When a child or children are involved in a pastoral
counseling situation, you may be called upon to make
special accommodations. You may have to watch or
entertain the child. You may have to work around the
child, talking to the child while you are working.
Storytelling, game playing, or picture drawing are good
methods you can use to establish rapport with children.
In dealing with an aged or geriatric client, you must
be especially sensitive to several potential needs. You
must also remember to try to demonstrate your
sensitivity in a way that will not appear to be
condescending to the person. In dealing with older
clients, you may find some of the following techniques
. Carefully identify yourself to avoid confusion.
When first addressing the person, use his or her title
(Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss, or rank) and last name. (You can
use the first name later, if the client requests.)
. Do not assume senility or lack of understanding.
. Watch for signs of a hearing deficiency; speak
directly if you need to be heard, but do not shout.
l Allow extra time for responses.
l Ask the person what
. Maintain eye contact.
l Avoid stereotyping.
Advanced age is only
will make him or her
one of many special
circumstances you may have to consider. Other
conditions about which you must be aware are physical
and mental handicaps.
In dealing with a blind person, you should first
determine whether he or she has a hearing impairment.
You must do this without shouting or whispering.
Maintain contact by lightly resting your hand on the
persons forearm. Explain approaches and maneuvers
in detail before you do them. Identify the source of any
Most of all, be considerate,
compassionate, and supportive.
In dealing with a person whom you know or assume
to be deaf, first get the persons attention before you speak.
You can do this by gently tapping the person on the
shoulder or waving your hand where it can be seen. You
must maintain eye contact. You must be especially
courteous. Try to determine if the person can read lips,
Even then, be aware that the person will probably
understand only 30 to 40 percent of the conversation. You
must realize that lipreading will be more difficult for the
person if you have a foreign accent or wear a mustache.
Face the person while you are speaking, then speak slowly
and clearly. Even if you determine that the person cannot
read lips, speak as you gesture or use signs. If possible,
get an interpreter who can communicate in sign language.
Try pantomiming and using broad gestures. Figure 2-1
illustrates some common signs you can use to
communicate with deaf clients. Do not shout; if the person
has partial hearing and is wearing a hearing aid, you could
distort his or her hearing. Finally, use written messages.
If the person has been deaf since birth, he or she may not
understand some grammatical combinations; therefore,
keep it simple.
Non-English Speaking Persons
Eventually, you will find yourself in the position of
having to communicate with a person who does not
Regardless of the persons native
language, try communicating in English first. Show the
person your ID card with your picture to establish your
identity. If possiblc, use an interpreter or try to find a
common language. If you speak a language other than
English, try using it. Use gestures and signs. Speak
slowly and clearly in English; the person will probably
know some words and phrases. Most importantly, do
Confused or Developmentally Disabled Persons
In speaking with people who are especially
confused or who have some kind of developmental
disability, such as mental retardation, you should begin
by determining the persons level of understanding. You
can do this by asking questions. Speak at an appropriate
level and wait for a delayed response when it is the
persons turn to answer or respond. Have patience. Be
discrete if the persons condition should be the reason
for the visit or event. Use the word disability instead of
a potentially offensive word to describe the persons
condition. Speak as you would to any adult, even if it
is necessary to reexplain something. You must speak