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Sunday 28 March 2010

More thoughts on laughing…

"Works", by Susie Mallett, March 2010

…and a bit on shouting and being loud

Since I re-wrote 'Kabaret', the posting that disappeared, I have been having a few more thoughts on laughing, on when to do it and how much, and how to control it.

Over the years I have found many different ways to help with this control and my clients and their families have developed their own techniques too.

It would be very useful for me and I suspect many others who read my blog if we could share any experiences that we have had.

In what situations do such problems occur? When are they embarrassing and when are they most disturbing for those around? Does the society itself help to solve the problem or is this another case of people being afraid to say No?

I am especially interested to hear from the people who have themselves managed to control their own inappropriate laughing and about the techniques they use. Everything doesn’t work for everyone, motivations and senses of humour are different.

How have parents, carers and conductors been able to help?

I think it would be very useful to gather a few more tips to pass on to others.

Turning down the volume

In connection with this I have been working again recently on the problem of talking too loudly for the situation that clients are in at a specific moment.

Teenage and adult CP clients and stroke clients are the main groups in which I come across this problem, but it can happen anywhere. We hear it all the time when we are sitting in a restaurant or on the train.

It is often very difficult for a client to understand that in a large group of people it is not always appropriate to talk loudly. If someone is a member of a large family, with many children and perhaps deaf grandparents around, it is often necessary to speak out loudly to be heard. Often it is hard then to adjust the volume in a quiet situation with many people around.

Yes of course we practise whispering and shouting in conductive groups but it is not until going into the appropriate situations that we can associate the learnt skill with the social reasoning.

My client did really well last week in the several restaurants that we visited but it was more difficult for him to judge the volume on the bus. With the noise of the engine and the other passengers talking around him he needed more help to balance the level.

We have discovered that his body language plays a huge role in the volume of his voice. If he keeps his hands in his pockets or sits on them his voice does not rise quite so quickly and to such a high level as it does when they are flying around pointing or emphasising.

On the other hand, I encourage my stroke clients to use their hands as body language, especially on the affected side to encourage movement, the flow of their speech and their confidence.

Theatrical entrances

It is not just the voice that can be loud.

First impressions can be lasting impressions and they have an awful lot of influence on the ability to make friends and to be accepted in communities and groups.

As well as laughter and voice I have been working recently on how to make an entrance.

We have been talking about how bursting into rooms, sending the door flying back to hit the wall and then closing it with a crash, has a lasting impression on those already in the room. And when it is repeated often, then the first impression is reinforced.

We have discussed how, if this happens at home in just about every situation, even bursting into an occupied bathroom, it is annoying to the family. We discussed how, if it happens in other situations, places that are visited regularly, for example at school and at work, at swimming lessons and at physiotherapy, it makes people perhaps less friendly and welcoming. If it happens on first time visits it can give a very long lasting, perhaps false, impression.

This theatrical entrance brings all eyes on the door and the persson standing or sitting there. Sometimes this is not wanted at all.

Sussing out the joint

In our discussions we have talked about how we can take a split-second look around the room being entered to sum up the situation and tune behaviour to suit it. If it is a party atmosphere that we observe then a loud entrance might be tolerated, but we must ask ourselves whether we can tolerate the attention. On the other hand, if we have decided that the room is quiet, then we must go in with a softly, softly approach and test the waters before we speak.

All this control, all this looking outwards and assessing a situation, is difficult enough to do if just a bit wobbly on the feet or when using walking sticks, but even more difficult in a wheelchair, especially an electric one. But it is possible, even if the motor of a wheelchair is loud and the click of the gearing too, to enter a room demurely. It has a lot to do with speed of approach and body language. When walking into a room a speed must be found so that concentration can be divided, on to not falling over and on to the situation being entered.

In a wheelchair a speed must be found at which crashing into doors and walls can be avoided, and the head can be raised to look outwards.

All part of a conductive upbringing as it is of any upbringing.

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