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UK Coaching Team
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Supporting Specific Needs

Coaching People who have Difficulties with Speech

Some basic advice for how to communicate with participants whose spoken language may be unclear, or who may not use speech as a means of communication

When communicating with people who have difficulties with speech, here are eight simple tips for coaches to follow:

  1. Use active listening: be patient – don’t rush them or finish their sentences.
  2. Speak clearly and deliberately.
  3. Always ensure you understand what the person has said before proceeding; it is disrespectful to just guess. Ask  people, if necessary, to repeat what they have said or write it down. It may help to paraphrase it back to them.
  4. Speak directly to the person and stand close to them.
  5. Develop a procedure in your sessions that people with speech difficulties are happy with, so that they are comfortable asking for help if needed.
  6. Speech difficulties may affect social confidence so consider implementing a buddy system or pairing them with a friend during drills and exercises.
  7. Consider working out a better way of communicating with each other – use visual cues such as pictures, diagrams and drawings to make or clarify your point. 
  8. Reduce unnecessary background noise as much as possible.

Related Resources

  • Coach-Athlete Interactions: What to Watch Out For

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  • Coaching People with a Learning Disability

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  • Coaching the Person in Front of You

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UK Coaching Team