It’s the day of the big reveal. You’ve worked on that beautiful evaluation report for hours, diligently checking and re-checking standard scores and comparing them to the manual to ensure that you are providing an accurate picture of your client’s language abilities. As your team sits down at the conference table with the client’s parents you introduce yourself as the Speech-Language Pathologist and the long list of abbreviations and jargon begins. The parents sit there, question-less and obviously confused about the words flying about the room. It becomes obvious: the’ve been jargonized!
Some things from my time in graduate school stick out more than others. One of these is a professor explaining that jargon can be powerful and dangerous depending on when it is used. She advised us to bring ourselves to whatever level the parent was on when explaining progress, test results, etc. As I took my first position as an SLP this message stuck. I did my best to look at the parents more than my report and to use terms that made sense to them and adequately explained the document. Sadly, I know this is not always the case. I have had friends call wanting me to re-explain an evaluation or report that they received for their child because the did not quite understand all of the information that it had contained. I would be mortified if I ever pushed a parent to make that late-night phone call to their SLP friend because I had to use my “fancy” SLP jargon.
Here are 5 ways to make sure that you avoid the jargon trap:
1. Professional jargon is a specialized language for those within the same profession. It’s like any other language… it is not understood by those that do not speak that language. Unless the person that you are speaking with is in the same profession as yourself, do not assume that they would understand the jargon that you utilize within the profession. It is better to use too little jargon than too much.
2. Avoid the acronyms. When talking about test names, subtests, scales, and evaluation elements, avoid using acronyms. Acronyms shorten written report length by requiring fewer characters but rarely shorten spoken word by enough to warrant the confusion that it incites. When speaking to those outside of your profession, say the full term.
3. Ensure that your reports can be understood and interpreted by both professionals and parents. Your reports should contain all of the statistical information necessary for diagnosis and treatment. They should also contain enough summarization and recommendation to assist parents in their knowledge of the contents of your report. A report cannot be all standard scores and percentile ranks… just as it cannot be completely narrative in nature. A balance of the two will satisfy all audiences.
4. Think about the jargon utilized on social media. TMI, ROFL, TBH, LOL, SMH… Think about the first time you received a text or saw a message that contained an unknown acronym like these. What did you need to do to discover what it meant? You either had to consult Google or admit that you were not as “cool” as the person on the other side of the message and **gasp** ask! Can you imagine how intimidating it would be to stop an IEP or evaluation meeting to ask one of the professionals across the table what their acronym or term meant? Keep in mind that humans are more likely to go along without understanding what is being said rather than admitting that they do not understand. Don’t leave parents in the dark!
5. A rule of thumb that I have for the use of jargon is: If plain language can be used instead of jargon without changing the meaning of the message you are relaying, plain language is the better choice.
So… Jargonize with your fellow SLPs. Chat about PRs and ask questions about the FS portion of the CELF-5… but avoid that Jargon Trap when speaking with your client’s loved ones.
(But in case you just want to send a fun little jargonized e-card to your SLP friends… here you go ;P)