gave us all a chance to easily hear and understand the speaker, and then the chance to playfully call out the next family member!
While I like the “Brady Bunch” gallery view option in Zoom that makes me feel like we’re ALL in the room together, my favorite feature in Google Meet is the “closed captioning” option – if you tap on “turn on closed captions” (see below), all spoken conversations in your Google Meet will be written below the video in text! For many adults with communication disorders or hearing challenges this can be hugely helpful – and while the automatic closed captioning from Google isn’t perfect, it’s pretty impressive!
Most importantly, remember that while sometimes technology can drive us all mad, ultimately we’re so fortunate to have video chats to bring us together when we need it. Hang in there, laugh through the tech troubleshooting, and when you don’t have something to say… MUTE! Happy video chatting!