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The Quick Guide to dealing with speech and language difficulties on the phone


When answering the phone:-

  • Keep calm, be patient and act normal

  • Always assume the caller has a reason for calling related to your job

  • Give the name of the organisation, the department, your name and job title

  • Make sure this is the right number and you are the right person


When talking to someone with speech or language difficulties on the phone:-

  • Do not hang up

  • Do not assume the caller is stupid or has a learning impairment

  • Do not slow down your voice or talk ‘pidgin english‘, just talk normal


If you have difficulties understanding the caller:-

  • Ask if they would prefer to use email, fax, post or continue on the phone

  • Clarify what they want by using questions that require simple answers

  • Always repeat back what they say and wait for confirmation


If needed; ask a colleague to listen in and assist you

  • Never agree to something when you do not know what the caller has said

  • It the call is not going well, make sure the caller is aware and is happy to write

  • Reduce the effort required by the caller by answering predicted questions before they are asked


If the caller needs to write something down:-

  • Ask whether this is possible

  • If an personal assistance, carer or friend is needed to write, just say what is needed, don‘t repeat the call to them

  • If needed, ask their address and send them the information


In General:-

  • Avoid offensive terms such as spastic and handicapped

  • Avoid undermining the caller‘s intelligence

  • Remain helpful and polite